CNBC, MSNBC trim costs

Layoffs rumored if economy worsens

Facing a soft ad market, CNBC and its sister network MSNBC are looking to cut costs.

Insiders said Tuesday that CNBC will lay off about 15 staffers in the next two weeks. The NBC-owned financial news cabler reduced its staff earlier this year and could face further cutbacks in 2002 if the economy worsens. CNBC employs about 500 staffers total.

“There’s nothing planned at this time,” a CNBC spokesman said.

Meanwhile, MSNBC, a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft, plans to implement “serious” cost cutting, including halting all new long-form documentary production not related to stories on the “war on terrorism.”

“This is a crisis for not just the country, but MSNBC too, and we’ll have to take necessary steps to fund our own ‘war effort,’ ” MSNBC prexy Erik Sorenson told staffers in a memo on Monday.

An MSNBC spokesman confirmed that “we’re examining all costs not related to the core product of breaking news.”

Before Sept. 11, about 50% of the cable news net’s sked consisted of longform documentary programming.

In the memo, Sorenson reminded staffers that costs related to covering international conflicts were high and reiterated what many media executives have been saying for weeks — that the advertising prospects for 2002 “are not great.”

Although coverage of Sept. 11 and its aftermath has been costly, it has also given MSNBC some of the highest ratings in its history.

CNBC and MSNBC aren’t the only cable nets tightening their purse strings.

On Monday, MTV Networks laid off 450 employees — roughly 9% of its workforce — in the deepest cuts at the network in its 20-year history.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)

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