Samsung Guts Media Services Unit, Multiple Execs Gone (EXCLUSIVE)

Samsung is cutting its losses on media: The company’s Media Services Center America unit  has seen significant layoffs in recent weeks, and a number of key execs are gone as well, Variety has learned from multiple sources.

Among the MSCA execs axed are bizdev SVP Steve Stanford, content and services SVP Darren Tsui, VP Ed Ho, and content and services VP and GM Ian Langridge.

Tsui and Ho both joined Samsung as part of the acquisition of mSpot, a music services provider. Both initially ran Samsung’s music download business, and were subsequently put in charge of Milk Music, the company’s Pandora-like streaming service.

A Samsung spokesperson declined to comment on those specific departures. “We don’t comment on personnel matters,” she said via email. “We will continue to refine our strategy and invest in content services.”

A few years back, Samsung had big plans for its media services. After launching Milk Music in early 2014, the company followed up with a mobile video aggregation service dubbed Milk Video.

Samsung’s U.S.-based MSCA team had plans to further expand its Milk-branded line of services into sports and other content categories, but the company’s leadership in Korea had other ideas: It shuttered Milk Video in September of 2015. Milk Music has been on a lifeline for some time after significant staff reductions.

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At one point, Samsung also talked to Jay Z’s Tidal as it explored how to compete with Spotify and Apple Music, but the company publicly denied any plans to acquire Tidal in March.

It’s not entirely clear what the new cuts at MSCA mean for the future of media at Samsung. One possibility is that the company is going to focus more on partnerships, as opposed to running its own services.

It’s also likely that Samsung is going to exert more direct control over media services and relationships from Korea — with one key exception: Samsung’s Gear VR virtual reality headset has been a surprise hit, and its Milk VR service seems to be exempt from any of the current cuts.

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