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Layoffs Loom in U.K. as Discovery Looks to Make Cuts After Scripps Deal

Brexit could also prompt U.K.-based European channels to move

Discovery is looking to streamline its U.K.-based operations following the close of its $14.6 billion deal for Scripps Network Interactive. More than half of the 120 staff members at the Scripps U.K. office in Central London are understood to be facing layoffs, a source said.

Scripps Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) boss Phillip Luff, also a former senior executive at Animal Planet, is one of those set to exit. More than half of about 120 staff members at the Scripps U.K. office in Central London are understood to be facing layoffs, a source said. Kasia Kieli is taking charge of the Discovery businesses in EMEA and the legacy Scripps operations.

Job losses are also expected at Discovery’s longstanding base in West London. The layoff process is not underway there yet but is expected to start soon. The office has been a key international outpost for Discovery, running the company’s U.K. channels and services as well as some of its wider global operations.

The combined Discovery and Scripps channel portfolio spans lifestyle, factual, and unscripted. Brands include Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and Travel Channel. It also includes Poland-based broadcaster TVN.

Discovery declined to comment on the changes. But the job cuts are not unexpected following the Scripps deal, and come as Discovery looks to tighten its belt in the U.K. and elsewhere, and to refocus investment on digital rather than the traditional pay-TV business. It is also rejigging its global operations, moving its global headquarters from its longstanding base in Silver Spring, Md., to New York City. Some international roles will be relocated to the new HQ.

The uncertainty facing Discovery’s U.K.-based operations is compounded by Britain’s exit from the European Union, which is less than a year away. Like many other large channel operators, Discovery runs a swath of European channels out of the U.K., using E.U.-wide licenses issued by British media regulator Ofcom. Whether these remain valid after Brexit is one of many unknowns with which the U.K. media business is grappling.

All of the major channels groups are making contingency plans. Vice and Viacom have surrendered British-issued licenses this year: Viacom for several of its French services including the local MTV, and Vice for its Viceland channel in the Netherlands.

Discovery has yet to give up any of its Ofcom-issued licences, but should that happen, it would likely squeeze the company’s U.K. payroll further. Scripps has moved playout of some of its channels from Amsterdam to Warsaw. The Polish capital is set to become a more important international base for the combined Discovery-Scripps operation.

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