Vice Media CEO Nancy Dubuc has set plans to lay off 10% of the company’s employees — resulting in the elimination of 250 jobs across all departments — as it looks to slash costs amid a revenue slowdown.
The cuts aren’t surprising: Brooklyn-based Vice last fall instituted a hiring freeze and was hoping to avoid layoffs by winnowing down its headcount through attrition. With the restructuring, Dubuc is de-emphasizing focus on Vice’s web properties and is looking to bulk up efforts in film, TV production and branded content centered on its millennial-skewing audience and counter-cultural ethos.
“Having finalized the 2019 budget, our focus shifts to executing our goals and hitting our marks,” Dubuc wrote in a memo to staff Friday. “To this end, we’ve had to make hard but necessary operating decisions. Starting today, the next phase of our plan begins as we reorganize our global workforce. Unfortunately, this means we will have to say goodbye to some of our Vice colleagues.” The Vice layoffs were first reported by THR.
The reorg at Vice will shift from a country-centric structure to one geared around the company’s five lines of business: studios, news, digital, TV and in-house ad agency Virtue. In her memo, Dubuc said Vice has a “significant number” of open positions in growth areas, including sales, studios, Vice News digital and Virtue in many countries.
Vice isn’t alone in struggling to hit profit goals, as many digital-media players are hitting a wall in achieving growth targets. Last week, BuzzFeed announced it would cut 15% of its staff, which included the elimination of BuzzFeed News’ national news team. Verizon last month laid off 800 employees in the Verizon Media Group, or 7% of the staff in the division that combined AOL and Yahoo operations.
The layoffs come as Vice’s revenue has stagnated. In 2018, the company projected revenue to be between $600 million and $650 million (flat with 2017) and was expecting to lose $50 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
One recent loss for Vice: Its weekly documentary program on HBO is ending after six years. However, the premium cabler will continue to air the half-hour “Vice News Tonight,” which runs four nights per week.
Dubuc, speaking last fall at the New York Times’ DealBook conference, claimed Vice will become profitable again within the next fiscal year. She noted that Vice was profitable a few years ago, before it invested heavily in the launch of the Viceland cable channel and international expansion.
Vice’s last major round of cuts was in July 2017, when it laid off around 2% of its then-3,000 employee base across multiple departments while at the same time expanding internationally and boosting video production.
Dubuc, former CEO of A+E Networks, was tapped last year as CEO of Vice in the wake of a sexual-harassment scandal at the company that resulted in the exit or firing of several execs. Co-founder Shane Smith shifted into a new role as executive chairman.
Vice said it will grant pink-slipped employees in the U.S. severance packages with 10 weeks’ pay as well as compensation for accrued paid time-off days. Managers and HR teams will meet Friday with employees being laid off in the U.S., U.K. and Mexico, with cuts in other regions to follow in the next few weeks.
Along with the restructuring news, Dubuc called out recent Vice wins. That included Vice Studios/Unbranded Pictures political thriller “The Report” starring Adam Driver, which Amazon bought for $14 million after its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, and the Vice-produced “Fyre” documentary on Netflix. She also touted double-digit traffic increases in views, watch time and subscribers in Vice’s digital business, and Virtue landing 20 big new clients in 2018.
Originally started in 1994 as an alternative-culture magazine in Montreal, Vice has expanded into a multiplatform media conglomerate, spanning cable TV channel Viceland, television and film production, about a dozen website “channels,” and print magazines. The company had an eye-popping $5.7 billion valuation after it received $450 million in new funding in June 2017 from private-equity firm TPG, but that valuation has since declined — as evidenced by Disney’s $157 million write-down on its Vice ownership stake for the September 2018 quarter.
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.