It is understood that the plans, which have been hatching for some months, were explained formally to staff on Friday. Unconfirmed estimates of the number of job losses run from 100-150. Disney has not issued a statement, and it offered no comment when contacted by Variety.
The move largely affects employees at the Hung Hom, Kowloon-based Fox Networks Group Asia, which was acquired from 21st Century Fox in March last year.
Disney is not closing its offices in Quarry Bay, where channels are serviced on behalf of PCCW. Nor do the cuts affect local theatrical releasing, or Hong Kong Disneyland. The theme park is a joint venture with the Hong Kong government and reopened earlier in June after being closed for nearly four months.
The consolidation reflects one of the last phases of integration of the Disney and Fox businesses. Hong Kong has never been a TV hub for Disney, which operates a dispersed structure with offices in Shanghai, Mumbai, Singapore and Australia. Operating TV channels from Hong Kong was a legacy of the STAR TV business that 21st Century Fox forerunner News Corp. acquired from PCCW back in 1993.
As the acquiring company, Disney is seeing its organizational structure and technical systems prevail, while holding on to acquired brands such as Fox, FX and National Geographic. Increased use of cloud-based servers now makes it easier to migrate back office functions to Disney’s existing sites.
The division of the Hong Kong TV operations is understood to see FNG’s channels shifting to three hubs: Singapore, Shanghai and Mumbai, with Mumbai increasingly responsible for channels playout and traffic management. A content sales team of some 10 people is now attached to Shanghai’s Greater China business.
The migration was scheduled to have taken place earlier this year, but was slowed by disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Now, there is believed to be an internal target to fulfil the migration by October, though completing that on time is also dependent on the virus’ effect on Asian economies and intra-regional travel.
The current dismantling of Hong Kong as a regional hub for the TV businesses of the merged Disney-Fox organization has a parallel with that which occurred during another period of recession, in summer 2009. Hundreds of jobs were lost when Hong Kong ceased to be the headquarters of STAR, and the company was divided into India and Greater China operations. Subsequently some of the China channels were sold off to CMC, while the Indian businesses continued to grow and became some of the crown jewels of 21st Century Fox that Disney acquired.