ViacomCBS Sets Two Rounds of Layoffs (EXCLUSIVE)

ViacomCBS is preparing for the first of two rounds of layoffs, Variety has learned. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the first round of cuts, which would affect around 100 people, could take place as early as Feb. 26 — six days after the company issues its quarterly earning report. A second set of cuts is planned to begin on or around March 31.

The first round of layoffs would come fewer than three months after Viacom completed its acquisition of CBS Corp., a deal that reunited the two divergent pieces of the Redstone family media empire. Multiple departments are expected to be impacted, though areas such as the Paramount film and television studios and CBS Interactive are not expected to see significant effects. Instead the cuts will primarily touch on areas of overlap in television, where the bulk of employees at CBS and legacy Viacom brands work. Areas such as marketing, distribution, and consumer products, where there are significant overlaps, are likely to be affected, as are legacy CBS cable television operations.

A ViacomCBS spokesperson declined to comment.

Restructuring among the rank and file has long been anticipated. In August of last year Viacom and CBS signaled that the merger would yield $500 million in cost savings. The performance of ViacomCBS stock has been less than stellar in recent months, down 13.4% since the merger closed Dec. 4.

Even before the merger, Viacom already had the largest cable-channel group of any major U.S. media company — one including historic brands such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon as well as more niche networks like BET Gospel, CMT and MTV Tres. The acquisition of CBS brought additional channels into the fold, including Pop and Smithsonian Channel, as well as the Showtime premium service.

Viacom and CBS began moving prior to the merger’s completion to set the leadership of the newly combined company, which has continued to evolve since the December close. Last month, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish announced that George Cheeks, a veteran of Viacom and NBCUniversal, would join the company as president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group — reporting to Bakish and replacing outgoing CBS CEO Joe Ianniello, who had been with the Eye for 22 years.

Some ViacomCBS employees have already been told that their jobs are set to be eliminated. As Variety reported last week, the company plans to eliminate several roles in its corporate diversity and inclusion department.

— Brent Lang and Matt Donnelly contributed to this report.

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