- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2006

1:28 p.m.

NEW YORK (AP) — NBC Universal said today it would cut 700 jobs and streamline its news operations as part of an overhaul aimed at exploiting new forms of electronic distribution.

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said it expects the revamp to save $750 million in operating expenses by 2008. The job cuts would represent about 5 percent of its work force.

As part of the changes, NBC’s long-struggling 24-hour cable news channel MSNBC will move its operations to NBC’s headquarters in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center and to another NBC facility in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

The changes don’t represent a diminishing commitment to news, but just reflect how the industry is changing, said Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal’s television group.

“The growth in news is in different places — it’s online; it’s on wireless,” he said.

The company’s TV station group will create a consolidated news facility in Burbank, Calif., that will support NBC as well as its Spanish-language broadcaster, Telemundo.

The revamp also will affect the company’s Universal Studios business, where cuts will be made to consolidate support and marketing functions.

The expected savings follow three lackluster years at NBC Universal, where operating profits fell 10 percent in each of the past three quarters. The slumping results cut into GE earnings.

NBC Universal said it plans to reinvest much of its savings into higher-growth areas. It has been aggressive in creating broadband-only channels, for example, and has partnered with Yahoo through Telemundo to establish one of the most popular Internet destination for Hispanics.

The changes will be noticeable on television, where NBC will stop scheduling high-priced dramas and comedies during the first hour of prime time at 8 p.m. Instead, cheaper-to-produce programming such as “Deal or No Deal” or “The Biggest Loser” will fill that hour.

Mr. Zucker noted that rival ABC has quietly been doing the same thing in recent years.

“We want to be sure that we continue to provide the best programming possible,” he said. “We just want to put the programming where we get the highest rate of return.”

NBC’s cost-saving plan involves laying off people from the company’s 11 news divisions, including on-air talent.


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