Cutbacks Hit Discovery, TVN


A combined 40 employees at Discovery Networks U.S. and TVN Entertainment Corp. lost their jobs last week in cost-cutting moves.

Discovery let go about two dozen employees, mainly in the marketing and new-media departments, said David Leavy, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications for parent Discovery Communications Inc. Among those exiting were Bill Allman, senior vice president and general manager of Discovery Networks’ interactive division, and Jim Hunn, Animal Planet’s vice president of marketing.

In total, Discovery Networks is eliminating 39 positions, some currently vacant. But as Discovery Networks U.S. president Billy Campbell plans to hire 40 people this year, the positions being lost now will ultimately “zero out,” Leavy said.

TVN will eliminate 15 jobs in a restructuring that favors its growing video-on-demand business. The 80-employee company will eliminate positions related to pay-per-view operations that are being phased out by sometime in March, TVN chief operating officer Doug Sylvester said.

TVN’s 20 PPV linear channels now generate just 10% of the company’s transactional revenue. “The majority of the people affected are in operational roles that are supporting the PPV business, although all parts of the business are affected,” Sylvester said.

“This is an opportunity to focus our resources fully on VOD,” he added. “We think this is the year for VOD to break through, and that’s why we’re really positioning everything we have to go against that part of that business.”

Leavy said Discovery’s reorganization reflects Campbell’s efforts to streamline operations and find operational efficiencies in the 14 cable networks under his wing.

“Certainly, technology is allowing us to be more productive,” he said. “Unfortunately, a number of those positions have been eliminated.”

But in total, parent DCI will have 300 new hires this year, and had 300 last year, he said. “So that’s about 600 new jobs over this 18-month period.”

Discovery’s priorities this year include a focus on “t-commerce,” under Frank Rosales, who last week was named president of retail and licensing. Discovery’s Fit TV will be working with a corporate cousin, Liberty Media’s QVC. “We really feel there is a potential play there,” Leavy said.

Another priority is the Discovery Education group, or “creating a standalone broadband product” that will act as a “video encyclopedia” for classrooms.