MTV Networks — which has already endured several rounds of layoffs — last week made another cut that trimmed 450 people, or about 9 percent of the programmer's worldwide work force.
Squeezed by a miserable advertising market, Viacom Inc.'s MTVN mounted a restructuring that included reorganizing Nickelodeon; consolidating Nick at Nite and TV Land under TV Land general manager Larry Jones; restructuring management at VH1; completing TNN: The National Network's move to New York City; and shutting down MTV: Music Television's in-house animation studio. That work would move to outside producers.
The cutbacks, planned prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, were outlined in a memo that MTVN chairman Tom Freston sent to employees last Monday. The biggest job loss was at MTVi. The online businesses were integrated back into MTVN and their offices moved from 770 Broadway back to MTVN's Times Square headquarters.
Citing the "new economic times," Freston wrote: "This has been a very tough and painful decision for us to have made. We have the best people in the business at this company and decisions like this, unfortunately, will mean that very capable, devoted and hard-working people leave us."
The belt tightening will include the centralization of the affiliate-marketing departments for MTVN's various services, as well as consolidation of the MTV and Nickelodeon Latin American divisions.
"Earlier in the year, we cut many marketing and other activities, but it has become evident that a different organizational model was also needed if we were to continue to be leaders," Freston said in his memo.
Sources familiar with the situation said Tom Michel, MTV's vice president of affiliation marketing, and Brian Hughes — the former vice president of programming at TNN and most recently its senior vice president, sports and outdoors — were among those laid off. Michel and Hughes couldn't be reached for comment; MTVN vice president of communications Jeanine Smartt declined comment.
The fate of MTV president of animation Abby Terkuhle was unclear. He couldn't be reached for comment; MTVN declined to comment.
A number of MTVN public-relations executives were also part of last week's layoffs, including TNN senior vice president of communications Cheryl Daly and MTV's Paulette Song.
In his memo, Freston noted that MTVN had not restructured its organization since it "decentralized by brands" in 1989, even though its business "has grown and changed dramatically."
Last week's job cuts were not the first at MTVN this year. In January, Viacom's merger of MTVN and CBS Cable resulted in the layoffs of 125 staffers, most at TNN's former headquarters in Nashville. And in March and July, Viacom's Black Entertainment Television had rounds of layoffs.