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Cable Nets' Staffs Survive NBC U 2.0

10/20/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Cable entertainment networks owned by NBC Universal likely will be immune to the layoffs that will ensue from the operational overhaul called NBCU 2.0 that the TV and entertainment company announced last week.

NBC Universal said it will eliminate 5% of its global workforce as it tries to move more of its business into digital media. The restructuring will include significant changes in its news operations, as it tries to cut $750 million in operating expenses by the end of 2007.

But employees at USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Bravo won't be receiving pink slips.

“We don't expect any layoffs at the cable entertainment networks,” said NBC Universal Cable Entertainment & Cross-Platform Strategy president Jeff Gaspin. He said those networks have been preparing for NBC U's digital transition over the past year. “We've been carefully managing jobs that were open,” he said.

To that end, Gaspin said, “20 to 30 people had already been shifted to the digital group,” which had been active with the debut of broadband channels for Sci Fi and Bravo.

Also as part of the 2.0 program, the NBC Television Network will move away from scripted comedies and dramas toward more reality shows and other less-expensive alternative programming at 8 p.m. each evening. But Gaspin said that it's unlikely those time slots would be filled by fare from the cable networks on a regular basis. He noted that episodes from both Bravo's Project Runway and USA Network's rookie hit Psych aired on NBC this summer.

“At this point, we see that as having more promotional value for the cable networks,” he said. “The ratings on NBC didn't warrant more plays. If the ratings had been higher, I'm sure it's something we'd look into.”

NBC U also is likely to try to produce more of its shows at its own studios. Gaspin said that while it's ideal to get content from a range of providers, “it's easier to explore other platforms when you own the content.”

He noted, though, that production companies have become somewhat more amenable to loosening their hold on different rights. He pointed to NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, produced by Warner Bros., which has allowed NBC.com to stream episodes to viewers.

Attempts to gain those rights from outside suppliers has become “a discussion point for all new shows,” he said, before noting that “I don't know that there is a definitive business model” yet for such transference.

September