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CEO Bob Iger outlines three rounds of Disney lay-offs, starting this week

Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that the planned elimination of 7,000 jobs across the enterprise will take place in three phases, starting this week.

Bob Iger

In a memo sent to employees on Monday, Iger said senior leaders would notify the first group of affected employees before the end of the week. In April, a second round of lay-offs involving “several thousand” employees will be announced, before a third round in early summer.

The lay-offs come as Disney looks to find US$5.5bn in budget cuts across the entire business, including US$3bn in non-sports related content.

“The difficult reality of many colleagues and friends leaving Disney is not something we take lightly,” said Iger in the memo.

“This company is home to the most talented and dedicated employees in the world, and so many of you bring a lifelong passion for Disney to your work here. That’s part of what makes working at Disney so special. It also makes it all the more difficult to say goodbye to wonderful people we care about. I want to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to every departing employee for your numerous contributions and your devotion to this beloved company.”

News of a handful of lay-offs began to trickle out yesterday following Iger’s memo, with the closure of Disney Television Studios’ creative acquisitions department, according to reports in The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline. Elizabeth Newman, who was VP of creative acquisitions, is among those impacted by the lay-offs.

Also departing are Jayne Bieber, senior VP of production management and operations for Freeform, and Mark Levenstein, senior VP of production for Hulu, according to US reports.

While the lay-offs are expected to impact all divisions of the company, it is not yet known exactly where the hammer will fall hardest.

Iger has previously hinted that the cuts will impact the amount of content its streamer Disney+ will produce in international markets. During an investor conference in early March, Iger said there was a “disconnect” between what the company is producing in international markets and what it is producing in the US for global distribution.

“I think that we might have created an imbalance of sorts, because territory managers of the Disney+ platform were leaning more into what they were producing locally – which has some value – but perhaps not relying as much on what was being produced for global consumption, and that’s another opportunity for us in terms of reducing expenses,” he said at the time.

Iger also previously said that the company would “reassess all markets we have launched [Disney+] in, and also determine the right balance between global and local content.”

The returning Disney CEO first revealed the cost-cutting measures during the company’s first-quarter earnings call in February.

In addition to the cuts, Iger announced that the company would be restructured under three main divisions – the newly created Disney Entertainment division, a standalone ESPN unit and theme parks. The Disney Entertainment division is led by co-chairmen Dana Walden and Alan Bergman, who manage all content decisions for Disney+ and Hulu.

More broadly, Iger has expressed a desire to “aggressively curate” Disney’s general entertainment content, to focus more on its core brands and franchises, and begin licensing more of its content to third parties as it looks to stem the heavy losses it has suffered as it raced to grow its streaming business. He has also said he is open to the option of selling Hulu, rather than buying the remaining 33% that it doesn’t already own from Comcast.

In total, Disney+ (excluding Disney+ Hotstar in India) had 104.3 million subscribers by the end of the first quarter, up from 102.9 million the prior quarter. In the most recent quarter, Disney reported streaming losses of around US$1.1bn, down from around US$1.5bn the prior quarter.

In his memo, Iger added: “For our employees who aren’t impacted, I want to acknowledge that there will no doubt be challenges ahead as we continue building the structures and functions that will enable us to be successful moving forward. I ask for your continued understanding and collaboration during this time.”

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