Comcast Corp. ’s NBCUniversal is reviewing operations across its portfolio of media and entertainment properties as part of a cost-cutting effort that could result in a significant reduction of staff, people familiar with the matter said.
Discussions began this past week regarding cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, the people said. NBCUniversal’s holdings include the NBC broadcast network, the Universal Pictures movie studio, theme parks, NBC News and several entertainment cable channels.
NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell alluded to the review during Comcast’s earnings call Thursday. Asked how NBCUniversal was positioned to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, Mr. Shell said,“On costs, the question about whether we’re right-sized on costs given where the environment is headed, the answer is probably no, and we’re addressing that pretty aggressively.”
He added: “And certainly over the next weeks and months, we’ll make pretty significant adjustments there across our business.”
NBCUniversal is the latest media company to take drastic steps as a result of economic fallout from the coronavirus which has halted production of movies and TV, shut down professional sports and caused advertisers to cut spending. Walt Disney Co. has furloughed theme-park workers and cut executive pay. Fox Corp. has also cut executive pay. ViacomCBS Inc. laid off close to 500 people this past week, people close to the situation said. Those cuts were attributed primarily to expense reductions stemming from last year’s merger of Viacom and CBS, ViacomCBS Chief Executive Bob Bakish said in an email to staff.
Although all divisions are being looked at, some areas likely to be under a microscope at NBCUniversal are the theme-parks division and Universal Pictures, both of which have been grounded as a result of the coronavirus.
The company has said Universal Studios’ theme parks would be closed at least through May 31, and its workers have been furloughed.
Other units that will be scrutinized include the cable networks group, which includes the Bravo, E! and USA channels, a person familiar with that sector said.
NBCUniversal, which had about 66,000 full-time employees as of Dec. 31, is one of Comcast’s most vulnerable businesses to the coronavirus pandemic. Comcast’s revenue remained stable in the first quarter because of its growing broadband business. However,On Thursday, the company reported NBCUniversal’s quarterlyfirst-quarter revenue fell 7% to $7.7 billion. compared with the same period last year. Although the broadcast television segment saw revenue grow 9%, overall NBCUniversal was dragged down by its films and theme parks.
Advertising revenue slightly decreased in the quarter, and is expected to be down significantly in the current quarter.
Mr. Shell took over as chief of NBCUniversal earlier this year after Chairman Steve Burke said he would officially retire in August. Before that, he oversaw much of the company’s entertainment operations.
On top of NBCUniversal’s agenda for the year is its streaming service, Peacock, which was rolled out to Comcast customers earlier this month with a national launch in July. Because of the production shutdown, Peacock won’t launch with the slate of original programming it had expected to have.
Comcast said Thursday that Peacock customers were searching through the streaming service’s various content—from “Saturday Night Live” to reruns of “Parks and Recreation”—more than expected.
—Benjamin Mullin contributed to this article.
Corrections & Amplifications
NBCUniversal had about 66,000 full-time employees as of Dec. 31. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it had 9,400. (Corrected on May 1)
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