The economy takes its toll

WWF Entertainment, E!, Discovery Networks lay off workers at all levels

The recession continues to batter the workers of media companies. Layoffs of as much as 9% of the work force have taken place at WWF Entertainment, E! and Discovery Networks.

At WWF, not only have marketing and consumer-products staffers paid the price of the slack economy, but President and COO Stuart Snyder found himself out of the ring. He was hired just last year to take on most of the day-to-day responsibilities that CEO Linda McMahon had carried for years. But McMahon has reasserted her control, and Snyder has been shuffled out. About 40 lower-level employees lost their jobs.

At E!, 75 workers got the ax. "We really spent the entire year trying to manage our costs, doing everything but manage our work force," said CEO Mindy Herman.

At Discovery Networks, about 50 of 4,500 workers are being laid off in one unit.

Herman noted that advertising, which Paul Kagan Associates estimates comprises two-thirds of the network's revenues, is rebounding from a near shutdown immediately after Sept. 11. But, she added, the layoffs are "more an indicator of the general economic climate."

McMahon said that advertising sales were not down dramatically on such shows as UPN's Smackdown! and TNN's Raw!
(which was called Raw Is War!
until the terrorist attacks). But both attendance at live events and pay-per-view buys have slumped. The staff cuts resulted from such moves as combining the marketing staffs for merchandising and live events and the publishing and Internet groups. "The net result is a company that's leaner," McMahon said.

She plans to offset the domestic slowdown buy bolstering a long-running international syndication business with tours overseas.