It's a smaller world - Broadcasting & Cable

It's a smaller world

Entertainment push for ABC.com delayed; Internet staff cut
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ABC has postponed plans to turn its ABC.com Web site into more than just a television site. The result is large staff reductions at the Web site, with one report putting the layoffs at 85%.

Dick Glover, executive vice president of Internet and Digital Media for ABC, says the 85% figure isn't accurate but the cuts were significant. "We had an awful lot of people that were dedicated to doing this expanded kind of [entertainment] coverage."

The plan, he says, was to expand ABC.com by, among other things, folding in content from Mr. Showbiz, another Disney-owned Internet site. But visitors to the Mr. Showbiz site last week were directed to the ABCNews.com entertainment section; the ABC.com site remained focused on promoting ABC TV properties. Planned synergies with Us
magazine were also in the cards.

"What we determined, in light of everything that was going on, is that now may not be the best time to implement that [expanded] strategy," Glover explains. "We decided to make sure that we continue to have the best network-television site for the fans of the network but to not expand into these other areas. So, as a consequence, we obviously had a need for fewer people."

ABC.com wasn't the only Disney Internet property to experience recent staff reductions. The Walt Disney Internet Group (DIG) and ABCNews.com also saw more cuts. Walt Disney Internet Group spokeswoman Kim Kerscher says, "We reorganized our technology organization to reflect how the business has evolved over the year and what we see coming." She could not confirm how many employees were let go, but sources put the DIG number at 100.

With respect to the ABCNews.com cutbacks, Glover says that 25 employees were let go across the board. "We're more fully integrating all of the operations with the TV news operation, and we're getting better and better at that."

The increased efficiencies from moving ABCNews.com operations back into ABC News resulted in the cuts.

Asked whether employees on the broadcast-TV side of the ABC News operation will be required to contribute more to the Internet side, Glover explains that there are no longer sides: "The Internet becomes an increasingly important medium for news as the world becomes more confusing and less safe. People want to be able to find out what's going on whenever they want and wherever they are. And it isn't a question of sides' picking up more but rather how [to] get the tools integrated into the operation ... without impacting the product."

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