Two months after ABC Family's cable debut, 300 former Fox Family staffers are being cut as Walt Disney Co. tries to shore up its $5.2 billion investment in the channel. Sources say Disney planned to lay off workers last week but decided to wait until after ABC Family's presentation to TV critics in Pasadena last Saturday.
The majority of the layoffs will be back-office cuts, mainly administrative and support staff. Disney sources say the company counted on efficiencies like these when it purchased the net last October from News Corp. and Saban Entertainment.
ABC Family unveiled its new format this month, with January's schedule featuring old Fox Family shows during the day and repurposed ABC fare in prime.
Disney, meanwhile, continues its legal sparring with EchoStar Communications over the channel's carriage. A hearing to determine ABC Family's future on the Dish Network was rescheduled from Jan. 10 to Jan. 17. EchoStar had threatened to pull ABC Family off its system Jan. 1, but a federal judge blocked its plans with a temporary restraining order. The court is slated to hear arguments for a permanent injunction this Thursday.
ABC Cable Networks President Anne Sweeney, whose unit oversees ABC Family's distribution, lashed out at EchoStar last Wednesday, asserting that the DBS carrier made false claims in a Jan. 2 statement: "Disney has never sought an increase in carriage fees beyond those agreed to in the contract."