A sudden freeze at the networks

NBC, News Corp. say soft ad market means no new hires until first or second quarter

Look to the malls for seasonal hiring, not to the networks. The soft advertising market has slowed hiring, in some cases, down to a halt. News Corp. and NBC have imposed company-wide hiring freezes.

News Corp. President Peter Chernin told a New York crowd at the UBS Media Conference last week that News Corp. imposed its hiring freeze last month. Maybe things will loosen by the second quarter, he said.

Sources inside News Corp. suggest it may be saving money to acquire DirecTV. Spies say Eddy Hartenstein, senior executive vice president at DirecTV parent Hughes Electronics, was seen at a News Corp. retreat in Palm Springs two weeks ago.

NBC sources confirm its hiring freeze that began last month will lift after New Year's Day, "but it could be extended," cautioned one source. An internal memo from NBC's Hartford station WVIT(TV) suggests that the market slowdown had led NBC to ask its divisions not to hold holiday parties in December. Some NBC entities will still party; others are postponing their "holiday" bashes until January, "just to get it in a different business cycle," said one source.

ABC doesn't have a freeze, but openings are getting stronger review than they might have a year ago. CBS on Friday issued a "no comment." Discovery networks and Time Warner said it was business as usual. "Any successful business tries to be prudent when it comes to spending resources," said a Discovery spokesman.