Disney TV and Film Layoffs Come Amid Upheaval of Media Landscape

May 16, 2019

By Carlo Versano

Amid reports that Disney is handing out pink slips at its studio arms this week ー two months after it acquired the majority of Fox TV and film assets ー questions are being raised about what the shakeout means for the larger media industry, which is consolidating at a rapid pace to take on tech giants that have aggressively moved into making and distributing content.

Disney ($DIS) is in the "feeling out" period as it looks at redundancies between its current operations and the new Fox assets, according to Julian Roman, a correspondent for MovieWeb who follows the industry.

The layoffs are currently hitting the film divisions and high-level PR and marketing positions, Roman said. Deadline reported Wednesday that Fox corporate communications chief Chelsey Summey and two marketing SVPs were among those whose jobs were eliminated because they already existed within Disney.

"Dozens of people got layoff notices yesterday," Roman said. "I honestly don't think that anyone is safe ー across the board."

Indeed, layoffs were expected at the new Disney behemoth given the redundancies of two massive film and television studios combining. Roman said he heard the number to be in the 4,000 range, and that they were to begin in June.

It will likely take months before the new company is completely realigned, according to Roman. And the changes are happening as Disney races to build out its new streaming service, Disney+, in time for a November release. Disney already rejiggered its studio film schedule so that it won't have similar properties from its various divisions competing for box office dollars. For instance, Fox's "Avatar" and Lucasfilms' "Star Wars" will now alternate Christmas releases.

And even as Disney now takes control of a staggering 40 percent of Hollywood, Netflix ($NFLX) remains the elephant in the room. The streaming giant has been tying up some of the industry's biggest showrunners in exclusive deals and spending billions ー moving to lock up more high-profile original content as Disney and others, like WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, plan to pull their most popular shows and films from Netflix and Hulu in the coming years.

"I don't think Netflix will take any of this sitting down," Roman said. "I would never underestimate Netflix."