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Media layoffs: Google, Paramount, Disney, and others commit to job cuts in 2024

The media and entertainment industry's reckoning continues in 2024 with more layoffs, as rising costs and debt-ridden balance sheets continue to weigh on the embattled sector.

Partly in an attempt to appease Wall Street, over the past year these companies have slashed billions of dollars' worth of costs. In addition, under profit pressure, they rolled out ad-supported tiers, bundled their offerings, and raised the monthly prices of subscription plans.

But all of that wasn't enough to satisfy investors.

Valuation levels remain depressed. And streaming profitability still has a long way to go, with virtually all media companies (with the exception of Netflix (NFLX)) losing money on that business. The bottom line: more job cuts.

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Here's what top media and entertainment companies have in mind when it comes to layoffs in 2024:

Media layoffs: Google, Paramount, Disney and others others commit to layoffs in 2024 (Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Media layoffs: Google's YouTube, Paramount, Disney, and others others commit to layoffs in 2024 (Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Paramount Global

Paramount Global (PARA) laid off about 800 employees, or roughly 3% of its workforce, sources familiar with the matter told Yahoo Finance.

The cuts, which took place on Feb. 13, come as M&A rumors swirl over the future of the media giant.

In an internal memo to employees, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish reiterated his previous comment that layoffs are necessary in order to return the company to earnings growth. "I am confident this is the right decision for our future," he wrote.

YouTube

Not even tech giant Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) has been immune to layoffs.

In mid-January, the company cut 100 YouTube employees, a spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo Finance — its first corporate restructuring in a decade. YouTube has 7,173 employees worldwide.

According to an internal memo viewed by Yahoo Finance, the cuts affected YouTube’s creator management and operations teams.

The workforce reduction comes after Alphabet slashed thousands of jobs across its engineering, hardware, and advertising teams in an effort to reduce head count.

Meanwhile, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in a widely cited internal memo that more layoffs were likely needed across the entire company in 2024 in order for the company to reach its goals.

Warner Music Group

Warner Music Group (WMG) announced it will be laying off 600 employees, or about 10% of its staff — despite reporting record fourth quarter earnings results.

In a memo to staff, CEO Robert Kyncl said the layoffs are part of "a plan to free up more funds to invest in music and accelerate our growth for the next decade." The layoffs will result in annualized cost savings of around $200 million by the end of September 2025.

"As we carry out our plan, it's important to bear in mind why we're making these difficult choices," the memo continued. "We're getting on the front foot to create a sustainable competitive advantage over the next decade. We'll do so by increasing funding behind artists and songwriters, new skill sets, and tech, to help us deliver on our three strategic priorities."

Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the industry's most prominent record labels, plans to lay off hundreds of employees later this quarter, according to Bloomberg.

The layoffs, part of a broader restructuring, will supposedly be the largest since the company went public in 2021, Bloomberg noted.

While UMG wouldn't fully confirm the report, a spokesperson hinted at the cuts in a company statement provided to Yahoo Finance: "We are creating efficiencies in other areas of the business so we can remain nimble and responsive to the dynamic market, while realizing the benefits of our scale."

Pixar

Disney's (DIS) animation unit will reportedly lay off as much as 20% of its 1,300 employees, according to TechCrunch. The cuts come as streaming profitability lags while the company's box office has struggled.

Disney did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance's request for confirmation on the report.

Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, CA, United States - June 5, 2023. Pixar Animation Studios is an American computer animation studio.
Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, Calif. (Alamy) (JHVEPhoto via Getty Images)

Vice Media

Vice Media said it will lay off hundreds of staffers as the publisher commits to "fundamental changes" to its "strategic vision," CEO Bruce Dixon said in a memo to staff on Feb. 22. The company will also stop publishing content to its website.

"It is no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously," Dixon wrote in the memo, which was obtained by Yahoo Finance. "Moving forward, we will look to partner with established media companies to distribute our digital content, including news, on their global platforms, as we fully transition to a studio model."

The news comes after Vice Media filed for bankruptcy last year. The company was sold for $350 million to a consortium of its former lenders, including Fortress, Soros Fund Management, and Monroe Capital.

Buzzfeed

Buzzfeed said it would cut 16% of its workforce "to reduce centralized costs and to allow the company to become more agile, sustainable, and profitable."

Along with the layoff announcement, the media company also said it would sell Complex to live video shopping platform NTWRK in a $108.6 million all-cash deal. In addition to the purchase price, the company received approximately $5.7 million in severance and office-related charges.

The news comes just under a year after Buzzfeed announced plans to shutter its news division and slash 15% of staffers, or about 180 employees.

The Messenger

Digital news startup The Messenger will shut down after less than a year since its May 2023 launch.

The company, which hired about 300 journalists at the time of its debut, was founded by media entrepreneur Jimmy Finkelstein.

Employees did not know the shutdown was coming, which triggered a proposed class-action lawsuit against the company from its former employees just one day after its folding.

In a memo to staff, cited by multiple outlets, Finkelstein blamed "economic headwinds" that have plagued media companies at large, writing, "Unfortunately, as a new company, we encountered even more significant challenges than others and could not survive those headwinds."

The New York Times first reported the closure. The Messenger did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance's request for comment.

Sky Group

British media company Sky Group, which is owned by Comcast (CMCSA), plans to slash 1,000 jobs over the next year, with a significant proportion of job losses within its engineering division. That represents about 4% of the business.

The news comes after the company cut hundreds of jobs last year as it plans a shift from satellite to internet-based TV.

"The launch of Sky Glass and Sky Stream represents a shift in our business to deliver TV over IP (an internet connection) rather than satellite," a Sky spokesperson told Yahoo Finance. "Increasingly, customers are choosing Sky Glass and Sky Stream, which don’t require specialist installation, and that has led us to change the number of roles we need to deliver our services."

The Wall Street Journal

The newspaper plans to lay off a small number of workers within its Washington bureau amid a broader restructuring effort, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The move, first reported by Axios, will relocate some Washington-based economics coverage to New York. Those who have their jobs eliminated will be able to apply for new jobs.

Business Insider

The online publication, a subsidiary of German publisher Axel Springer SE, said on Jan. 25 that it will cut "about 8%" of its staff — a recent trend that's permeated across major news organizations throughout the country. (See Los Angeles Times next.)

"We closed out last year with a plan in place, a clear target audience, and a vision," Business Insider CEO Barbara Peng wrote in a memo to staff. "This year is about making it happen and focusing our company and efforts towards this future. Unfortunately, this also means we need to scale back in some areas of our organization."

The exact number of impacted employees was not immediately clear, but the cuts do represent the second round of layoffs in less than a year.

Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times announced sweeping layoffs on Jan. 23 that eliminated the jobs of at least 115 staff members, or roughly 20% of its newsroom.

The workforce reduction was the largest in the newspaper's 142-year history, according to the Times.

The paper's owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, said the cuts were necessary in order to account for the loss of as much as $40 million a year due to a bleak advertising environment.

Sports Illustrated

One of the most storied sports publications laid off most (or possibly all) of its staff last week after its publisher, Arena Group Holdings, had its license to operate the publication revoked.

Arena Group failed to make a $3.8 million quarterly licensing payment to Authentic Brands Group, which has owned the magazine since 2019. Authentic Brands Group sold the publishing rights to Arena Group in a 10-year deal that same year.

"This is another difficult day in what has been a difficult four years for Sports Illustrated under Arena Group," the publication's union wrote in a statement following the news.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Universal Music Group as "United Music Group." We regret the error.

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on X @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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