Quick Hits

MTV Networks and Corus to get a whole lot lighter
November 1, 2001

MTV Networks and Corus to get a whole lot lighter

Caught in the current TV ad revenue spiral, worsened by the September 11 terrorist attacks, Viacom’s MTV Networks announced that it is cutting 450 positions–roughly 8% to 9% of its workforce. In an interoffice e-mail MTVN released to the press, company CEO Tom Freston informed employees that the layoffs would affect all of the division’s brands, including MTV and kids net Nickelodeon.

On-line operations will be integrated with TV businesses, representing the majority of cuts. Other organizational changes include the consolidation of Nick at Nite and TV-Land, as well as a strategy to outsource more of MTV’s animation productions.

‘We have never seen a more challenging time than now. Earlier in the year, we cut many marketing [sic] and other activities, but it has become evident that a different organizational model was needed if we were to continue to be leaders,’ wrote Freston.

Separately, Toronto-based media company Corus Entertainment is also paring back staff. According to Corus’ director of corporate communications Kerry Morgan, the company, which owns prodco Nelvana and kids nets YTV and Treehouse Television, informed its staff in September that layoffs were imminent. Continuing consolidation of acquisitions Corus has made in the last two years will account for some of the cuts, with others the result of the company’s decision to adjust to the downturn in the economy. ‘We’re making sure that we’re ready and able to withstand global competition over the next 18 months, without knowing where the economy is going to go,’ says Morgan. Though she declined to say how many positions the company would shed, Morgan says Corus will make a formal announcement on the matter within the next month.

HIT picks up Pingu and puts PBS on Angelina’s dance card

U.K.-based HIT Entertainment has reached a conditional deal to acquire Dutch preschool property Pingu for US$23 million. Under terms of the agreement, the studio will pay US$20 million to Pingu B.V. to acquire ownership (including copyright) of the property, and a total of US$3.1 million to Telepool GMBH, Schweizer Fernsehen DRS and ZDF for other various ancillary rights, including broadcast and distribution rights. Once the deal is finalized, HIT plans to globally exploit the property’s entertainment and merch potential, which has only been explored in the U.K. and Japan to date. As per the deal, HIT will also gain ownership of the Pingu model-animation TV portfolio, which includes 104 five-minute eps and one half-hour special.

HIT timed the Pingu pick-up with the release of its year-end results, which saw its pre-tax profits rise 53% for the 12-month period that ended July 31, 2001.

The company also announced that it has sold 13 half-hour episodes of its girl-skewing animated series Angelina Ballerina to U.S. pubcaster PBS, which plans to begin airing the show next spring.

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