Layoffs hit NBC stations to meet ‘changing economic environment’

NBC Tower

On a day that Comcast-owned NBCUniversal reportedly cut up to 10 percent of its workforce nationwide, layoffs hit all three NBC broadcast properties in Chicago.

The company would not confirm the number of employees affected, but sources said seven jobs were cut today at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Telemundo WSNS-Channel 44, mostly in technical areas. More than a dozen were believed to have been fired from numerous departments at NBC Sports Chicago, which is in a separate division of the company.

Officials here declined to comment, referring all inquiries to a company spokesperson, who said: “The NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations division has reduced its workforce to best position the division to meet Company objectives in a changing economic environment. As a result, valued colleagues at NBC and Telemundo owned stations will be leaving our company. We made these very difficult decisions with the long-term interest of our company in mind.

“We sincerely thank our colleagues for their service to their stations, our division and NBCUniversal. Our local HR teams will be fully supporting our colleagues during this transition.”

Staffers have been bracing for layoffs since early May when David Doebler, president and general manager of NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago, previewed the staff reduction plans at a virtual town hall. He cited unprecedented plunges in advertising revenue in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Leila Rahimi

The number of layoffs at the two stations turned out to be less than expected thanks to attrition, buyouts and reassignments in the intervening months. No on-air personnel were affected by today’s layoffs, according to insiders.

At NBC Sports Chicago, a spokesman confirmed that hosts Leila Rahimi and Laurence Holmes were among the layoffs, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune. Cuts at the regional sports network also included the cancellation of “Sports Talk Live.”

“Due to the ongoing economic challenges caused by the pandemic and with the need to better position NBCUniversal for the future, we have made a number of difficult decisions to achieve cost savings, including eliminating some roles across the portfolio,” an NBC Sports Chicago statement said.