NBC Sports Chicago cuts staff


NBC Sports Chicago is reducing staff, the regional sports channel that’s co-owned by the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls and Comcast confirmed Monday.

“We continually look at our businesses to make them efficient and successful,” the channel said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we had to make some employee changes at NBC Sports Chicago.”

It appears about a dozen employees here in a wide variety of slots will be let go, though it’s not known yet if anyone whose primary job is in front of the camera will be fired.

Among those let go was White Sox writer Dan Hayes, who tweeted about it.
While it’s said the moves are in conjunction with similar actions at NBC Sports regional sports channels around the country, the NBC Sports Chicago statement said only this was part of “resetting our business goals in order to best serve our fans.”

The Chicago cuts come almost exactly a year after the channel, then known as Comcast SportsNet Chicago, laid off a similar number of employees. It also issued a similar statement at the time, citing the need to reformat its programming lineup “provide our fans with even more compelling sports content that will better suit the needs of today’s evolving sports audience.”

Those cuts were believed to be the first ever at the channel, which launched in 2004, and a bid to make its programming more interactive.

Since then, the channel also bounced its vice president and general manager and allowed the contract of much-liked on-camera reporter and host Chris Boden to lapse. Boden has since landed as Blackhawks studio host on WGN-AM 720.

Staff reductions have become commonplace among media companies in recent years as a result of changes in the business models that long sustained them.

The way content is consumed has changed as well as the ways marketers seek to reach consumers, threatening once-reliable revenue streams and forcing outlets to rethink their priorities and reexamine their approaches.

Disney-owned ESPN, which has faced escalating rights fees, ad revenue issues and fewer cable subscribers through so-called cord cutters who seek a la carte programming as opposed to traditional cable bundling of channels, reportedly will lay off another 100 or so employees after Thanksgiving.

Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger stressed he was unconcerned last week during his quarterly earnings call.

“While there’s obviously been a lot of attention paid to ESPN and subs, etc., etc., and so on, we’ve never lost our bullishness about ESPN,” Iger told analysts. “The brand is strong. The quality of their programming is strong.

“There are always opportunities to improve. We’re just launching a new morning program, as a for instance. But we like where ESPN is these days and we believe that one of the best things that we’ve got going for ESPN is the new technology in the marketplace that’s enabling people to watch sports on more user-friendly platforms and wherever they are. And if we can measure that and add to that the technology that we need to monetize advertising in more effective ways, that’s a pretty good combination.”

For NBC Sports Chicago, there also is the looming possibility the Cubs may break away from the channel, its website and app to launch their own rival operation, perhaps as soon as 2020.

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