Layoffs begin at Disney's ABC amid pressures in TV market

Walt Disney Co. started laying off employees across its ABC Television Group on Thursday.

Of the division’s 9,000 employees, 100 to 200 are expected to be cut, according to an executive familiar with plan who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. A representative for the Burbank-based company declined comment.

The layoffs affect employees at the company’s eight television stations, its network entertainment division and production studio, and at its West Coast-based cable networks such as Freeform and the Disney Channel. The cuts are said to be mostly in operational areas. No high-level positions in TV production and development are expected to be eliminated.

Disney is making the reductions to achieve cost-savings and a restructuring as the television business has been under pressure from a decline in traditional viewing. More people moving to streaming video has meant diminished ratings and lower ad revenue for its cable and broadcast channels.

The company’s cable revenue growth has also slowed as more viewers consume video online and are forgoing paid TV subscriptions. ESPN, the Bristol, Conn.-based sports network, had undergone two rounds of layoffs in recent years — including 100 reporters, analysts and commentators last year — to adjust to the lower subscription revenue.

Revenue for Disney’s TV networks saw a year-to-year decline of 1% in the third quarter to $5.9 billion, while operating income fell 22% to $1.8 billion.

The company is expected to make new hires that align with areas of future growth within the division, such as digital distribution.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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