Layoffs 2.0: NBC Lops Off 700 Heads, Wants To Clone Howie Mandel

The media world is still awaiting NBC Universal executioner Jeff Zucker's "town hall" meeting with his employees, in which he will calmly bar the doors to the "hall," step up to the podium, and then announce that 700 or so (or 5%, for you percentage junkies) of his beloved underlings aren't getting out of their meeting alive. But once the blood is mopped from the floors and the guillotine baskets are cleared of severed heads, how does this affect you, the person who doesn't particularly care about corporate streamlining enabling a faceless multimedia conglomerate to take bold, more cost-efficient steps (cutely named NBCU 2.0) into the brave new digital world? The WSJ reports on the revised mandate given to NBC Uni's fourth-place TV division (sub. req'd.):

Among NBC Universal's most significant moves is its decision to stop scheduling expensive dramas and comedies during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. slot. That is the first of three prime-time hours that NBC's affiliate stations must carry before their 11 p.m. local newscasts. Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal's television group, said NBC won't give back the 8 p.m. hour to affiliate stations, but it will concentrate on lower-cost programming. Mr. Zucker said advertiser interest isn't high enough to justify spending on scripted shows.
For instance, viewers in coming seasons might see a game show such as "Deal or No Deal" at 8 p.m. on Tuesday instead of "Friday Night Lights," a drama that currently occupies the slot. The financial payoff could be significant for the network: Mr. Zucker said "Deal or No Deal" costs $1.1 million an episode, while "Friday Night Lights" costs $2.6 million an episode.

There you have it: More people shouting at briefcases full of money, less programming that requires "writers," "actors," and "stories." There does seem to be some good news: The cost-cutting plans target the 8 p.m. hour, indicating that the network isn't yet abandoning its strategy of allowing 10 p.m. visionaries like Aaron Sorkin to burn off millions of dollars in his budget-busting crackpipe.