Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Viacom: No Layoffs Yet. But No Hiring, Parties, Either.

Layoff rumors have swirled around Viacom for most of the fall. And one day they may even prove true. At this point it’s a reasonable assumption that every major media company is pencil-sharpening.

But the layoffs that Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke predicted would get announced today have not materialized.

Gawker did get its hand on a memo from Bob Bakish, who is president of Viacom’s MTV International unit, in which he tells everyone that the group has stopped hiring and has “instituted significant restrictions on discretionary items such as on travel, entertainment, consulting, third party services and the like.”

This comes a day after Viacom told all of its workers it would be nixing holiday parties but was giving everyone two extra vacation days off instead, which is a great idea.

Finke was correct in thinking that this would be an excellent day to shovel bad news out the door, though. Hard to imagine that anyone is paying attention to anything that doesn’t have the word “election” in it. But for the record, here’s Bakish’s memo:

From: Alexander, Linda-LA
Sent: Tuesday, November 04, 2008 2:29 PM
To: All at MTVNI O&O
Cc: [A bunch of people]

Subject: On behalf of Bob Bakish – IMPORTANT

We are living in a time of unprecedented economic challenges. It is clear that the global economic slow down is real and will take us into next year. With that in mind, we need to dramatically reduce our spending for the balance of the year and for 2009.

Senior managers across the regions and strategic services have been given this message and are in the process of identifying savings opportunities. As you know, we have suspended all hiring (including staff, temps and freelancers) and instituted significant restrictions on discretionary items such as on travel, entertainment, consulting, third party services and the like.

I know these actions are not pleasant and delivering this message is not easy. However, it is the right thing to do. We, like others around us in media and the general business community, have no choice but to respond quickly to this difficult environment. It is only with this type of response that we can ensure our Brands will continue to prosper and provide our global consumers the innovative content they want and our partners the unique value they expect.

In addition, as many of you read in Philippe Dauman and Tom Dooley’s e-mail, our company will be forgoing all divisional, regional and corporate holiday parties and instead giving all employees, including everyone internationally two additional vacation days to be used during your respective holiday season as coordinated with your respective supervisor. We feel in times like these, giving our employees the extra time to spend with family and loved ones is much appreciated.

Again, I know this is not easy but we are not alone and we will make it through. Thanks as always for focusing on driving us forward–even in this period where going forward means spending less.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus