Discovery Communications Inc. today laid off approximately 200 positions, representing about 3% of its global workforce of roughly 5,000 full-time employees.

Among the business units hit hard in this latest round of cuts under new president and CEO David Zaslav is Discovery Education, home to unitedstreaming and Cosmeo, an online homework helper and pet project of former DCI president/CEO Judith McHale, whose last day was Dec. 1.

Both education businesses are still operating, while the Discovery Educator Network reassured its national network of teachers today that Bill Goodwyn, who oversees Discovery Education in his role as president of domestic distribution and enterprises, is "committed" to the unit’s future.

Goodwyn’s "focus over the next year is two-fold," according to the DEN blog. "First, to refocus Discovery Education in the K-12 environment, strengthening already incredible products such as unitedstreaming and implementing a new product line bringing the best educational media and resources to classroom teachers in specific content areas. Second, to leverage the amazing resources of Discovery, providing once in a lifetime opportunities for teachers across the country."

Other units that were downsized in today’s layoffs: Discovery’s U.S. networks group, including Discovery Channel and Animal Planet; Discovery Studios’ production staffers; and Corporate Services, which includes international housing, administration and  corporate communications.

The company estimates these units lost about 20% of their total workforces today. The Education group already cut 84 jobs in December.

"Today is the second phase of a detailed reorganization of Discovery and is designed to build an aggressive organization that is able to take advantage of new opportunities across television and digital platforms," company spokesman David Leavy said in a statement about today’s moves. "The savings accrued from today’s actions are not intended to drop to the bottom line. We will be investing back in original programming, the marketing of our brands and digital-media extensions."

Zaslav’s personnel shake-up began when he reorganized the company’s top ranks in February and fired former Discovery Networks U.S. president Billy Campbell, Animal Planet EVP/GM Maureen Smith, Discovery Networks International president Dawn McCall and corporate SVP of human resources Pandit Wright.

He’s also been tweaking duties for his surviving executive team and bringing in former colleagues from NBC Universal such as Bruce Campbell, who last month was named DCI’s president of digital media, emerging networks and business development.

"This is a tough day for Discovery," Zaslav told the Washington Post. "It’s always difficult to restructure and reorganize, but we’re really focused on trying to build the biggest and strongest and most competitive non-fiction media company in the world."

More layoffs are looming at other business units in the months ahead.

DCI’s other U.S. networks including TLC (whose former EVP/GM, David Abraham, last month returned to the U.K. to become CEO of digital broadcaster UKTV) and the U.S. Hispanic networks are being reviewed. It’s also relaunching Discovery Home next year as an eco-based "green" network whose new name is not finalized; Abraham also ran Discovery Home until his departure.

DCI announced on Mar. 29 it’s buying out Cox Communications’ stake in the company, which would leave John Malone’s Liberty Media as its controlling shareholder. As part of that proposed deal (which is subject to approval), Discovery will sell Travel Channel to Cox, a move that will inevitably involve some downsizing.

Also, the company is considering closing its Commerce division’s 100-plus Discovery stores in the U.S. and using its own Websites and tapping other retailers to sell its branded merchandise.

The Daily


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