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Layoffs Seen at HBO, Showtime

Industry consolidation and the sluggish economy have led to employee layoffs at premium programmers Showtime Networks Inc. and Home Box Office, sources close to the situation said.

First to feel the blade were nearly 20 HBO affiliate-sales employees, laid off last week as part of a restructuring of the division, according to network sources.

Given recent MSO consolidation, HBO president of sales and marketing Eric Kessler said the new structure places more emphasis on individual accounts than a regional set-up did.

"We have restructured our organization to reflect the ongoing changes in the industry," Kessler said. "This enables us to service our affiliates more effectively and operate more efficiently."

On the Showtime front, network employees are bracing for what is termed "widespread" layoffs within the company, cutting across nearly all divisions and executive levels.

Showtime executives could not be reached for comment at press time, but several sources familiar with the plans expected the proposed layoffs to occur as early as Monday or Tuesday.

Sources termed the Showtime part of cost-cutting efforts due to MSO consolidation and the sluggish economy, which sources say has tempered premium and overall industry subscriber growth.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.