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Paramount to lay off hundreds of staffers in cost-cutting effort

The double-arch entryway to Paramount Pictures with palm trees visible in the background
The Melrose gate of Paramount Pictures. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Layoffs are hitting Paramount Global.

The media giant that owns the Paramount Pictures movie studio, plus CBS, Nickelodeon and other networks, will eliminate roughly 800 jobs as part of a broad streamlining effort, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to comment.

“Unfortunately, part of streamlining costs means that today, we will begin the difficult process of saying goodbye to some of our very valued colleagues across Paramount,” Paramount Chief Executive Bob Bakish said in a Tuesday memo that was obtained by The Times.

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The company has been under pressure from Wall Street as it struggles to compete as a standalone entertainment and media empire. Bakish had previously signaled that cuts were on the way.

Shari Redstone, the company's controlling shareholder, has been considering offers to either sell or merge the company.

Since last summer, multiple entertainment companies — including Skydance Media’s David Ellison and Warner Bros. Discovery — have been eyeing the media empire long controlled by the Redstone family through its National Amusements Inc. holding company.

The company — the fusion of legacy players Viacom and CBS — has fallen on hard times. As the Hollywood business model continues to evolve and become more focused on streaming, Paramount, a company still largely reliant on network TV, cable channels and theatrical releases, is facing trouble from multiple directions.

Read more: Entertainment companies face tidal wave of layoffs in rocky start to new year

When Redstone family patriarch Sumner M. Redstone's health began to decline more than a decade ago, the company experienced a rough patch defined by questionable management and under-investment that weakened the business as its competitors bulked up for the streaming wars.

Following the Viacom-CBS merger in 2019 and Sumner Redstone's death in 2020, the company was renamed Paramount Global, and a new streaming service, Paramount+, replaced CBS All Access.

As the company weathered corporate turbulence, the COVID-19 pandemic took effect, rivals such as Netflix ascended, actors and writers went on strike, and Wall Street turned its back on Paramount, which is now valued at $10 billion — about $20 billion less than it was worth a few years ago.

Paramount isn't the only entertainment company that's hurting. Widespread economic headwinds, fallout from the Hollywood strikes, corporate consolidation and other factors also have led to mass job cuts at Universal Music Group, Discord, Twitch, Prime Video, Amazon MGM Studios, Pixar and other businesses spanning film, TV, music and gaming.

News has also been hard hit by the industrywide contraction. Twenty of the Paramount cuts will affect the CBS News division, according to a different source close to the situation who was not authorized to comment.

The CBS News layoffs included several prominent correspondents, mostly in the Washington bureau. Catherine Herridge, a senior investigative correspondent, was among those let go. Christina Ruffini, a White House correspondent frequently seen on weekend programs, is also out. The company also axed Jeff Pegues, the chief national affairs and justice correspondent; Pamela Falk, who covered the United Nations; and Dell Williams, a deputy bureau chief in Los Angeles.

The layoffs come after a couple of wins for the company, which just aired Super Bowl LVIII. The Kansas City Chiefs' victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday drew a record 123.4 million viewers across all platforms, including streaming. Comedy Central on Monday welcomed comedian Jon Stewart back to the host's chair for "The Daily Show."

Times staff writers Stephen Battaglio and Meg James contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.