CBS News workers angered by new cost-cutting boss Neeraj Khemlani
A tough new boss at CBS News is cutting costs in a bid to revamp the struggling network – and he’s also causing complaints from employees, with some complaining that he’s “rude” and “micromanaging.”
The third-place network base complains that co-chair Neeraj Khemlani – a former Hearst executive who, along with ex-ABC executive Wendy McMahon took the reins in May – is asking for more work even as he’s concentrating resources, with some raising concerns that CBS News’s ruthless bean count is “cutting him to the bone.”
As reported by The Post, the struggling network is reassessing its budgets amid fears it can no longer afford big names like Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, who are currently renegotiating their contracts since Susan left. Zirinsky last year. , the legendary greyhound who had boosted their compensation.
Behind the scenes, pissed off employees complain that Khemlani cultivates a ‘Shark Tank’ like investor character who focuses on ‘punching holes’ in business plans and demanding to know the ‘return on investment’ for new projects. Some have complained of ‘micro-attacks’ which include calling staff members late and on weekends and asking tough questions in to-do list meetings, even though many departments are understaffed. .
According to multiple sources, Khemlani’s sharp elbows not only prompted several staff members to file human resources complaints, but also led to CBS employee agents complaining on behalf of their clients to the CBS CEO. , George Cheeks, who hired Khemlani after taking the helm last January. It is not known if any disciplinary action was taken.
“There has never been a more unpopular news division president,” said a CBS veteran. “I don’t think people would be surprised if he wasn’t here in a few months.”
Are you preparing a deal?
Some employees speculated that Cheeks brought in Khemlani at the behest of ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and President Shari Redstone to reduce CBS overheads and merge it with Comcast, which already has a division of information. Others believe the big cuts are tied to Viacom’s 2019 merger with CBS, which promised cost synergies of $ 300 million in 2020 and a three-year target of $ 800 million.
“They probably need to hit targets after the merger,” said a CBS insider. “But the big question is: what is their long-term strategy if there is no investment in information? “
A well-placed source said Bakish has a strong focus on the streaming business of ViacomCBS, which includes Paramount +, the company’s subscription service, which hosts programming from the Paramount movie studio, CBS, Comedy Central and ‘other properties. More subscribers and more ad revenue for these services “are the price of the share,” the source said.
“Neeraj and Wendy are leading CBS News and Stations to a dual future of broadcasting and streaming,” Cheeks told The Post in a statement. “At every turn, their movements have been thoughtful, strategic and avant-garde. Change is difficult. Evolution is necessary. I support their vision of a next-generation information operation.
A CBS News representative added, “You will see several new hiring announcements in the coming weeks that will build on this momentum. Change is part of any successful transformation, and it involves deploying resources in different ways. Make no mistake, it’s not about cutting; it’s about building and positioning CBS News and its prestigious brand to compete and succeed in a broadcast and streaming world.
Awkward video call
Some personnel in the trenches, meanwhile, say they are increasingly weary of dodging Khemlani’s bullets.
An employee recounted a video conference the executive held in the first week he started. With around 200 staff on call, Khemlani searched various news teams, lamenting the slowness with which they went on air to report breaking stories, among other harsh judgments.
Angry staff members turned to Slack after the meeting, noting how “daring” it was for Khemlani, an executive with “little journalism experience”, to come up in arms on day one.
Khemlani and his co-chair McMahon replaced Zirinsky, who took over from David Rhodes as CBS News chairman after a turbulent period marred by allegations of sexual misconduct that ousted CBS CEO Les Moonves, the boss of “60 Minutes “Jeff Fager and others.
During his two-year tenure, Zirinsky overhauled the network’s morning show host lineup, sending co-host O’Donnell to host the expensive “CBS Evening News.” Morning and evening broadcasts remained in third place, as Zirinsky, a journalist by training, had difficulty navigating the network’s corporate culture.
Sources said McMahon set up local news stations to generate advertising revenue. Most recently, she spearheaded the creation of a hyper-local news service in Detroit that focuses on streaming and live news coverage. Local CBS station WWJ-TV will lead the division, which launches next year.
Jane Pauley “scammed”
Meanwhile, Khemlani has been working to reverse the declining ratings on “CBS This Morning”. Last fall, he changed the show’s name to “CBS Mornings” and replaced co-host Anthony Mason with Nate Burleson, who joined King and Tony Dokoupil at the presenter table. He also moved the show from the CBS Broadcast Center on 57th Street to a studio on the second floor of ViacomCBS headquarters in Times Square.
“All CBS News morning shows will now be part of the same family,” Khemlani said in an August press release, adding that the shows will be “linked by the sound of iconic trumpet music and a philosophy of optimism that continues throughout at the sun logo itself.
Critics said the moves were coming back to “CBS Mornings” copying Jane Pauley’s “CBS Sunday Morning” branding, using the golden yellow sun logo and the show’s musical theme. Pauley’s show staff are “pissed off” that the executive “ripped off” their show, an insider said.
“He stole the DNA from the location,” the source added. “The concern is that you dilute the brand. “
Sources said the “CBS Mornings” star, like staff members, were annoyed that the windows facing Times Square had been covered. Street viewers can’t see the live broadcast, while the anchors inside sit in front of large LED screens that project a fabricated view of Times Square.
According to a report by trade publication Newscast Studio, an initial studio design calling for real-life views of Times Square “turned out to be too expensive to add large amounts of glass due to structural issues with the building.”
Sources added that ViacomCBS had struggled to rent the space, which had already broadcast MTV’s “Total Request Live” many years ago. It was likely a way for the company to “pledge” the rent to CBS, a source sniffed.
Although “CBS Mornings” is still in last place behind NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America”, a CBS representative said the show “is up 7 percent and 9 percent in key demos in its first 16 weeks longer than the competition. “She added that this” ends the season closer to NBC and ABC than at any time in CBS history. ”
Meanwhile, sources told The Post a pace of departures – some volunteers, some not – which include senior vice president of human resources Jose Andino; executive vice president and general manager of CBS News Digital Christy Tanner; CBS News Creative Director Renee Cullen; Senior Vice President of CBS News Digital Susanne Mei; investigative journalist Mireya Villarreal; Tony Cavin, former standards and foreign editor of CBS News; CBS News executive producer for special events, Eva Nordstrom; and senior executive producer for the CBSN streaming service Darius Walker.
“When you’re asked to do more with less, it contributes to a morale problem,” a source said. “And when you don’t feel appreciated and you aren’t paid well, people vote with their feet.”
“The question is, what is the vision for the company? another added. “A strategy, a vision can sometimes make people work harder for less money. But I don’t think they see a vision. I’m not sure there is one.