Discovery Cuts 84 Education Group Jobs

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Discovery Communications said yesterday that it had cut 84 positions in its education group, scaling back a division that had expanded rapidly since it was launched two years ago.

Discovery Education creates and sells educational videos and digital educational material to schools. Discovery has acquired seven related companies in the last 18 months to bolster the group, which will employ about 200 people after the cuts.

Company officials said many of the positions were unnecessary and that the changes would not impede the company's goal of expanding its education business, which it says reaches 70,000 schools.

"We announced a reorganization of the education group this week. That included shifting responsibilities, elimination of office space and reduction in force that included redundancies and overlapping functions," said David Leavy, a Discovery spokesman.

About half of the cuts were from the group's Bethesda office and one from Silver Spring, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were private. The rest were made in other parts of the country, including Chicago and California, where offices were closed.

The company is in a major transition at the Silver Spring-based company. Judith McHale announced in August that she would resign as chief executive by the end of the year. The company hired NBC Universal executive David M. Zaslav last month to replace her. Donald A. Baer, Discovery's vice president for strategy and development, also announced last month that he planned to leave.

Discovery has about 5,000 people in its workforce, according to Leavy. The education division sells schools such products as digital video encyclopedias and aligns them with each state's required curriculum.

"We're certainly committed to the education business. We'll continue to invest in it," Leavy said.

According to an internal memo sent to employees Wednesday, the division's revenue has grown 350 percent since 2004. The company declined to give the division's total revenue amount. It also said affected staff might move to other openings within Discovery, including to new initiatives planned for 2007.

"Whenever a company completes multiple acquisitions, there is an important responsibility to continually re-evaluate existing costs, structure and business strategies," Steve Sidel, executive vice president in charge of Discovery Education, said in the memo. "Discovery Education is now in a position to consolidate the business operations of these new companies and gain valuable economies of scale through a careful elimination of redundancies and certain non-core functions."

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