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UPDATE 1-Disney plans 5 pct job cuts at ABC group
* Lays off about 200 people at ABC
* Freezes another 200 jobs
* Reductions equivalent to 5 percent of workforce
LOS ANGELES, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) plans to lay off 200 people at its ABC division, a Disney executive familiar with the situation said, underscoring the media industry's struggle with sliding ad sales.
The media giant intends to also freeze 200 vacant jobs, resulting in an overall, 5-percent reduction of ABC's workforce of about 6,500 to 7,000, said the Disney source, who declined to be identified because the company had not announced the cuts publicly.
Disney said last week it planned to combine its two ABC divisions -- ABC Entertainment and ABC Studios -- into one umbrella organization, hoping to streamline the twin business units. [ID:nN22549756]
"After months of making hard decisions across our businesses to help us adjust to a weakening economy, we're now faced with the harsh reality of having to eliminate jobs in some areas," Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney-Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television, said in a memo sent to workers and obtained by Reuters.
"This was not an easy decision, nor one made lightly. The people affected today are our friends and colleagues, and we are doing all we can for them and their families during what we know will be a difficult transition."
ESPN, the sports cable network run also by Disney, plans to also cut 200 jobs from its workforce of about 5,700 worldwide, an ESPN executive told Reuters. The cuts were announced Wednesday by ESPN and ABC Sports President George Bodenheimer in a taped address on the firm's internal Web site.
Disney, which like other media firms is trying to offset declining growth in advertising revenue, has also sent voluntary buyout offers to 600 executives at its domestic theme parks, to cut costs as the U.S. economy weakens. (Reporting by Gina Keating; Writing by Edwin Chan, editing by Bernard Orr)
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