The cable news channel MSNBC has announced that it will close its Secaucus headquarters and move its operations to Manhattan and Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The move is part of a $750 million cost cutback plan that was released Oct. 19 by MSNBC’s parent company NBC Universal.
While the exact timing of the move was not announced, NBC Universal stated that it plans to transfer MSNBC’s Secaucus operations to the company production facilities at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, and Englewood Cliffs, where its financial news channel, CNBC, is based.
Impact on Secaucus unknown
The NBC Universal statement also detailed how the incipient move would both simplify newsgathering operations and result in the most productive use of the high-tech Manhattan and Englewood Cliffs facilities. However, the company also stated that the coming changes will result in approximately 700 job cuts, or around five percent of the present workforce. These cuts will take place by the end of 2008. It is still uncertain how many or if any of the Secaucus-based MSNBC employees will be laid off. Approximately 500 NBC Universal employees work in Secaucus. The decision to move comes almost ten years after MSNBC began broadcasting from Secaucus in November 1996.
MSNBC is located on the western edge of Secaucus in an area full of outlet stores and other corporations, such as Panasonic. According to Secaucus town statistics, the town’s population of over 15,000 people expands to close to 50,000 daily due to the presence of these businesses.
Despite the potential job loss of nearly 500 employees to the town, news of the impending move left both local business people and government officials not overwhelmingly concerned. One worker at a nearby outlet store, who chose to remain nameless due to store media policy, noted that the regional draw of Secaucus’ outlets might soften the blow.
“We get a lot of traffic from New York City and the rest of north Jersey,” the employee said. “We’re not dependent only on local sales. Our customer base brings people here from a wide area.”
Secaucus town administrator Anthony Iacono noted other factors that left town residents to continue feeling economically secure.
“Our tax ratable base has continued to go up for five years in a row,” he said.
The bigger picture
Brian Stelter is the editor of TV Newser, a blog about TV news that is featured on the popular website Mediabistro. He was not surprised about the end of MSNBC’s time in Secaucus.
“This move has been coming for a while,” he said. “Some will say that this is something that should have happened ten years ago. At the time, it made a lot of sense, but clearly MSNBC is going to be operated with a lot less money. The thinking is now that it will be a lot less cheaper if they run it at 30 Rock.”
Stelter also noted that MSNBC’s move is a sign of a larger media trend towards the internet.
“I was watching MSNBC today,” he said. ” It had a full day of politics, and the entire day was simulcast live on MSNBC.com. I think that’s a real clear sign for the future for the cable news networks. If they could, they would stream their coverage online everyday. In the coming years, things are going to move more and more in that direction. The attitude is now change or die. Obviously, they are choosing change. In ten years, MSNBC will not exist now at does as a cable news network. It will certainly exist as an online news property. But the extent to which it is on cable is going to be a big question mark.”
Porter Bibb is a managing partner in Mediatech Capital Partners in New York City. He not only has decades of experience as an investment banker specializing in media, technology, and entertainment ventures. Bibb was also a journalist himself. He is a former White House correspondent for Newsweek magazine, and was the first publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, where he worked with his lifelong friend, the American literary icon Hunter S. Thompson. Bibb’s take on the end of MSNBC’s Secaucus sojourn looks into the larger difficulties that NBC currently faces.
“There is a lot more going on that just the struggles of MSNBC,” he said. “The core units of NBC television and Universal Pictures are both going through very awkward, loss-producing periods right now. Universal Pictures hasn’t had a home run for a couple of friends, and NBC is in an embarrassing last place among the major broadcast networks, and that means they can’t get as much for advertising as they used to. The move is a pure cost-saving, down-sizing effort on the part of NBC Universal.”