The Squeeze: Execs are Exhausted, Unsettled and Anxious
'It's just not as fun,' as a culture of no raises, stock option agony and overwork overwhelms. And that's even before the layoffs
This is the last in our six-part series, The Squeeze. Earlier installments have covered actors, producers, writers and below-the-line workers, and advice on How to (Maybe) Save Your Job During Layoffs. The series is for paid subscribers only.
In the fall, a high-level marketing executive at a top streamer who’d been laid off in 2021 stumbled across what — at first glance — seemed like a promising lead. He’d been sent a posting for a marketing position at NBCUniversal at the vice-president level that would report to the SVP of brand strategy and growth. So far so good. Yet when he got a little further down the description, discovered the compensation and read the “responsibilities” that were required, he was stunned. “Three years ago, this job would’ve been divided into one SVP position and three VPs and now it’s collapsed into one VP job,” says the former exec who’s been up for dozens of positions over the past two years and yet remains on the hunt. “It’s rough out there,” he adds.
At any other moment over the past five years an anecdote like this might be considered an aberration, but for current and aspiring Hollywood executives it reflects the troubled state of an industry grappling with an ever-shifting financial model and economic headwinds. Across the business, in my conversations with former studio and network chiefs, and a dozen current top and mid-level “suits”, the word of the moment is malaise. Employment anxiety within the executive class (even on a good day) vacillates between low-to-medium level panic. But now the town is bracing for what many believe will be 2023’s long winter-into-spring of discontent. Following big layoffs at Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, AMC Networks and Roku, news of executive layoffs in recent days has come out about everyone from the behemoths (Disney) to stalwarts (Showtime) to the newly-struggling (Dick Clark Productions). The new ethos? Do more with less.
Unemployment is still at historic lows (though Los Angeles’ rate at 4.4 percent is one point higher than the national average), but the heady hiring fizz that marked the early years of streaming exuberance has fallen flat.
Says Korn Ferry’s Bill Simon, a top industry headhunter,