By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

DEVELOPING. . .

Comcast will be laying off the “majority of its 300 employees” currently working on its CN8 Network. Locally, CN8 will cease operations in Boston in early January of 2009 and the markets of Philadelphia (Comcast’s home) and Washington, D.C. will see significant re-structuring.

The Brookline-based studios of CN8 and business offices are home to a full-time production staff, the sports department (“Out of Bounds,” 11:30 p.m. show) and the “Backstage” staff (including market institution Sara Edwards).

In all, Shots estimates there are between 40 and 50 people based at the Boston office. There is also a regional office in Norwell that will be affected. The rest of the cuts will come from CN8′s other outposts and some staff will be retained or re-arranged.

In a statement provided by Comcast Sports Group’s Vice President of Communications Tim Fitzpatrick, the company said:

“We are restructuring CN8’s operations from a single multi-regional network into two local networks that will serve local viewers with more targeted public affairs and sports programming. This restructuring will strengthen the network’s focus on providing credible, informative and relevant local public affairs and sports content of interest to viewers in the Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Washington/Baltimore regions while continuing to feature some of CN8’s signature personalities.

“We will discontinue operations in markets where Comcast has other locally focused programming, or where CN8 has had a minimal presence. While there will regrettably be jobs eliminated as a result of this restructuring, impacted employees will have the ability to apply for other Comcast positions, or receive full severance benefits and job placement assistance.”

DISCLAIMER: Shots is a regular guest on the sports talk show “Out of Bounds” for CN8. Over the past half decade of babbling for the cameras we have developed relationships with many of the sports-side staffers. But we have always kept a “curtain” between my editorial needs and my paid-appearances. As such, none of my Boston-based sources were used in compiling this report. Shots appears on this evening’s 7 p.m. OOB show (where UMass coach Derek Kellogg will be a guest).

The plan, which was announced to employees yesterday and began to filter out in earnest today, means New England will no longer receive the CN8 channel. Comcast SportsNet New Engalnd’s Skip Perham confirmed that CSN is in the process of looking to see which of CN8′s live sports programming it will be able to absorb and integrate into its schedule. “I would think we’ll be able to take the majority of it,” Perham said.

CSN has been slow to build its “news-gathering operation” it boasted about a year ago and it’s unlikely they are in a position to be taking on talent, producers or technical folks that will be let go from CN8. That’s unfortunate, because CN8 has a host of up-and-comers at all positions who would add value to any staff.

But, according to two out-of-market CN8 sources, there have been indications that consolidation was looming when CN8 (which is seen in 8 million households along the Eastern seaboard) was put under the Programming umbrella during the summer. It seemed like an odd fit at the time, said CN8 moles, and this “transitioning” would seem to confirm it was only a stop-gap maneuver.

Also, in October, an Eastern Division re-structuring washed away 300 jobs.

. . . To prove just how in flux things have been at CN8, you need look no further than the Nov. 1 re-launch of its website. Why worry about a website for a Network that will be completely different in a few months?

. . . Comcast also holds a 50 percent stake in NECN, so there could be some, slight, absorption of the local CN8 workforce there.

. . . At least two shows have already been retained (Larry Kane’s once-a-week half-hour slot and Robert Traynham’s once-a-week offering), according to Fitzpatrick, and discussions with other full-week hosts like Lynn Doyle and presumably Gregg Murphy are ongoing.

. . . It appears January 6 would be the date the changes take effect, but subtle switches could begin appearing sooner.

. . . Shots is told that news of the layoffs came to the Boston staff via DVD from Jon Gorchow, vice president and general manager of CN8. There was also, we are told, an email distributed.

The story of the DVD suggests the bad news was first supposed be delivered in person by a henchman, then was going to be executed via video-conference and ultimately was shown en masse to the Boston group from a recorded DVD.

David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shotsATbostonsportsmediaDOTcom.

Scott’s first book, with Memphis Coach John Calipari, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2009.