Red Ventures agreement called for job losses before CNET acquisition

The logo of technology blog CNET. (Logo: ViacomCBS/Red Ventures, Graphic: The Desk)

An agreement between marketing firm Red Ventures and media giant ViacomCBS called for significant job cuts as part of a multi-million dollar acquisition of CNET Media Group, according to two people with knowledge of the deal.

The deal included a closing agreement that required ViacomCBS to eliminate at least 10 percent of its workforce at CNET and other digital media properties before the merger was completed, sources told The Desk on Friday.

The clause will result in the loss of a minimum of 100 jobs across the CNET Media Group properties, which include the eponymous technology blog, Gamespot, TV Guide and ZDNet. Prior to the deal, CNET Media Group had around 980 employees, the majority of which were based in San Francisco.

The layoffs were supposed to begin on Monday, but were moved up to last Thursday for unknown reasons, according to a source. Employees at Gamespot and TV Guide were among the first to learn of the redundancies; the layoffs were confirmed in tweets posted by workers who received their walking papers.

Additional pink slips are expected to be issued at CNET, ZDNet and the remaining properties this week. The majority of the layoffs are expected to impact editorial, production and sales roles across the company.

On Friday, a Red Ventures spokesperson confirmed layoffs had started, but refused to provide additional information. When asked if the job losses were a condition of the acquisition, the spokesperson declined to comment.

A spokesperson with ViacomCBS also declined to comment and referred all inquiries to Red Ventures.

Red Ventures is a marketing firm that employs around 3,000 workers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Brazil. It publishes blogs designed to look like objective news and review websites. Employees are tasked with creating content that pushes readers toward purchasing various items that are sold via partnership deals or affiliate links, for which Red Ventures often receives a commission. The company operates Healthline, Cord Cutters News, Bankrate.com and The Points Guys among other commission-based marketing blogs.

In September, Red Ventures’ head of content said CNET’s long history of producing fact-based content and reviews meshed nicely with his company’s marketing initiatives.

“We believe that that type of editorial content is central to how consumers make decisions,” Marc McCollum, the executive in charge of media and technology, said in a press release. “Our investments will be around continuing to build that content and finding new ways to distribute it so that more consumers have access.”

The deal between Red Ventures and ViacomCBS for the CNET properties is expected to close later this year, assuming there are no regulatory hurdles and both sides fulfill other pre-closing conditions.