Senior staff laid off as Bell Media consolidates in-house prodcos

Playback has learned EPI director of production Kelly McKeown and distribution division head Tony Leadman are departing.

A t least two senior staff members are leaving Bell Media as it folds Discovery Canada in-house production company Exploration Production Inc. (EPI) into Bell Media Studios.

Playback has learned that Kelly McKeown, director of production at EPI, and Tony Leadman, who led the unit’s distribution division Exploration Distribution Inc. (EDI), are departing as part of the ongoing layoffs at Bell Media.

EPI’s consolidation with Bell Media Studios was internally announced yesterday (Feb. 4) by Karine Moses, SVP, content development and news, in a letter, obtained by Playback Daily, addressed to Bell Media’s “valued production partners.”

“As part of our production program moving forward, Discovery Canada’s in-house production company, Exploration Production Inc. (EPI), is consolidating with Bell Media Studios,” read the letter. “Led by experienced and respected industry leaders Justin Stockman, Pat DiVittorio, Suzane Landry and Dave Daigle, our teams will work hand in hand with you to build on Bell Media’s track record of top-notch programming in English and French, with a focus on ground-breaking new content and the development of our quality in-house productions.”

Bell Media has not responded to a request for comment regarding the layoffs, and no information has been shared on who will now handle the sales rights for EPI’s content library. Playback understands two additional EDI staff members have also been laid off.

The in-house unit produced original Discovery Canada programming such as Daily Planet, Disasters at Sea (pictured) and Mighty Trains, while EDI handled international sales. Discovery Canada general manager Edwina Follows was among the executives laid off on Jan. 20, the second round of a series of layoffs that began on Jan. 5 at Bell Media.

The news comes amid a third wave of cuts this week, which included Tom Hastings, director, original programming, drama, and Robin Johnston, director, original programming, factual and reality. An estimated 210 employees were laid off on Tuesday (Feb. 2), largely in TV and radio news divisions.

A spokesperson for Bell told Playback Daily that Bell Media is finalizing its structure to move forward with an investment-focused “refreshed media strategy.”

In the letter to production partners, Moses says Bell Media is committed to “quality programming” and “dedicated to promoting home-grown talent, both on screen and behind the scenes.”

“The outstanding content that we create here in Canada with our production partners will increasingly distinguish us from our competitors. Canada has a wealth of talented writers, actors, producers and other creators, and tapping into those resources is key to the continued success of Bell Media,” it reads.