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AT&T planning job cuts in 2019; CBS News gets new president

TOP STORIES

* AT&T Inc. appears to be gearing up for a round of layoffs in 2019. Citing internal documents and an unnamed source, Vice's Motherboard reported Jan. 8 that the U.S. telco is planning a "geographic rationalization" that will consolidate certain operations in various AT&T offices around the country. The total number of employees expected to be impacted has yet to be finalized, according to the report. In an emailed statement, AT&T confirmed it will make some upcoming shifts to its workforce. "We are hiring to meet the needs of the growth areas of our business. In fact, we hired more than 20,000 new employees last year and more than 17,000 the year before. In cases where we do have to adjust our workforce, we take steps to lessen the effect on employees," the company said.

* CBS Corp.'s CBS News named Susan Zirinsky president and senior executive producer, effective in March. She succeeds David Rhodes, who will step down after eight years in the role. Rhodes will stay on as a senior adviser, according to the company. Zirinsky, most recently a senior executive producer of "48 Hours," will report to Joe Ianniello, CBS President and acting CEO.

Media and technology industry moves

* Lamar Advertising Co. CFO and Treasurer Keith Istre plans to retire from the outdoor advertising company, effective Dec. 31, 2019. Istre joined Lamar as controller in 1978 and became CFO in 1989.

* Netflix Inc. appointed Sheroum Kim director of independent films, Deadline reported Jan. 9. Kim, who will join Netflix in the week of Jan. 14, will report to Director of Content Acquisitions Matt Brodlie. She most recently served as senior vice president of production at STX Productions LLC, where she worked on films including "The Edge of Seventeen" and "I Feel Pretty."

* Activision Blizzard Inc. appointed heads of three operating units, including newly named CFO Dennis Durkin who will also serve as president of the company's emerging businesses division. Durkin took over as CFO on Jan. 2, replacing Spencer Neumann who joined Netflix in the same role. The video game company named Rob Kostich president of the Activision unit. He is currently the executive vice president and general manager for the Call of Duty franchise. Humam Sakhnini was appointed president of King Digital Entertainment. He most recently was CFO and chief strategy officer of the operating unit from April 2016. Meanwhile, J. Allen Brack continues as president of Blizzard Entertainment, a role he has held since October 2018.

* Sandra Callahan was appointed senior vice president and CEO of Reed Group Ltd. Callahan previously served as senior vice president for group insurance operations at The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.

* Gannett Co Inc. named Kevin Gentzel president of USA Today Network Marketing Solutions effective Jan. 26. Gentzel, formerly chief revenue officer, will replace Sharon Rowlands, who is leaving the company to pursue another opportunity, according to a Jan. 7 news release. In his new role, Gentzel will oversee the company's marketing solutions organization. In addition, Kris Barton will now report to President and CEO Robert Dickey, with expanded duties. He will continue to oversee product and technologies for the company's consumer content, business-to-business advertising and marketing solutions, including overseeing marketing services WordStream and SweetIQ.

* Meredith Corp. appointed Catherine Levene chief strategy officer, effective Jan. 14. In her new role, she will advise Meredith President and CEO Tom Harty and the senior leadership team in setting the company's strategic direction, including expanding its digital lifestyle portfolio. Levene will also work with Chief Development Officer John Zieser on potential merger and acquisition opportunities, according to a Jan. 7 news release. Levene was most recently co-founder and CEO of online marketplace Artspace LLC.

* Quebecor Inc. appointed Marc Tremblay COO and Hugues Simard CFO of the company. Tremblay will assist Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau in managing the company's operations and business development. In addition to being COO, he will continue as corporate secretary and chief legal officer. Simard was most recently executive vice president and CFO of Indigo Books & Music Inc., according to a Jan. 7 news release.

* In other Quebecor news, the media and entertainment company named Jean-François Pruneau President and CEO of its telco arm Videotron Ltd. Pruneau most recently was senior vice president and CFO of Quebecor, according to a Jan. 7 news release. He will replace Manon Brouillette, who announced her departure in October 2018.

* Bant Breen has joined Harte Hanks Inc. as CEO of the company, effective Jan. 4. Additionally, the company promoted Andrew Harrison to president and COO, according to a Jan. 4 news release. The appointments concluded a transitional phase that saw the creation of an interim office of the CEO in September 2018. Breen recently was founder, chairman and CEO of Qnary LLC, an executive advocacy technology platform company. Breen succeeded Karen Puckett, who stepped down as president and CEO of the company in August 2018.

* Eric Dale resigned as Nielsen Holdings PLC's chief legal officer to pursue an opportunity outside of the company. Nielsen tapped George Callard as a replacement for Dale, effective Jan. 22, the analytics company said in a Jan. 4 news release. Callard was previously president of The Weather Channel (US).

* Square Inc. named Amrita Ahuja as CFO. Ahuja is replacing longtime CFO Sarah Friar, who announced in October 2018 that she would leave to become CEO of Nextdoor.com Inc., a private social network platform for neighborhoods. Ahuja is currently the CFO of Blizzard Entertainment Inc., a division of Activision Blizzard. She has also held various roles at Fox Networks Group, the Walt Disney Co. and Morgan Stanley.

Communications industry moves

* Altice USA Inc. appointed Layth Taki chief accounting officer of the company, effective Jan. 1. Taki replaces former Senior Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer Victoria Mink, who resigned from the company, effective Oct. 12, 2018. Taki most recently served as senior vice president and controller of the company, the company said Jan. 4.