NEW YORK: US entertainment giant NBC Universal has unveiled a streamlining plan for its television network as it faces the inevitable consequences of digital expansion and greater competition for advertisers and viewers.

The General Electric-owned business, which has notched a lackluster profits performance in the last three years, will cut some 700 jobs across its global workforce in the coming months as it attempts to slash $750 million (€596m; £401m) from its operating costs by the end of 2007.

It is using as its model the UK's state-funded broadcaster, the BBC, which is also in the throes of restructuring as it increasingly focuses on the internet to distribute its TV and radio programs.

Comments Jeff Zucker, ceo of NBC's TV group: "If we're going to improve our profit and position ourselves for growth in a digital world, we've got to change and we've got to do it now."

The streamlining will lead to a change in primetime TV scheduling, dumping high-cost dramas between 8pm and 9pm in favour of cheaper gameshows.

The news division, based in New York, is also expected to be vulnerable to cuts as the company acknowledges this is not a high growth area.

Zucker and his chairman Bob Wright are keen to stress, however, that restructuring is not just about cost-cutting. They are planning to invest around $150m over the next two years on digital projects.

NBC has already started streaming episodes of its popular programs on the web and nearly all its shows come with digital add-ons such as actors' blogs and internet-only 'webisodes'.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff