As expected, ESPN is beginning layoffs and the focus of the reductions mostly come from the sports network’s pool of on-air talent. Some 100 journalists, analysts, play-by-play specialists and digital content producers are being given pink slips and many of them are posting about it on social media.
“Our content strategy – primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand – still needs to go further, faster…and as always, must be efficient and nimble,” wrote ESPN President John Skipper in a memo sent to employees according to Variety. “Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demand.”
To illustrate the problem, ESPN has lost more than 10 million subscribers in recent years as the costs of sports rights have only increased. According to the New York Times, ESPN has commitments such as the following: a 10-year, $15.2 billion deal with the NFL; a nine-year $12 billion deal with the NBA; and a $7.3 billion deal for the college football playoffs, as well as other sports-rights deals on the books.
Already known to be leaving are Ed Werder, longtime NFL reporter: Scott Burnside, NHL columnist for ESPN.com; ESPNU anchor Brendan Fitzgerald; MLB analyst Jim Bowden; NFL analyst Trent Dilfer; Big Ten reporter Brian Bennett; MLB writer Jayson Stark; SEC football reporter David Ching; ESPNW reporter Jane McManus; Big 12 reporter Max Olson; Dodgers reporter Doug Padilla; columnist Johnette Howard; radio host Danny Kanell; college basketball reporter C.L. Brown; and many more.
Nine-year ESPN veteran Paul Kuharsky who covered the NFL for the network also tweeted that he doesn’t expect his contract to be renewed when it’s up in July.
In addition, some employees who aren’t losing their jobs could find their responsibilities changed, one source told Variety.
In recent years, ESPN also has notably parted ways with high-priced talent, including Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann In October 2015, when the Disney-owned network laid off a total of 300 people. Other high profile talent, such as Mike Tirico and Skip Bayless have jumped ship for other networks.
[Image courtesy of Variety]