ESPN laying off 100 on-air employees

Carla Harmon
April 30, 2017

ESPN laid off approximately 100 employees Wednesday, as many on-air talent and writers as behind-the-scenes production people, in its latest round of staff downsizing as it tries to stay profitable for parent company ABC and its shareholders as well as reduce expenses in light of escalating sports rights broadcasting fees.

ESPN has been facing a slump in revenue that's most easily traced to cord-cutting by former cable subscribers, in an era of sharply shifting habits both for sports fans and for television viewers in general.

In a letter to employees on Wednesday, ESPN's president, John Skipper, acknowledged the "difficult decisions" ahead and suggested what the network was looking for as it reshaped itself in the coming days. Among those who were dismissed are Ed Werder, Trent Dilfer, Jayson Stark, Danny Kanell, Jerry Punch, Jay Crawford, Jaymee Sire, Roger Cossack, Jim Bowden, Pierre LeBrun, Jane McManus and Dana O'Neil. In October of 2015, ESPN let go of 300 employees - but it was mostly behind-the-scene producers, directors and staffers.

In the most recent quarter, Disney's cable networks division reported $864 million in operating income, an 11 percent drop from the same period a year ago, with ESPN the reason for the entire decline, Disney said at the time.

"A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves hard decisions", Skipper said.

According to a statement released by the company, ESPN will be focusing on its personality-driven SportsCenter shows, developing its app and social media presence.

ESPN's problem is that while it's losing subscribers, it's also paying billions for the rights to broadcast pro and college sports-and those rights are only getting more expensive.

Even the National Review had a takeaway, saying the layoffs are the result of ESPN becoming "a left wing sports network".

Because numerous 200 employees work in the network's events division, as well as in SEC network operations, "fewer than 10 people in Charlotte" are expected to lose their jobs, the Observer reported.

But as traditional media companies like Disney go digital and build up offerings like live streaming, they have to compete with tech giants like Amazon AMZN, Facebook FB, and Twitter TWTR, all of whom have expressed interest in or pursued the technology, especially in the sports industry. Other on-air personalities, including Major League Baseball announcer Karl Ravitch and network veteran Hannah Storm, could also see their roles at ESPN "significantly reduced", according to The Hollywood Reporter.

ESPN just laid off 300 people across the country in 2015, a lot of them non-talent.

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