It’s a sad day for many fans of ESPN, as early Wednesday morning the sports broadcasting network announced another round of job layoffs that included prominent on-air personalities.
ESPN chief John Skipper sent a memo to employees informing them of the roughly 100 job cuts. “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 demands,” Skipper wrote to employees.
“We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs. These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company. I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.”
Here are some of the ESPN talent laid off so far:
NFL reporter Ed Werder:
After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I’ve been informed that I’m being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 26, 2017
College basketball reporter Dana O’Neil:
Add me to the list. Just got the ‘call.’ I’ve been informed my contract will not be renewed at ESPN.
— Dana O’Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) April 26, 2017
Hockey Columnist Scott Burnside:
After 13 years of sticks and pucks can share that as of today my tenure at ESPN is at a close. I look forward to the next adventure.
— Scott Burnside (@OvertimeScottB) April 26, 2017
College football reporter Brett McMurphy:
After 5 great years, I’ve been laid off by ESPN. It was a tremendous opportunity & I enjoyed working w/a lot of really, really good people
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) April 26, 2017
Owned by media giant Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS), ESPN is struggling immensely as sports broadcasting and sports viewing transitions to digital. As more consumers “cut the cord,” companies must then adapt how they present their content in order to retain and grow users.
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.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR), all of whom have expressed interest in or pursued the technology, especially in the sports industry.
For ESPN, these job cuts were considered necessary to stay competitive. According to CNNMoney, who talked to Jim Miller, the co-author of Those Guys Have all the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, the network’s flagship show SportsCenter will now have a more digital presence, and move away from a platform of “many highly paid anchors.”
This is not ESPN’s first high-profile round of job cuts. Back in October 2015, it laid off about 300 people, though most of that group were off camera.
Over 10 million ESPN subscribers have been lost over the last several years, and the network has consistently dragged down revenues over at Disney. In the company’s last quarterly earnings report, ESPN’s segmental performance was its usual disappointment, not only losing subscribers but also seeing a decline in average viewership and advertising rates; ad revenues fell 7%, and on top of higher programming costs, many were left wondering about the future of ESPN.
Disney reports its next quarterly earnings after the bell on May 9, and the media company made many concentrated efforts during its second quarter to improve its sports network division. Disney hopes to come up with a fresh direct-to-consumer, ESPN-branded, multi-sports subscription streaming service this year, and is currently focused on launching ESPN on all new multi-channel services, including Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue.
Disney’s efforts, job cuts, and a new digital vision could be just the right combination to help bolster ESPN, though one has to wonder what the impact of all these talent losses will be on the iconic sports network.
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