SI has learned that ESPN will have significant cost-cutting over the next four months on its talent side (people in front of the camera or audio/digital screen). Multiple sources said ESPN has been tasked with paring tens of millions of staff salary from its payroll, including staffers many viewers and readers will recognize. Those with contracts coming up would be particularly vulnerable, sources said. The company is also expected to buyout some existing contracts, which is something rare for ESPN historically beyond a few NFL talents. The cuts are expected to be completed by June. Sources within ESPN say that there is no set list of names yet and stressed that behind-the-scenes people will likely (key word) not be impacted by these cuts.
Last month Reuters reported Disney had a lower-than-expected quarterly revenue, hurt by the drop in advertising revenue at ESPN. In addition, ESPN continues to shed subscribers at an enhanced rate, down to 88.4 million households in Dec. 2016. That number was 100.002 million in Feb. 2011.
Though it remains one of the great destination jobs in the sports media and hiring will continue, ESPN has experienced significant layoffs over the last two years. In Oct. 2015 the company laid off roughly 300 employees, many who had spent their entire professional careers at ESPN. Sports Business Daily media writer John Ourand, in this piece on those layoffs, examined the skyrocketing rights fees and deep distribution cuts that led to those layoffs.
On Sunday when contacted by SI.com, an ESPN spokesperson provided the following statement: “We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them. Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports.”
Remain calm. All is well. This is fine. Ignore the laid off employees behind the curtain.
Hey, look on the bright side. At least McGarity’s got another reason to cite for his rainy day fund.