Upcoming ESPN layoffs apparently will extend to familiar faces in front of the camera, those anchors and commentators which the media industry refers to as “talent,” according to a Sports Illustrated report, possibly amounting to about $100 million in salary cutbacks.
In the summer of 2013, the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports let go hundreds of behind-the-scenes production workers, as it did again in October 2015. This time evidently will be different, because viewers will know, at least eventually by their absence, the on-air or website personalities getting their walking papers. Behind-the-camera staffers reportedly won’t be subject to any downsizing.
“A source at ESPN told The Courant that no target for job eliminations has been set, and that among employees who don’t work in front of cameras, at microphones or with bylines on the websites, no cuts are planned,” the Hartford Courant reported.
In the past several months, the Bristol-Connecticut-based TV/radio network has also cut ties with longtime hosts and panelists such as Chris Berman, among others. High-profile ESPN Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons parted ways with ESPN in May 2015.
SI claims that the layoffs are on the way through the spring and summer, as the ESPN financial model continues to struggle.
“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.”
As the Inquisitr previously reported, ESPN has become a drag on the earnings of parent company Disney as cord-cutters unsubscribe in droves. Through the end of 2016, Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN had lost about 12 million subscribers from a 100 million high in 2011.
Since ESPN collects about $7 for each cable or satellite subscriber whether they watch the sports network or not, the revenue loss is massive. ESPN, which takes in just 25 percent of its revenue from advertising unlike conventional networks, is reportedly bleeding 10,000 subscribers every day.
Based on Nielsen estimates, ESPN lost about 420,000 households in February 2017 alone, SportsTVRatings detailed.
Reacting to the news of impending layoffs, Variety noted that “The disclosure suggests ESPN has yet to right-size itself in a media economy in which more consumers have the option to pick and choose the outlets for which they pay.”
Within the pro sports leagues that ESPN covers, cost-cutting of this nature is often described as a salary dump.
Against this backdrop, in 2017 alone, the network is on the hook for $7 billion in broadcast programming rights fees to the NFL, NBA, MLB, and various college leagues. The NFL used to print money, but ratings were even down this year for the league substantially across the board, including NFL Monday Night Football on ESPN.
According to CNN, in a statement, ESPN said, in part, that “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.”
It’s unclear if Disney will be willing to subsidize ESPN moving forward as the red ink on the balance sheet grows.
While this apparent collapse in its revenue stream is occurring, Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis (among others, such as former ESPN journalist Jason Whitlock who now works for FS1) insists that the formerly apolitical ESPN made the ill-advised decision to become the social justice warrior network “and only promote people who have left-leaning, liberal political beliefs, and then allow them to opine…on sports, and only cover athletes when they give left-leaning political answers, and praise them whenever they do so,” Travis declared in a Periscope transmission today embedded below.
“That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster,” Travis claimed.
In December, ESPN itself seemed to acknowledge the politicization issue in a lengthy essay by its ombudsman (i.e., public editor) Jim Brady about the company’s move left that has alienated some of the viewing audience.
Projecting a shortfall through 2021 that will likely make the ESPN overhead untenable, Travis concluded on Outkick the Coverage that “Now it’s just a question of how quickly ESPN can cut costs. And of how many people are going to be left unemployed as a result.”
Are you surprised that layoffs and buyouts appear to be in the future of ESPN?
[Featured Image by Jessica Hill/AP Images]