Another round of ESPN layoffs could start as early as tomorrow, according to various reports, as the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports continues to drown in red ink.
This time, management reportedly plans to show the door to well-known, on-air anchors and reporters (called "talent" in TV parlance) as well as ESPN.com writers. The number of public-facing staffers let go, originally projected to the be in the 40-50 range, could go as high as 70. In the summer of 2013, ESPN jettisoned hundreds of behind-the-scenes production workers, as it did again in October, 2015. Production workers reportedly will be spared in the upcoming mass firings.
"ESPN reportedly has adopted the painful euphemism 'right-sizing' to address the firings, a corporate sanitation that paints mass layoffs as nothing more than a company finding efficiency," the New York Post explained.According to an unnamed insider, it could be a "bloodbath" in the employment-separation sense, Sporting News noted, while another source described the Bristol, Connecticut-based network campus as "eerily silent" today in anticipation of what is to come.
A Sports Illustrated writer posted to Facebook today that "there will be significant on-air names affected at ESPN. I've heard from people I trust that employees in Bristol will be informed as early as tomorrow. The numbers will be larger than previously reported. It is not a fun story to report."
As the Inquisitr previously detailed, ESPN has become a drag on the earnings of parent company Disney as cord-cutters unsubscribe in droves. Through the end of 2016, ESPN had lost about 12 million subscribers from a 100 million high in 2011.
Against this backdrop, in 2017 alone, the sports network is on the hook for $7 billion in broadcast programming rights fees to the NFL, NBA, MLB, and various college conferences. The NFL used to print money, as it were, but ratings were even down this year for the NFL substantially across the board, including NFL Monday Night Football on ESPN.
Some ESPN personalities on SportsCenter or other programs, who earn in the neighborhood of $1.3 to $3 million annually, reportedly are negotiating deep pay cuts in an attempt to hold on to their jobs.
Execs are giving others a choice, Sporting News claimed.
"ESPN is making some of these employees an offer: They can accept 50 percent of the money remaining on their deals and walk away free as birds, or they can hold out for every penny owed, in which case they'll probably benched and rendered largely invisible on ESPN TV/radio/digital media platforms moving forward."
Separately, Fox Sports hosts Clay Travis and Jason Whitlock, among others, have long argued that ESPN has gone too far in trying to force a liberal political agenda into sports content, which has contributed to the viewership decline. In an essay on the ESPN website published in December 2016, public editor (ombudsman) Jim Brady conceded that the network has moved in a leftward direction, alienating some viewers.
On his Periscope broadcast today, Travis claimed that ESPN seems to be more interested in making the social justice cohort on Twitter happy rather than making the nation in general happy, and in so doing, has ignored middle America in its programming decisions. He also maintained that even perennial ESPN staples Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn are now tanking in the ratings.
In a recent interview, former ESPN analyst Whitlock insisted that "ESPN and most of the mainstream media have lurched farther left. That's a complaint from middle America and, in my opinion, objective America."
Disney is scheduled to release its second-quarter earnings report on May 9, and presumably it intends to have reconfigured its ESPN balance sheet, including its salary obligations, by then.
Watch this space for updates on the looming ESPN layoffs.
[Featured Image by Jessica Hill/AP Images]