ESPN Layoffs And Cutbacks Continue This Week

More ESPN layoffs and cutbacks have happened this week as part of the network’s ongoing downsizing program. Back in May, staffers began to be shown the door, and estimates are that some 400 jobs could ultimately be slashed when all is said and done.

Today the Disney-owned ESPN announced that it had cancelled two low-rated shows, UNITE that aired on ESPNU, and Highlight Express on ESPN News, and laid off their staffers. The so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports also pulled the plugged on its 3D cable channel. “An ESPN source said almost all of the firings and cancellations will be completed by the end of this week.”

Because of its demographics, ESPN is able to demand the highest per subscriber rate of any television network. Despite those sizable rates, the company’s expenses continue to rise as cable and broadcast providers continue to fight for a larger chunk of global sports broadcasting rights to major events. The company has about 7,000 employees, 4,000 of whom are based at the mother ship in Bristol, Conn.

Yesterday, ESPN President John Skipper sent out an email that said in part, “On May 21st we initiated a restructuring plan across the company reflecting a changing marketplace and anticipated areas of future growth. This week will see a continuation of that effort with meetings among employees, managers and our HR staff. While I am very confident in the strength of our overall position, our industry is changing and it is critically important that we use our resources to best support our continued growth…”

One of the higher-profile ESPN employees getting the axe this week was research analyst extraordinaire Howie Schwab. You might remember him from the sports trivia game show Stump the Schwab on ESPN 2. He posted the following message on his Facebook page: “After 26 years at ESPN, I am extremely disappointed to say farewell. I have been proud of my association and my work during my tenure. I was a loyal employee, displayed respect for others, worked with numerous charities, represented the company well. I always did everything asked of me and more. What did I get in return today … word that I should get lost. The only thing that mattered was my salary, which in my view was the lone reason I lost my job.”

It’s been previously reported that ESPN may have sought to get rid of older, higher-paid workers while filling new jobs with employees whose salaries are much lower.

The full scope of the ESPN layoffs probably won’t be known until the dust settles a bit and more facts emerge about the scope of the downsizing program at the sports network.

Do you think that ESPN has bitten off more than it can chew in terms of rights acquisitions, expansion, and other forms of expensive overhead and therefore was forced to unfortunately downsize long-term employees? Is ESPN the worldwide leader in layoffs?