Because media and how it is consumed changes both frequently and drastically, companies have been forced to make those same kinds of changes to its staff and infrastructure.
It was reported early Wednesday that sports media giant ESPN will lay off nearly 100 employees – including on-air talent and writers – in an effort to cut cost shift focus to other platforms within their vast framework.
ESPN president John Skipper sent a memo to employees Wednesday morning.
“These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company,” Skipper wrote. “I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.”
According to a statement released by the company, ESPN will be focusing on its personality-driven SportsCenter shows, developing its app and social media presence.
Among those included in the layoffs is NFL reporter Ed Werder.
Werder was a staple of sorts in ESPN’s NFL coverage. He frequently reported from Dallas Cowboys headquarters and was one of the more seasoned reporters on staff.
While 99 others have also lost their jobs in the company’s latest culling, the timing seems to be exponentially inauspicious for Werder – who recently revealed on Twitter that his family’s dog is ill and is “in its final days”.
Other notable personalities let go Wednesday were college football analyst Danny Kanell, NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, anchor and host Jay Crawford, MLB writer Jayson Stark, college basketball analyst Len Elmore, college football writer Brett McMurphy, hockey columnist Scott Burnside and soccer writer Mike L. Goodman.
Kanell, a Fort Lauderdale native and former quarterback at Florida State and in the NFL for eight seasons, worked as a color analyst for Friday Night college football games and college baseball. He also co-hosted the show “Russillo and Kanell” with Ryan Russillo.
It’s also being reported that other high-profile on-air talents – namely hosts Hannah Storm and Karl Ravech – will have their roles “significantly reduced as a part of the cuts. Other changes, such as “breaking up” the popular duo of Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on the morning show “Mike & Mike” after 17 years on the air to give Greenberg a solo show, are said to also be on the horizon.
This isn’t the first time ESPN has made cuts to its staff, but it is one of the few times that the list included so many on-air talents. In October of 2015, ESPN let go of 300 employees – but it was mostly behind-the-scene producers, directors and staffers.
ESPN is owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company – with the Hearst Corporation being a 20 percent minority owner – and has been the “worldwide leader in sports” since September 1979 when it launched.
But over the past 10 years, as the popularity of social media grew and consumers have “cut the cord” with traditional cable providers, the company has struggled to maintain the same ratings and revenue it enjoyed in its heyday. The network has lost 12 million subscribers over the past five years, reducing its reach to 88 million homes from a best number of 100 million.
ESPN does spend major bucks to appeal to viewers, shelling out nearly $2 billion per year to broadcast NFL games; another $1.4 billion per year for NBA games; $700 million a year for MLB games and $470 million for college football games. And that doesn’t include money being spent to broadcast others sports – college hoops, tennis, golf and others.
Still, the Bristol, Connecticut-based company is feeling the effects of the numbers crunch.
Skipper confirmed that the changes will be effective immediately.
“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” Skipper wrote in a note to employees. “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.”