ESPN will lay off more than 100 staffers after the Thanksgiving holidays, multiple sources tell Sports Illustrated. The layoffs, which were described by a person briefed on the plans, will hit positions across ESPN including front-facing talent on the television side, producers, executives, and digital and technology staffers. The SportsCenter franchise is expected to be hit hard—including on-air people—given the frequency of the show has lessened considerably on main network ESPN.
The network declined comment to SI on Thursday afternoon.
Though hiring has continued and the network remains one of the great destinations for jobs in sports media, ESPN has experienced significant layoffs over the last two years. In Oct. 2015 the company laid off roughly 300 employees, about 4-5% of its workforce—a particularly brutal act of gutting given the long tenures of many of those who were cut. Many of those employees helped build the foundation of ESPN and had given their professional life to the company.
Last April, ESPN eliminated around 100 journalists and on-air personalities. At that time the company said: “A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions.”
ESPN continues to be impacted by the changing habits of consumers including cord-cutting and cord-nevers (those who have never purchased a cable subscription) as well as the rising costs of sports rights. The network has dropped in households from 100.13 million in 2011 to an estimated 87.5 million households today.
Part of the reason ESPN will conduct the moves in late November/early December, two sources said, is to get employees an additional year in the stock vesting program.
Last month Michael McCarthy of Sporting News first noted a round of layoffs were coming to ESPN.
If you have endured layoffs at your place of employment, you know how extraordinary awful they are. Multiple ESPN employees in speaking with SI said the atmosphere in Bristol is tense, especially in the SportsCenter division. Asked to characterize how employees are feeling, one longtime on-air anchor offered one word: “Queasy.”