ESPN began the process Wednesday morning of laying off more than 100 staffers. The layoffs will hit positions across the company including producers, executives and digital and technology staffers. In a note to staffers, ESPN president John Skipper wrote the following:
Today we are informing approximately 150 people at ESPN that their jobs are being eliminated.
We appreciate their contributions, and will assist them as much as possible in this difficult moment with severance, a 2017 bonus, the continuation of health benefits and outplacement services. They will also appreciate your support.
The majority of the jobs eliminated are in studio production, digital content, and technology and they generally reflect decisions to do less in certain instances and re-direct resources.
We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business.
Though hiring has continued at the company and it 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. 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 company’s flagship network has dropped in households from 100.13 million in 2011 to an estimated 86.9 million homes, per Robert Seidman of Sports TV Ratings.com. (ESPN2 is in an estimated 86.8 million homes.)
Part of the reason ESPN conducted the moves this week, two sources told SI earlier this month, is to get employees an additional year in the stock vesting program. The timing will not do ESPN any favors publicly with Christmas coming in less than a month.
Earlier in the month sources within ESPN said they expected some front-facing television talent to be part of this round of layoffs—including on the SportsCenter side. But ESPN management is now likely not to re-sign anchors with contracts coming up in the next 12 months as part of cost savings. What is likely to happen is some SportsCenter shows will be cut from airing on ESPNews, according to multiple ESPN staffers.
Some writers and editors, an ESPN source said, were expected to be part of today's layoffs.
An ESPN spokesperson declined further comment when reached by Sports Illustrated on Wednesday morning.