ESPN to Lay Off 300 Employees, Let 200 Open Positions go Unfilled
ESPN is set to lay off 300 employees, and let 200 open positions go unfilled, according to the New York Times, who obtained a memo from ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro.
The layoffs and unfilled positions amount to about 10% of the company’s worldwide staff.
“Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions,” wrote Pitaro in the memo, obtained by NYT.
It is unclear if any of the Golf staff will be affected by the layoffs as most of the cuts will come from broadcast production.
ESPN just announced expanded Masters coverage that will feature a crew on site at Augusta National.
One notable name that will not be back is NFL anchor Trey Wingo.
According to NYT, ESPN will not renew his contract, which runs out at the end of the year.
Previously, ESPN laid off 300 employees in 2015, and another 250 employees in 2017.
Lay offs have not been limited to ESPN.
Fox Sports laid off almost 100 employees over the summer, NBC Sports laid off 75 and The Athletic, a subscription-based website, laid off 46 employees.
Sports Media at Crossroads
The coronavirus has continued to dominate the country and with that has hurt the sports media industry.
According to the Times, ESPN will pay over $7 billion to show live sports in 2020. There were no live sports for practically four months out of the year.
Not necessarily virus related is the fact that just 80 million people are paying for ESPN today. Back in 2014, that number was at 100 million, all according to the Times.
Meanwhile, ESPN + has 8.5 million subscribers, who pay $5 per month for the streaming service.
Where ESPN, Sports Media Goes Now
Due to the pandemic, and in an effort to save money, ESPN has been broadcasting a lot of their games remotely, as opposed to having a crew on site.
For example, its MLB games, both playoffs and regular season, were all broadcast from the studio.
According to the Times, on-air employees have been asked to take pay cuts or sign contract extensions that pays less than $50,000 as a base salary.
However, the “talent” will get bonuses for on-air appearances.
There are also very important contracts coming up.
The NFL’s contracts with television networks expire in 2021 and 2022. ESPN is seeking to retain “Monday Night Football,” but also add Sunday games, as well.
The sports media empire is expected to enter the Super Bowl rotation.
Outside of the NFL, ESPN’s contract with MLB is up soon, and the network could be back in play for NHL games.
ESPN dumped the NHL several years ago in a famously bitter negotiation.
The NHL has since more than landed on its feet and has seen a resurgence over the last several years.