THE "Worldwide Leader in Sports", as ESPN brands itself, laid off scores of journalists and on-air talent on Wednesday, showing that even the most formidable media kingdom was vulnerable to the transformation upending the sports broadcasting industry as more and more people turn away from cable television.
"A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves hard decisions", Skipper said. Skipper said those laid off will include "anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play". We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week.
A limited number of off-air employees also are expected to be fired.
Most people affected by the job cuts, including television, radio and online personalities, were informed of the decision Wednesday, and numerous layoffs took effect immediately.
ESPN chief John Skipper said Wednesday the company wants to provide distinctive content all the time on multiple screens, with more personality-oriented "SportsCenter" broadcasts, and is keeping people best suited to the new strategy. In addition, anchor Hannah Storm, "Baseball Tonight" host Karl Ravech and ESPN Radio's Ryen Russillo (who is Kanell's co-host) will have their roles "significantly reduced", a source told The Hollywood Reporter. He claimed he could see the writing on the wall shortly after the National Basketball Association deal went down, and he suggested he sought out a new job after seeing the direction ESPN was heading in.
Tennesee Titans beat writer Paul Kuhasky also tweeted.
The layoffs are an attempt by ESPN to evolve in the wake of a two-headed challenge: a declining subscriber base and skyrocketing rights fees.
At about $7 per month per subscriber for ESPN alone, by far the largest carriage fee of any cable network, that would exceed a $900 million decline in annual revenue over the last several years, if all other revenues remained equal. At the same time, the money ESPN has paid to the professional sports leagues to acquire their live events steadily climbed. Their original deal with the National Basketball Association was for $400 million a year. That's on top of deals the network already had with the NFL ($1.9 billion annually), various NCAA conferences and the College Football Playoff (well over $1 billion), and Major League Baseball ($700 million).