Sports network ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co (NYSE:DIS), is laying off around 150 people as it continues to shift to digital media. John Skipper, president of ESPN, made the announcement to staff on Wednesday.
It has been a difficult year for the cable company; the loss of 1.4 million subscribers has cost ESPN millions in revenue. The end result? Hundreds of layoffs. And the carnage is expected to continue as ESPN struggles to gain traction.
Around 150 Job Cuts at ESPN’s Studio Production, Digital Content & Technology Units
ESPN announced that it is laying off 150 people, or roughly two percent of its workforce. Unlike the layoffs that took place in April, these layoffs at the American sports broadcasting company are not expected to include on-air personalities. The majority of the layoffs come from studio production, technology, and digital content.
“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,” said Skipper in a memo posted online.
Over the years, ESPN has been hit with rising fees to broadcast live events. The sports network juggernaut has also lost around 10 million subscribers over the last six years; severely undermining its revenue stream. The long-suffering demise of ESPN is being blamed on cheap streaming services like those belonging to Hulu, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN).
In the fourth quarter, parent company Disney said results at ESPN were comparable to the prior-year quarter, with higher programming costs and lower advertising revenue due to a decrease in average viewership and subscribers.
To offset the losses, ESPN said it is looking to grow its business in several areas, including the early 2018 launch of “ESPN+”, an app that will allow viewers to purchase individual sporting events.
The network is also looking to streamline and merge its news operations across all formats and further develop its flagship show, “SportsCenter,” to become more of a digital presence instead of a show with many, many anchors.
This will include a three-to-five-minute digital version that premiered this month on Snap Inc’s (NYSE:SNAP) Snapchat. In 2019, ESPN is also launching the ACC Network.
ESPN Layoffs April 2017: Around 100 Laid Off as Cord Cutting Rises
Rising sports rights costs, costly long-term TV deals, and a rapidly declining subscriber base has forced ESPN to make big layoffs in 2017. In April, ESPN laid off 100 people, with many reductions coming from its online talent and journalists.
ESPN didn’t release a list of those laid off, but a number of familiar faces headed to the back of the breadline, including NFL players Trent Dilfer and Danny Kanell and long-time employees like John Clayton and Jayson Stark.
In October 2015, 300 employees were the victim of ESPN layoffs as Disney looked to remain profitable amid the cord-cutting. The layoffs eliminated around four percent of ESPN’s workforce and included mostly behind-the-scenes players.
In a memo to employees, Skipper said, “Our 36 years of continuous growth and success has been driven by our consistent willingness to reimagine our future, to embrace change and make the right choices for our business, including hard decisions that affect people who have been integral parts of our efforts,” adding, “Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals – a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization.”
With ESPN in the early stages of its digital evolution, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the cable company cut even more staff in 2018.
“John Skipper’s Memo To ESPN Employees,” ESPN, November 29, 2017.
“ESPN layoffs: Updated list of biggest names laid off,” Sporting News, May 31, 2017.
“Message from John Skipper to ESPN Employees,” ESPN, October 21, 2015.