It’s been a tough year for ESPN, and for many employees, it’s about to get much worse.
On Wednesday, ESPN president John Skipper announced the network is laying off about 150 employees, roughly 2 percent of its 8,000 workers. It’s ESPN second major cutback of its workforce this year, and the third in just two years.
Unlike a previous round of layoffs in April, which claimed the jobs of nearly 100 on-air personalities, the majority of jobs being eliminated now are largely behind-the-scenes positions in studio production, digital content, and technology.
“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,” Skipper said in a memo to employees.
SportsCenter, which was expected to be targeted during this round of cutbacks, wasn’t mentioned in Skipper’s memo. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitch reports anchors with contracts coming up in the next 12 months likely won’t be resigned, and some SportsCenter shows will probably be cut from airing on ESPN News. SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Jade McCarthy, and Jay Crawford lost their jobs during the first round of layoffs, and Lindsay Czarniak walked away in August when her contract expired after failing to agree on a role with ESPN.
The cuts come as ESPN is being squeezed by the combination of expensive contracts to secure live sports rights and viewers who have ditched cable subscriptions in favor of less-expensive TV offerings. After topping 100 million subscribers in 2011, ESPN is estimated to now have 86.94 million subscribers, according to the most recent numbers from Nielsen obtained by Robert Seidman of SportsTVRatings. That loss of cable subscribers has cost ESPN $1 billion in affiliate revenue in just six years, according to the SportsBusiness Journal.
ESPN is jointly owned by the Disney Corp. (80 percent) and Hearst Communications (20 percent).