In a message sent Wednesday to ESPN employees, network president John Skipper announced the company was beginning its next round of layoffs, a long-anticipated move that will thin the ranks of ESPN’s on-air and online talent.
“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” Skipper wrote. “Our content strategy — primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand — still needs to go further, faster … and as always, must be efficient and nimble. Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent — anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play — necessary to meet those demands. We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.”
The job cuts, an ESPN decision as it repositions itself for the future and not a mandate from parent company Disney, were to affect roughly 100 out of the 1,000 so-called “front-facing” employees at ESPN, and the people who have contracts will see those deals honored in full. Jim Miller, who co-wrote a book on ESPN’s history, said Wednesday that “around 50 names you will recognize; another 50 you may not” will be losing their jobs. Those who are part of the network’s daily programming lineup are more likely to be retained, a reflection of Skipper’s line about “versatility and value” in his letter to employees.
Bob Ley saluted his departing colleagues Wednesday on “Outside the Lines”:
As the names kept trickling out on social media, it became clear that ESPN’s reporting ranks were especially devastated by the cuts, as a number of well-respected journalists who worked mostly for ESPN.com — as opposed to the network’s on-air personalities — announced they were being let go. The news that began Wednesday morning just kept coming.
On Monday morning, Andrew Brandt, a sports business analyst for ESPN, tweeted that his “chapter” at the network had ended. He will continue to write a column for Peter King’s MMQB.
NFL Insider Adam Caplan added Monday that he was finished at the network, too.
On Friday, NBA reporter Marc Stein shared that he was gone.
Henry “True Hoop” Abbott was let go that day, too.
And Chad Ford shared that his coverage of this summer’s NBA draft would end his tenure at the network.
On Thursday morning, there were additional names, with Andy Katz, a college basketball insider who worked with former president Barack Obama on his annual NCAA tournament bracket, most prominent among them.
Britt McHenry, a general-assignment reporter, tweeted that the NFL draft would be her last assignment for the network.
“Outside the Lines” reporter Steve Delsohn tweeted that he was “soon leaving.”
David Lombardi, a Pacific-12 reporter and commentator, tweeted that having worked at ESPN “was a dream.”
Soccer writer Doug McIntyre tweeted that he doesn’t “plan on being sidelined long.”
On Wednesday, longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder was among the first to announce he had been laid off, on the eve of the NFL draft, no less (he had been assigned to cover the New Orleans Saints at the league’s annual selection meeting). If there was proof Wednesday that no one was safe, this was it. Werder was among the network’s most respected NFL voices.
Brett McMurphy, who broke a lot of college football news (especially regarding conference expansion), is out:
Longtime MLB reporter Jayson Stark, who was part of a “Baseball Tonight” show that reportedly will get hit hard:
Trent Dilfer, NFL analyst:
Former MLB player and longtime analyst Doug Glanville:
College football and auto racing analyst Dr. Jerry Punch:
Jim Caple, who most famously wrote for ESPN.com’s Page 2 back when that was a thing:
Enterprise reporter Tom Farrey, head of the Sports and Society Program at The Aspen Institute, tweeted out news of his departure:
Anchor Jade McCarthy:
Anchor Darren Haynes:
Soccer writer at ESPN FC David Hirshey’s exit was announced by proxy in the form of a tweet from Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch
Host/anchor Marysol Castro:
SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Chris Hassel and Jay Crawford also announced their departures:
SEC reporter Greg Ostendorf:
Golf analyst Dottie Pepper:
Chantel Jennings, from the Pac-12 beat:
Jean-Jacques Taylor, who covered all things Dallas:
Calvin Watkins, on the NBA and Houston Rockets beat:
Justin Verrier, who covered the New Orleans Pelicans:
College basketball analyst Len Elmore, who had been with the network for 21 years:
Former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden has been let go:
Danny Kanell, who has been with the network as a college football analyst since 2010 and co-hosted a radio show with Ryen Russillo since 2015:
NBA reporter Ethan Strauss tweeted that he “is no longer with ESPN.”
Ashley Fox covered the NFL for “SportsCenter” and “Outside the Lines”:
Longtime “SportsCenter” host John Buccigross, whose contract is set to expire, reportedly is in limbo:
The Hollywood Reporter says Russillo, longtime “Baseball Tonight” host and MLB play-by-play announcer Karl Ravech and network veteran Hannah Storm will see their roles “significantly reduced.” According to previous reports, a number of ESPN personalities had approached the network about taking voluntary pay cuts or reworking their contracts to keep their jobs.
Columnist Johnette Howard is out:
Jane McManus, who wrote about a variety of subjects:
ESPNW columnist Melissa Isaacson:
ESPN’s cut deep into its NHL coverage, with columnists Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside and writer Joe McDonald being let go plus maybe Buccigross (who is more or less the face of the network’s hockey presence):
Longtime college basketball writer Dana O’Neil also was let go:
Data-driven gambling expert Rufus Peabody:
As was college basketball writer Eamonn Brennan:
And college basketball reporter C.L. Brown:
Austin Ward, Jesse Temple and Brian Bennett, who all covered the Big Ten, announced their departures:
Max Olson, who covered the Big 12:
David Ching, from the SEC/LSU beat:
College football writer Ted Miller, who covered the Pac-12 side of things:
Jeremy Crabtree and Derek Tyson, who covered recruiting:
Jarrett Bell is out after four years helping out with NFL coverage:
Paul Kuharsky, who covered the Tennessee Titans for ESPN.com, also announced he had been laid off earlier in the week:
ESPN Insider soccer writer Mike L. Goodman tweeted that he is one of the people who is being let go:
Longtime legal analyst Roger Cossack:
Baseball writer Mark Saxon, who covered the Cardinals, is out after eight years:
As is Dodgers beat reporter Doug Padilla, out after seven:
Jeff Biggs, out of Los Angeles:
ESPN radio host Robin Lundberg bid farewell:
The network is reportedly also shuttering its ESPNU studio in Charlotte, in favor of moving it to the headquarters in Bristol. The move won’t result in mass layoffs, however, the Charlotte Observer reports. Because many of the 200 employees work in the network’s events division, as well as in SEC network operations, “fewer than 10 people in Charlotte” are expected to lose their jobs, the Observer reports.
Josh Parcell, an ESPN producer and writer, was let go.
ESPNU host Brendan Fitzgerald is among them:
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. Over the past five years, the network has lost somewhere around 12 million subscribers as the viewing public looks for cheaper avenues for home entertainment. At the same time, the money ESPN has paid to the professional sports leagues to acquire their live events steadily climbed. Last year, the network’s new nine-year agreement with the NBA to televise pro basketball games took effect. The reported cost to ESPN: somewhere around $1.5 billion per year, a massive increase over the previous deal. 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). Some of those deals will be up for renewal in the not-so-distant future.
It’s the second round of layoffs at ESPN in less than two years. In October 2015, ESPN laid off around 300 people who worked behind the scenes. The network employs around 8,000 people in total.