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.
Hearing now from several @espn employees who, despite advanced word, are "in shock" and "frozen." This is an awful day for all in Bristol.
— jamesmiller (@JimMiller) April 26, 2017
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.
Hoped to make ESPN viewers smarter, take them behind curtain of sports biz/law, for 6 years. Chapter ends, more ahead. Grateful to so many. pic.twitter.com/Jb6o1JqeTV
— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) May 1, 2017
NFL Insider Adam Caplan added Monday that he was finished at the network, too.
My time with ESPN has come to an end due layoffs…
— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) May 1, 2017
On Friday, NBA reporter Marc Stein shared that he was gone.
Informed I'm among ESPN's layoffs. But basketball, as they say, never stops. To readers/viewers/listeners/countless colleagues … grateful
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 28, 2017
Henry “True Hoop” Abbott was let go that day, too.
Basketball Twitter you are entirely over the top, hyperbolic and possibly drunk. And I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart.
— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) April 28, 2017
And Chad Ford shared that his coverage of this summer’s NBA draft would end his tenure at the network.
Layoffs end my 16 yr run covering the NBA Draft for ESPN on June 30. Will do my best to make next 60 days special for our Insider readers
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) April 29, 2017
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.
Staying on the NFL Draft as my last assignment. Grateful for 3 years at ESPN. My colleagues became best friends & I'll cherish that the most pic.twitter.com/YHZeutahTS
— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) April 27, 2017
“Outside the Lines” reporter Steve Delsohn tweeted that he was “soon leaving.”
Soon leaving Outside the Lines after 16 remarkable years. Will miss working with my OTL and #ESPN family, but ready for what comes next.
— steve delsohn (@sdelsohnespn) April 27, 2017
David Lombardi, a Pacific-12 reporter and commentator, tweeted that having worked at ESPN “was a dream.”
Working at ESPN was a dream, grateful to have lived it. Now time to reach the next one. Thanks to so many. Got to work with some of the best
— David Lombardi (@LombardiESPN) April 26, 2017
Soccer writer Doug McIntyre tweeted that he doesn’t “plan on being sidelined long.”
.@ATLUTD Thanks for all the kind words, and to everyone who’s read me over the years. I don’t plan on being sidelined long. Excited for what’s next.
— Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN) April 27, 2017
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.
After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I've been informed that I'm being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire
— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) April 26, 2017
While surprised and disappointed, I was fortunate to have worked @espn with so many devoted, talented journalists. I will always be grateful
— Ed Werder (@EdwerderRFA) April 26, 2017
Brett McMurphy, who broke a lot of college football news (especially regarding conference expansion), is out:
After 5 great years, I’ve been laid off by ESPN. It was a tremendous opportunity & I enjoyed working w/a lot of really, really good people
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) April 26, 2017
Longtime MLB reporter Jayson Stark, who was part of a “Baseball Tonight” show that reportedly will get hit hard:
For 17 yrs I've had a dream job covering baseball for ESPN. Today is my last day. Thanks to all the great people at ESPN, MLB & all of you!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 26, 2017
From multiple people: ESPN's Baseball Tonight franchise will be significantly impacted by today's cuts.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 26, 2017
Trent Dilfer, NFL analyst:
Laid off by ESPN today.Although sad cause I loved my job, mostly filled w/gratitude & appreciation for the 9 years #GreatFriendsAndTeammates
— Trent Dilfer (@DilfersDime) April 26, 2017
Former MLB player and longtime analyst Doug Glanville:
College football and auto racing analyst Dr. Jerry Punch:
So blessed! 30yrs as host,pxp,reporter in NASCAR,indycar, CFB,& CBB. Many drivers,owners,crew,coaches & fans, lifetime friends. Thank u ESPN
— Dr Jerry Lee Punch (@DocPunchESPN) April 26, 2017
Jim Caple, who most famously wrote for ESPN.com’s Page 2 back when that was a thing:
It was rough day being part of ESPN's layoffs but I had a remarkable career there, covering sports on six continents. Will miss it deeply.
— Jim Caple (@jimcaple) April 27, 2017
Enterprise reporter Tom Farrey, head of the Sports and Society Program at The Aspen Institute, tweeted out news of his departure:
— Tom Farrey (@TomFarrey) April 26, 2017
Anchor Jade McCarthy:
Proud of my time at ESPN-Proud of the great ppl there & those like me w a future elsewhere-Proud to soon be mom of 3 w a bright career ahead pic.twitter.com/ABhgJQkQ9f
— Jade McCarthy (@JadeMcCarthy) April 26, 2017
Anchor Darren Haynes:
What an amazing ride at ESPN!! God has blessed me with more than I could ever imagine. pic.twitter.com/lv2goTgwVG
— Darren M. Haynes (@DarrenMHaynes) April 26, 2017
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
Sources*: ESPN has ended David Hirshey's run as ESPNFC soccer writer. Add him to your running lists. (*Source is David Hirshey.)
— Will Leitch (@williamfleitch) April 26, 2017
Host/anchor Marysol Castro:
— Marysol Castro (@marysolcastro) April 26, 2017
SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Chris Hassel and Jay Crawford also announced their departures:
I was only at ESPN for 4 years, but they were some of the best of my career. Thanks to all of the fans and to my entire SportsCenterAM crew. pic.twitter.com/gxKuUh13ck
— Jaymee Sire (@jaymee) April 26, 2017
Grateful for all the opportunities I had in my 4+ years at ESPN. Many great people lost their jobs today. But many other greats remain.
— Chris Hassel (@Hassel_Chris) April 26, 2017
After 14 wonderful years my time at espn is over. From Cold Pizza to First Take to SC I made more friends than I can name. Forever grateful! pic.twitter.com/WNkUGuXeVl
— Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) April 26, 2017
SEC reporter Greg Ostendorf:
Growing up, working for ESPN was the dream. Today was my last day after 5+ years, but I feel blessed to have gotten this opportunity.
— Greg Ostendorf (@GregO_ESPN) April 26, 2017
Golf analyst Dottie Pepper:
View this post on Instagram
My time with ESPN comes to a close today as I join the sidelines with so many other talented people at the company. It was a phenomenal 4 1/2 years of learning from and working with some of the very best in sports television and I will be forever grateful and appreciative of every day I was there.
Chantel Jennings, from the Pac-12 beat:
Like many others, I got the call today from ESPN that today would be my last with them. A few parting words: https://t.co/pBfnewUHIG
— Chantel Jennings (@ChantelJennings) April 26, 2017
Jean-Jacques Taylor, who covered all things Dallas:
It's ironic ESPN laid me off the same day as my first partner on the cowboys @Edwerderespn. I haven't been a FA in forever. This shud be fun
— Jean-Jacques Taylor (@JJT_Journalist) April 26, 2017
Calvin Watkins, on the NBA and Houston Rockets beat:
After seven great years at ESPN I've been let go. Much respect to all the people.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) April 26, 2017
Justin Verrier, who covered the New Orleans Pelicans:
No longer at ESPN. Thank you to everyone who read and supported me throughout my 9 years there. Means more than you can know.
— Justin Verrier (@JustinVerrier) April 26, 2017
College basketball analyst Len Elmore, who had been with the network for 21 years:
Gee, I feel like I am now part of an exclusive club. #ESPNLayoff. For 21 yrs. I tried to represent the best in college hoops. Adios Bristol!
— Len Elmore (@LenElmore) April 26, 2017
Former Nationals general manager Jim Bowden has been let go:
I feel blessed & privileged to have worked @ESPN and most importantly work w/ so many great people.Thank you. I look forward to what's next
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenMLB) April 26, 2017
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:
Poured my heart and soul into ESPN for last 8 years. Moved my wife and 3 kids to CT to go "all in" 5 years ago. Bummed it ended in 3 minutes
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) April 26, 2017
But totally get it. All part of a business that is rapidly changing. Thankful for the opportunity I was given and people I got to work with!
— Danny Kanell (@dannykanell) April 26, 2017
NBA reporter Ethan Strauss tweeted that he “is no longer with ESPN.”
So, I am no longer with ESPN, as of today. I want to thank all the great people I've worked with and, of course, the readers + listeners
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 26, 2017
Ashley Fox covered the NFL for “SportsCenter” and “Outside the Lines”:
I had a great 6+ years at ESPN, but it's over. I will badly miss all the talented folks there, many of whom I call dear friends. #Onward
— Ashley Fox (@AshleyFoxESPN) April 26, 2017
Longtime “SportsCenter” host John Buccigross, whose contract is set to expire, reportedly is in limbo:
— Marisa Guthrie (@MarisaGuthrie) April 26, 2017
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:
I just found out I'm among the layoffs at ESPN today. Enjoyed my eight years there immensely. Looking forward to what's next.
— Johnette Howard (@JohnetteHoward) April 26, 2017
Jane McManus, who wrote about a variety of subjects:
Super Bowls, The Trifecta and stories like the one up now are the moments I'll take with me into free agency starting tomorrow.
— Jane McManus (@janesports) April 26, 2017
ESPNW columnist Melissa Isaacson:
Sorry to get the call from ESPN this a.m., but grateful for my eight years there and trying to positively look ahead.
— Melissa Isaacson (@mkisaacson) April 26, 2017
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):
Well folks, as you can tell by my new Twitter handle, I was also among the cuts today at ESPN.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 26, 2017
After 13 years of sticks and pucks can share that as of today my tenure at ESPN is at a close. I look forward to the next adventure.
— Scott Burnside (@OvertimeScottB) April 26, 2017
After nearly eight years of covering the NHL, MLB and the NFL at ESPN, it's time for the next chapter in my career.
— Joe McDonald (@MrMomJoeyMac) April 26, 2017
Longtime college basketball writer Dana O’Neil also was let go:
Add me to the list. Just got the 'call.' I've been informed my contract will not be renewed at ESPN.
— Dana O'Neil (@DanaONeilWriter) April 26, 2017
Data-driven gambling expert Rufus Peabody:
Just found out ESPN is not renewing my contract for next fb season. Learned a lot and had a lot of fun! Grateful to ESPN for the opportunity
— Rufus Peabody (@RufusPeabody) April 26, 2017
As was college basketball writer Eamonn Brennan:
Bad news morning. I loved every bit of my eight years at ESPN and will miss it, and so many friends and colleagues there, profoundly.
— Eamonn Brennan (@eamonnbrennan) April 26, 2017
And college basketball reporter C.L. Brown:
Landed in Madrid. Turned on phone 1st time all vacation. Got texts asking if job was safe. Found out it was not. Enjoyed my 4 years, ESPN.
— C.L. Brown (@clbrownespn) April 26, 2017
Austin Ward, Jesse Temple and Brian Bennett, who all covered the Big Ten, announced their departures:
I've been informed that I'm no longer employed at ESPN. Greatly enjoyed covering the B1G, and will immediately try to find a new challenge!
— Austin Ward (@AWardSports) April 26, 2017
Like other colleagues, I've been informed I am no longer working for ESPN. This is a crummy day, but I'll never stop pursuing my passion.
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) April 26, 2017
Like far too many other ESPN colleagues today, I’ve been laid off. Enjoyed nine great years here. Thanks for reading and following along.
— Brian Bennett (@GBrianBennett) April 26, 2017
Max Olson, who covered the Big 12:
I got laid off by ESPN today after an amazing 5+ years. I've been unbelievably fortunate. Better days ahead.
— Max Olson (@max_olson) April 26, 2017
David Ching, from the SEC/LSU beat:
College football writer Ted Miller, who covered the Pac-12 side of things:
Started at ESPN in 2008, but my tenure ended today. Worked w/ some great folks who are now friends. Onward to new challenges.
— Ted Miller (@TedMillerRK) April 26, 2017
Jeremy Crabtree and Derek Tyson, who covered recruiting:
— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) April 26, 2017
After 5 incredible years, I was laid off today by ESPN. I met & worked w/ some great people & I am very grateful to ESPN for the opportunity
— Derek Tyson (@DerekJTyson) April 26, 2017
Jarrett Bell is out after four years helping out with NFL coverage:
It's my birthday! And also the day to learn that my side gig @ESPN has come to an end. Great experience. So many classy people to thank.
— Jarrett Bell (@JarrettBell) April 26, 2017
Paul Kuharsky, who covered the Tennessee Titans for ESPN.com, also announced he had been laid off earlier in the week:
Knew cuts were coming. Sad to say nine great years at ESPN end for me in July. Please stay tuned to @Midday180.
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) April 24, 2017
ESPN Insider soccer writer Mike L. Goodman tweeted that he is one of the people who is being let go:
And hey, it turns out one of those people is me. Loved my time at ESPN, and now it's time to figure out what's next.
— Mike L. Goodman (@TheM_L_G) April 26, 2017
Longtime legal analyst Roger Cossack:
Time to go. Thanks to ESPN for allowing me to be their legal analyst for 13 years. Made great friends and have wonderful memories.
— Roger Cossack (@RogerCossack) April 26, 2017
Baseball writer Mark Saxon, who covered the Cardinals, is out after eight years:
Well, I'm a free agent. I learned a lot in eight years with ESPN and benefitted from being around a lot of smart people
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) April 26, 2017
As is Dodgers beat reporter Doug Padilla, out after seven:
Rough day. Just learned I will no longer be covering the Dodgers. Enjoyed my 7 years at ESPN. On to the next chapter.
— Doug Padilla (@DougPadilla) April 26, 2017
Jeff Biggs, out of Los Angeles:
Sad to announce that my nearly 6 year run is done at ESPN L.A. It was truly a blessing. All part of God's plan. I'm excited for what's next.
— Jeff Biggs (@biggs_jeff) April 26, 2017
ESPN radio host Robin Lundberg bid farewell:
Today was my last day on air at ESPN Radio. On to the next…I'll let everyone know what that is when I do. pic.twitter.com/1wTnGfRVcW
— Robin Lundberg (@robinlundberg) April 26, 2017
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.
I lost a job today, but I kept so much more. Please read my thoughts on being laid off at ESPN. Thank you everyone. https://t.co/eIu1JkYRma
— Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell) April 26, 2017
ESPNU host Brendan Fitzgerald is among them:
— Brendan Fitzgerald (@BrendanFitzTV) April 26, 2017
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.