Rumors are circling that ESPN employees are preparing for another round of layoffs in late November or early December. 40-60 employees are expected to lose their jobs, including some of the network’s high-priced on-air talent. SportsCenter, the network’s flagship show, is said to be likely affected by this round of layoffs. ESPN has declined comment on the reports.
Howie Long-Short: ESPN laid off 300 employees back in October ’15 and another 100 employees this past April, so things are clearly not going well at Walt Disney Co. (DIS) subsidiary. The company panicked after losing SNF and the World Cup. They committed $1.9 billion/year to obtain the rights to MNF and another $1.4 billion/year for rights to the NBA; arguing if they hadn’t someone else would have paid for as much or more for them. That’s debatable, but at least on the NBA front they should have found out. Instead they’ll pay 3x the amount of their previous deal for the rights to the same content.
Fan Marino: If ESPN is going to cut costs, on-air talent is the place to start. The audience is tuning in for the game, the highlights or the debate topic; not the broadcasters, anchors or hot take artists. Skip Bayless drew a high of 663K viewers while on ESPN’s First Take. He currently draws an average of 150K viewers on FS1 (FOXA), while the current iteration of First Take draws 461K. FS1 is paying Bayless $25 million over 4 years. That’s not a good investment. The network is the draw, not the talent.
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