These are headlines you never want to see in any industry. Today, out of nowhere, ESPN laid off hundreds of employees. The troublesome signs first appeared on the Twitter page of bestselling author and ESPN authority Jim Miller.
ESPN workforce hasn't faced reductions in its numbers for at least several years. That may no longer be the case. Fasten seat belts.
— James Andrew Miller (@ESPNBook) May 21, 2013
The details are grisly. Miller also pegged the number of layoffs between 300 and 400 employees. Deadspin's John Koblin was told a similar number by sources. Eventually, ESPN would confirm the news in a public statement on the matter that "tried" to put a "positive" spin on the news:
“We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive.”
ESPN employees almost 4,000 people alone on its Bristol campus and many others around the globe, but layoffs in the hundreds are staggering for any company. Keep in mind that earlier this month ESPN also shut down its ESPN America international channel after selling its UK channel to BT Sport. The most troubling element is several hundred faithful employees losing their job in spite of ESPN's global success and insane net worth. This is a company worth tens of billions of dollars, and yet hundreds of its employees will now have to find work elsewhere.
One of the anonymous workers laid off today tells Deadspin the motivation behind these severe decisions stem from ESPN not hitting their profit margin and ESPN was forced by Disney to make cuts…. the same Disney whose stock recently reached an all-time high this month. They aren't the only Disney property to be forced into making cuts either. Wrap your mind around that reality.
It's no secret that sports rights fees are exploding. We've wondered for quite some time whether or not the sports rights bubble was close to bursting with billions of dollars being splashed around for television rights. Perhaps this isn't the bursting of that bubble, but a sign of its stretching and tightening. Consider that in the past two years ESPN has paid these prices for live sports rights…
And that's not to mention the SEC, NBA, NASCAR, numerous college sports, soccer, etc. that ESPN airs. Are these layoffs a sacrifice to be made at the expense of increasingly astronomical live sports rights and a cutthroat command from the higher-ups at Disney to maintain and increase profit? You feel for the folks in Bristol and elsewhere on a day like this, when billion dollar entities decide there's no room left at the table for them. There are countless hard-working, dedicated individuals at ESPN whose names will never see the light of day that deserve better.