Back in 2015, ESPN cut an estimated 300 jobs from its roster. It was mainly due to increased rights fees and reduced sales revenue. Sports Illustrated reports that the Worldwide Leader will be undergoing a new set of layoffs over the next four months. The exact number is not known at this time, but SI reports that it will be “significant.”

In February, ESPN’s parent company Disney reported its first quarter earnings and they fell short of expectations. Much of the revenue shortfall came from its media networks and once again ESPN’s higher programming costs along with lower sales revenue were cited as the main reasons.

Richard Deitsch writes that “ESPN has been tasked with paring tens of millions of staff salary from its payroll, including staffers many viewers and readers will recognize,” meaning that these cuts will be on the talent side. In addition to the layoffs of existing on-air talent, there will be buyouts of some contracts. SI adds that the buyouts are rare so this is new territory for ESPN.

It appears that behind-the-scenes staff will likely be spared in the latest round of cuts. This round of layoffs is expected to be completed by June.

An ESPN spokesman gave SI the following statement in response:

“We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them. Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports.”

One major factor for ESPN’s lower revenue is the fact that since 2011 when the network was in 100 million homes, it has lost subscribers and is now available in 88.4 million homes.

This is no doubt a big hit for ESPN. Sports rights fees are not going down, but up. The bubble is not bursting and as it charges pay TV providers more than $7 per subscriber, ESPN sees that its traditional model of advertising revenue and subscriber fees is being challenged. Whether ESPN chooses to develop a direct-to-consumer product or stand pat will be answered in the coming years.

But for now, it will have to endure a new set of layoffs.

[Sports Illustrated]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • jrwskw

    If a team I follow is playing I’ll watch ESPN. But I wouldn’t watch one second of the liberal sermonette it has become beyond that. And I can mute that if it’s being broadcast by preachers.

  • MrBeepo

    As they say in sports….time to blow it up and start over. How they ruined such a good thing is mind boggling. Get rid of all of the shows and just broadcast games.

    • redman913

      that’s why they are losing money, because they paid too much to broadcast the games and dont make enough revenue to offset the exorbitant costs.

      • Shawn Diiorio

        they had no choice because FOX came in and threw a ton of money around overpaying for everything.

        • Walt_Gekko

          Exactly. FOX started doing that first in 1993 when they wrestled away the NFC package of the NFL from CBS (something no one at the time ever saw coming) that launched FOX Sports. Ever since, they have been a player for sports packages.

        • redman913

          Fox is playing the long game

    • Carter_Burger67

      It’s very easy to see how they ruined a good thing. They wanted to be the end all-be all for live sports. Look how many bowl games they broadcast now compared to 30 years ago. Well, time to pay the fiddler. I just hate it good people that make the network work will have to suffer because of the mismanegment at the top.

  • Jean H Pierre

    Hate to see this but this is the changing landscape of the industry.

  • markvidpa

    The message that keeps getting lost:
    The company is still operating at a huge profit.
    This is all about keeping Disney stockholders happy.

    • Carter_Burger67

      But the percentage is down. How much longer can this be sustained?

    • robbyburns

      Profit yes, but sustainability………………

    • Raymond Chuang

      I think in the end, Disney may treat ESPN as kind of a “loss leader” because Disney’s theme park division, motion picture divisions (Marvel Picture, Lucasfilms, Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, etc.), and ABC are still making a lot of money for the company.

  • Carter_Burger67

    Looks like we’ve reached the tipping point. You continue to pay an unGodly amount of money in rights fees, eventually you run out of money for other things….like people to run your network. And good luck getting out of those contracts because you can be damn sure if the shoe was on the other foot, the powers that be at ESPN would be very reluctant to let anyone out of their contracts.

  • Scott Fitzgerald

    I sincerely hope ESPN starts their cuts with the ex-athletes. They don’t bring enough to the table except tired cliches sports fans have heard a million times. And they make WAY too much money for what they do.

    • DrewShervin

      Retired athletes come to ESPN to keep busy and collect a $500,000 paycheck. It’s amazing every retired athlete they sign gets a minimum of $500,000.

    • MetaphysicalMan

      For sure. The size of their roster of ex-athletes is absurd, and a lot of them really offer no special insight or personality at all.

  • James Uy Ty III

    I’m not surprised by this move by ESPN. ESPN2 has already become a rerun network according to one of your posts. ESPN used to have an Asian channel but this was removed when Disney sold its Asian stakes to NewsCorp and it became Fox Sports Asia.

  • DrewShervin

    Meanwhile they promote Jemele Hill and Michael Smith to the 6pm SC with accompanying big, fat, checks. How about giving Michelle Beadle and Wendy Nix their walking papers. They don’t bring anything to the table. Sadly, they gave Beadle a new contract last year so unless they buy her out they are stuck with her. Marcellus Wiley is hugely talented, his claim to fame is drinking from a giant jug of water at the end of the show.

    • MetaphysicalMan

      They just recently gave Beadle NBA Countdown in addition to SportsNation. Don’t know why you think they’d be looking to get rid of her.

      • Walt_Gekko

        Ms. Beadle fits very well on NBA Countdown and Sportsnation and is in the right spot there (though it should be noted Sage Steele still does Countdown for most ABC games). Wendi Nix does fine on her shows.

  • Trump Smash

    Want to start making money again? Put the mute button on the liberal (and conservative — what there is of it anyway) commentary on the network and rebrand as “Strictly Sports” or some shit. That’s it. Also, start unpackaging your channels for cable companies so they don’t have to jack up their customers’ prices simply to have ESPN. That way you solve the subscribers who aren’t watching and the cordcutter issues.

  • robbyburns

    I long for the days when ESPN broadcasted strongman competitions at 2 AM, AWA wrestling, and had rights to just about every major motorsports series (Now it’s just 5 indycar races). If it wasn’t for LeBatard, PTI, MLB and College Football, i’d never watch ESPN (can’t remember the last time I watched sportscenter all the way through). It looks like Skipper and his merry band of assholes realized you don’t have to pay Steven A and people like him 4 to 6 million dollars a year it looks now just a waste of money.

    • JustSaying15

      30 for 30’s are good too. But overall I agree. Outside of live events, I only watch college gameday and 30 for 30. Everything else is garbage.

      • robbyburns

        Yeah, forgot about 30 for 30 and College Gameday (wish it as just 2 hours seems to drag for 3).

      • Sequamie

        I agree- 30 for 30 is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal dank cellar of sadness

    • Raymond Chuang

      I do think they will keep “Mike & Mike” in its current form. That show makes a LOT of money for ESPN and the original plan to break up the team appears to be dead (for now).

      • robbyburns

        The idea of Greeny getting his own morning show sounds awful (even worse if he’s paired with KN as a trade rumor floated last week suggested), The show maybe boring and stale but it’s a cash cow and they don’t appear to have many of them anymore.

        • Raymond Chuang

          “Mike & Mike” IS a huge cash cow for the network. ESPN cannot afford to break up that tandem, given it appears to be ESPN Radio’s most popular show (especially now that Colin Cowherd left for FOX Sports Radio/FS1).

          • robbyburns

            Based on simulcast viewers,listeners and affiliates Mike and Mike is #1 but based on podcasts downloads it’s LeBatard (10 Million I believe), anyways ESPN has to stop trying to reinvent they wheel (See all the Sportscenters with themes).

          • Raymond Chuang

            Actually, “Mike & Mike” is more consumed _live_. Remember, this is a true morning wake-up radio show for the Eastern and Central Time zones, where 60% of the US population is located. LeBatard’s show is more consumed via podcast because the Eastern and Central Time zones have most people at work at the time LeBatard’s national three hours starts at 10 am Eastern.

          • Walt_Gekko

            Also, as noted in my other comment, LeBatard is not heard live in NYC since Hahn, Humpty and Canty (which used to be Noon-3:00) had to be moved on 98.7 in NYC to 10:00 AM-1:00 PM to accommodate Stephen A. Smith’s 1:00-3:00 PM ET show.

          • Walt_Gekko

            That has more to do with Mike & Mike being on everywhere (only I believe 97.5 The Fanatic in Philly doesn’t air Mike & Mike live and even there that can be heard on 610 AM) whereas LeBatard does not air in many markets (most notably 98.7 in New York, which had to move Alan Hahn, Rick “Humpty” DiPietro and Chris Canty to 10:00 AM-1:00 PM to accommodate Stephen A. Smith from 1-3 PM ET) and can only be heard live online or via the podcast in such markets. That would explain that.

  • Raymond Chuang

    Remember all those rumors about ESPN breaking up “Mike & Mike” with Mike Greenberg hosting a new morning SportsCenter show? It appears ESPN dropped that idea when managers for ESPN-owned radio stations, ESPN Radio affiliates, cable operators and satellite TV systems objected, and ESPN ran the numbers and realized how big a revenue source “Mike & Mike” is to the network.

  • Smitty110568

    People turn to sports to get away from everyday life. ESPN’s leftist slant has alienated half of its potential customers. No surprise here.

    • Walt_Gekko

      I never see any leftist slant on ESPN.

      • Smitty110568

        That is a joke, right?

        • Tim

          I am curious as well. Do you (or other commenters , because it does seem to be a common refrain) have specific examples of their leftist slant?

          • Karl

            I’m assuming that it’s because they’ve allowed people to voice support for black people, gay people, transgender people, and immigrants. These are political issues. In 2017.

        • Walt_Gekko

          I actually don’t.

  • JustSaying15

    Start showing sports again like the strongmen competitions. Skip all the talk show bullcrap.

    • Walt_Gekko

      A lot of who shows were jokes and I never watched those. The talk stuff does better,

  • robbyburns

    Wondering if ESPN will cancel any “personalty” driven shows to off set costs, these lay-offs seemed to be derived from lack of revenue and costs seems logical to dump expensive under performing shows.

  • skirkpat12

    ESPN has alienating sports fans for years with their conquest to capture the coveted 18-25 demographic. We all know it’s a business, but too much LeBron, Brady, Curry is turning off the common sports fan looking for high lights. In addition the debates over non issues is getting so old. I mean how any times can you debate Lebron vs. Jordan?

  • Mr. Bastiat

    So, that wall-to-wall anti-white propaganda thing just isn’t working for ya, eh?

  • Sequamie

    Ohhhh MAN they deserve everything that’s coming to them. But they are too ignorant to change their ways. Your nasty, racist network has run full circle. Dump that stupid ceo first. He’s oblivious. Get rid of ALL daytime negro talk – – cuz that’s what sunk your network to begin with. Start showing games again. Simple. It’s how you became big.

    • techdream

      It’s only going to get blacker and more diverse, maybe you should just watch fox news, seems like it be more in your old school ballpark.

      • Steve

        I personally dont care about the diversity, I care about the message. Getting rid of people for their conservative views and letting the likes of LeBatard say and do anything they want has chased many of us. I was a democrat who voted that way in all elections until this year because of just how far left the left has gone.

  • Sequamie

    If I were CEO – -the top 2 on my hit list are Jemell Hill and Bomani Jones. These two are the single biggest reasons I HATE ESPN so much that I am actually happy they are on the way out of business.

    • Walt_Gekko

      Obviously, ESPN disagrees with you because “His & Hers” was such a success they now have the 6:00 PM show and I see why they did that.

  • GameFederer

    They lost me when they changed what was best about their shows. Baseball Tonight didn’t used to be a joke. In it’s peak in the early 2000’s when the show flowed so well. They had Gammons, Reynolds, Kurk, Stark, Campbell, etc. The only Baseball Tonight I enjoy is the Thursday evening one because it’s all the analytical experts talking in-depth about games not just your run of the mill highlight show. And then they pandered to Yanks-Red Sox for so much that the other teams just got relegated to like 10 second highlights. They changed Going Going Gone with Screaming Baseball to Touch’Em All, was not a fan of that. They tried to make John Kruk’s rambling appear to be real in-depth analysis. They have so many guys now that need improvement on speaking to the camera.

    The flow of the show used to be so good, when they’re doing a highlight for one game and the buzzer comes on for an Update Alert for a west coast game. Quick update then right back in to the next game. I hate how they changed the music and coverage for their live games and BT. Baseball Tonight in the late 90’s early 2000’s used to be what NBA on TNT is now. Not necessarily more humor but just strong chemistry between host and analysts and important stuff to show you and the flow and pacing was so well I was intrigued the whole hour or half hour.

    SportsCenter went downhill when it went from Sports News Highlights to what’s hip, trending, and drama drama.

    I get that ESPN was maybe trying to ride the wave of the incoming demographics, but they just kind of transitioned too soon. I was in my early teens when it was it it’s best, now I don’t even really watch it anymore other than 30 for 30 or sometimes when I wanna see Woody Paige on ATH. After my baseball team was done I could count on Baseball Tonight at 10 for half an hour or an hour, Sportscenter at 11 then the midnight Baseball Tonight to add in the West Coast games completing. Now, it’s all over the place. I also think it got kind of ridiculous when they turned NFL Live into a weekday show… even during boring parts of the offseason that nobody cares about. I just got fatigued from after the Pro and Super Bowl we still have this show on speculating non-sense and the draft isn’t for another 2 months?

    I’m not as big of a baseball fan as I used to be since the big money teams started buying Championships regularly, but I long for the days of watching a well-produced Baseball Tonight show before I get some sleep.

  • Marlon Nicholson

    Man ESPN sucks covering the NBA production wise. NBC will always be the greatest when it comes to producing the NBA. The only reason they even have some sports they do have is because they out spent the other networks not because they are a better fit. No theme music they have excites me for an NBA game. NBA ON NBC will forever be the best

  • R Hugh Sirius

    They can’t get rid of enough so-called on-air talent at ESPN. Stew Scott is more entertaining and he’s dead.

  • pachyderm

    you know how well they are doing when a topic of discussion is when is it okay to pee in the pool. it seems as though they are purposely trying to fail. i think they should go back to basics and televise sporting events. remember when ESPN stood for the exclusive sports network.

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  • Respected Citizen

    And when ESPN loses another 100,000 subs next month, who’s on the chopping block?

    They need to arrange the transfer of some of their rights contracts. Trouble is, that $7 per sub is predicated by their Faustian MNF deal.

  • Pierre Generic

    Please fire Woody Paige.

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  • Steve

    I dropped cable years ago. ESPN offers nothing I NEED just like many of the other channels offered nothing I needed or wanted. I stopped listening to ESPN on the radio a few months ago. After Colin Cowherd left and SVP went away from radio, there was nothing left that I wanted to listen to. The LeBatard show is the worst.

  • Steve

    You lost people like me who want nothing to do with your liberal nonsense. You fire people with conservative views and let Dan LeBatard do and say anything he wants. I dropped cable 4 years ago and stopped listening on the radio when Colin left and SVP left the radio side.

  • Rey Henry

    the issue is espn is always quick to hire the most recent pro retiree without any media training.
    right now there are so many ex-nfl players/coaches at espn. they could be classified as the 33rd nfl franchise.
    for example, they have dikta, herm edwards and gruden. WHY?!!?
    one or two of these guys can go.
    then there are the qbs, steve young, trent dilfer, the hasselback brothers, and jaws. again why?

  • Davido San

    Hopefully they start with Todd McShay.

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