On Sunday, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch reported that ESPN will undergo “significant” layoffs in the coming months, with prominent on-air personalities getting the boot.

But according to a follow-up report from The Hartford Courant’s Dan Haar, the layoffs will stop at on-air (and maybe online) talent.

A source at ESPN told The Courant that no target for job eliminations has been set, and that among employees who don’t work in front of cameras, at microphones or with bylines on the websites, no cuts are planned.

“Outside of the on-air, we do continue to hire,” the source said.

According to the Courant, “talent” (and how we hate that term) makes up only about a quarter of the 4,200 employees in Bristol. Haar speculates that limiting layoffs to on-air employees suggests a smaller round of layoffs than in 2015, when the company axed about 300 jobs.

It’s a little counterintuitive, though not necessarily in a bad way, that ESPN is choosing to cut costs by firing people you’ve heard of, as opposed to those behind-the-scenes. You might think a network currently focused on marketing individual personalities would look out for its front-facing personnel first, but apparently ESPN thinks there’s more dead weight on the talent side than in production.

Sports media is usually a talent-first world, but the folks behind the scenes are also “talented,” and they’re obviously vital to a functional network. In an odd way, ESPN’s decision to lay off big names and keep hiring others is a win for the little guys.

Of course, layoffs at your company are a bad sign no matter who you are, so it’s not like behind-the-scenes people in Bristol are celebrating this week. Cable TV’s declining subscription base continues to be a problem for ESPN. Today it’s the on-air talent that’s taking the hit. Tomorrow, who know.

[Hartford Courant]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • YouAreWrongAndDumb

    Start with Sage Steele, Jonathan Coachman, Jay Harris, that new, young douche they have on in the morning sometimes (no idea what his name is), both “Mikes”, execute Stephen Smith, Jemelle Hill, Papi Le Batard (if I want to see annoying old Cuban men stammer incoherently I’ll go outside or to a Marlins game), Ramona Shelbourne, and J.A. Adande, just off the top of my head. And basically every former pro basketball player “analyst” not named Antonio Davis. They bring nothing to the table.

    • PeterDaScriptGuy

      Racist much?

      • YouAreWrongAndDumb

        Why? Because about half the people I named are people of color? Fuck off. They’re awful on the air whether they’re black, white, blue or pink.
        Kinda telling about you that that was the first place you went in your mind. Sounds like a you problem.

      • skirkpat12

        Sounds like you and Jemelle Hill should hang about because everything to you two is about race. I agree with YouAreWrongandDumb most of those people aren’t any good, but then again its been awhile since I have turned on ESPN for anything besides live sports.

    • Raymond Chuang

      ESPN will definitely keep “Mike & Mike.” That radio/TV show is a HUGE revenue source of the company–so much so that it appears ESPN likely shelved the original plan for Mike Greenberg to be part of a new morning SportsCenter show akin to what Michael Smith and Jemelle Hill are doing now for the 6:00 pm (Eastern) SportsCenter show. ESPN executives probably got too much negative feedback from ESPN owned radio stations, ESPN Radio affiliates, cable operators and satellite TV operators over ending “Mike & Mike” itself.

    • Shawn Diiorio

      in other words, everyone right?

    • DrewShervin

      You are aware that Highly Questionable is one of ESPN highest rated afternoon shows. Everyone in the sports and entertainment business loves Papi LeBatard. Dan is fairly controversial in the radio side of the business so it will be interesting to see what kind of decision ESPN makes. I know PTI with Tony and Mike isn’t going anywhere. They signed long extensions within the last year.

  • James Uy Ty III

    Papi should go but keep Michael, Jemele and Cassidy.

    • PAI

      Does Papi get paid? Does Papi even know he’s there?

  • robbyburns

    Even though the on-air talent only takes up quarter of the work force I’m pretty sure the payroll on the talent is significant chunk, from what it sounds like people with expiring contracts and/or dead weight will be let go as they pay for the networks gluttony.

  • Karl

    So thinking about where there’s fat to cut I’d have to imagine this is going to be a lot of the seemingly infinite talking heads on studio programming for NFL. I think you’ll start seeing fewer heads that are working more shows and more of a year-round basis instead of seasonal.

    MLB coverage could also take a hit. Without any playoff rights (other than radio) beyond one wild card game and the World Series and playoffs being primarily a Fox property in addition to MLB games rarely drawing well outside of in-game markets, I would expect ESPN to kill a lot of non-game MLB coverage. It is effectively promoting a Fox property.

    One area of talent I don’t see driving viewership that I’d be bummed about cuts in is the journalism area like E:60 and Outside the Lines. These produce fantastic work but unfortunately there’s not much (if any) revenue there.

    The consistent theme I’d be looking for across the board on these layoffs is ‘fewer heads, and more on-screen time for those that are left.’

    • James Uy Ty III

      I watched some of the E60 features and they’re well presented. 30 for 30 is also good.

    • Matt Galvin

      No can keep Baseball Tonight. Can’t get rid of Home Run Derby or Celebrity Game. If they could show All-Star Game,World Series Multicast that would be good.
      Get rid of all Women Sports Anchors. Do post and Pre Sportscenter at World Series and Stanley Cup.

      • Karl

        The World Series and ASG are Fox properties and the Stanley Cup is an NBC property. The WNBA deal is part of the NBA deal (meaning you don’t get NBA on ESPN without the WNBA).

        I wouldn’t be shocked to see ESPN pull the plug completely on NHL coverage (Melrose and Buccigross, maybe Levy?) and continue to pull back on MLB coverage (fewer talking heads).

  • alnc

    Drop that dreadful Steven A Smith. The worst thing to EVER happen to TV let alone sports casting. That would help!! Hannah Storm and Linda Cohn are a waste of time and $$$, if you gonna cut time from Chris McKinnery. That and dropping all those former athletes….ugh.

    • Walt_Gekko

      Stephen A. has his place on ESPN. There is a reason he was just brought back into the mix on ESPN Radio, enough to where to accommodate him, 98.7 in New York had to move Alan Hahn, Rick “Humpty” DiPietro and Chris Canty from Noon-3:00 PM to 10:00 AM-1:00 PM (and bump Dan Lebatard entirely from 98.7 and relegate LeBatard to a delayed broadcast on 1050 AM that is otherwise the Spanish station in NYC).

  • Real Talk

    I stopped watching when they become social justice propaganda machine..

    • Shawn Diiorio

      Because down with the machine and all that generic stuff. Right?

  • Scott Fitzgerald

    Considering how PC ESPN is, most of the cut will probably be white males.


    And then 24 hours later, Jim Miller contradicts this on Dan Patrick show. Awful Blogging ?
    Or as this article succinctly puts it “Tomorrow, who know”

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Who would’ve thought 15 or 20 years ago that one day in the not too distant future we may be writing ESPN’s obituary?

  • Rusty Shackleford

    Also they should get rid of Doris Burke. Mike Francesa’s comments on female coaches is apt for female play by play voices too.

  • DrewShervin

    Beadle has got to go, Nix has got to go.

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