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.
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.