This seemed inevitable: as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on, ESPN is asking some of its top earners to take pay cuts of 15% for the next three months.
The news was first reported on Monday by the Sports Business Journal. SBJ also reports that the cuts are voluntary, and executives are taking even larger cuts, from 20% for VPs to 30% for executive VPs.
Importantly, ESPN also claims that the pay cuts will help the network avoid furloughs. Earlier in April, Disney announced plans to furlough all of its non-union park employees and furloughed another 43,000 union employees this weekend, effective as of April 19th.
ESPN forwarded a statement to SBJ about the pay cuts, and SBJ tabbed a quartet of (somewhat obvious) names that seemingly would be affected.
In a statement emailed to SBJ, ESPN said, “We are asking about 100 of our commentators to join with our executives and take a temporary salary reduction. These are challenging times, and we are all in this together.”
ESPN talent being impacted includes studio hosts like Stephen A. Smith (who makes a reported $8M per year) and Mike Greenberg (who makes a reported $6.5M per year), and game analysts like the highly paid Alex Rodriguez and Kirk Herbstreit, both of whom pull in seven figures per year.
As much as pay cuts suck, they do make sense at this time, especially for someone without much of anything to do. Someone like Rodriguez isn’t calling live games for ESPN right now, and considering that’s by and large what they pay him to do, asking him to take a pay cut is logical, especially if it helps people *not* making millions of dollars a year.
I’m curious if this will be the only cost-savings move from ESPN during the pandemic, or if we’ll see more actions over the coming weeks (and possibly months). Will ESPN take the DAZN route and decide to withhold rights fees? It wouldn’t surprise me if the live sports shutdown keeps rolling on.