Another round of layoffs hit ESPN today, with a focus on remote production.
This has been brewing for a while now, with various rumors and reports noting that ESPN employees have been bracing for them, but obviously that doesn’t make it any better for those affected. And according to John Ourand at SBD, ESPN also won’t be filling 200 positions that are currently open, making this essentially a cut of 500 jobs.
Ourand also has ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro’s statement that went out today:
ESPN will begin to cut about 500 jobs starting today. The cuts will be a combination of about 300 layoffs and 200 open positions that won’t be filled, with remote production expected to be hit especially hard. “Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports,” ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said in a note sent to employees this morning.
“The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm. We have, however, reached an inflection point.”
Pitaro’s statement seems to imply, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that those positions were eventually going to be cut anyway due to changing business practices and industry needs. It probably isn’t a huge help to people who were just laid off, or for their colleagues who remain at ESPN, to hear that those cuts were part of a “forward-looking” strategy.
It is at the very least transparent, and hey, there’s probably a point there. In addition to the huge cutbacks in live event production in 2020 (with the possibility of another coronavirus wave shutting things down again this winter or spring), technology has made remote production a lot easier to do overall, and to do with fewer people for less money. Again, that’s probably not a comfort to those laid off, and obviously the round of cuts includes people in other areas, too, not just remote production.
Anyway, as with all stories about massive layoffs, we can summarize succinctly: it sucks.