Some time in the next few weeks, ESPN will reportedly lay off around 100 employees, just months after previously laying off around 100 employees. According to Sporting News’ Michael McCarthy, this new round of cuts will save ESPN $80 million in salaries and “other costs.”
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch has reported that “SportsCenter” will be hit particularly hard by the layoffs, which makes sense given how ESPN has seemed to move away from the franchise in its 2018 lineup. Mike Greenberg’s “Get Up” morning show will replace one edition of “SportsCenter,” and The Big Lead reports that the new Bomani Jones/Pablo Torre show will replace the the “Coast to Coast” edition.
We can presume the anchors who host personality-driven “SportsCenter” shows at 6 p.m. ET (Michael Smith and Jemele Hill), 11 pm. (Stan Verrett and Neil Everett) and 1 a.m. (Scott Van Pelt) are safe, and other anchors with premium gigs (Cassidy Hubbarth, Trey Wingo, Rece Davis, others) probably aren’t going anywhere either. But beyond that, it’s tough to be sure.
Of course, ESPN has stumbled financially in the last couple years, as cord-cutting has eroded its subscriber base and bloated rights fees have weighed down its checkbook. Still, we shouldn’t be too quick to believe the cost-cutting narrative surrounding these layoffs. Eighty million dollars is a lot of money, but it’s ultimately not a game-changer for a network worth tens of billions. ESPN’s previous round of layoffs was spun as a cost-saving response to declining revenues as well, but that didn’t stop the network from embarking on a mini hiring spree over the coming months, bringing in big names such as Adrian Wojnarowski and Katie Nolan.
Obviously ESPN is looking to cut costs its revenues stall and sputter. But it’s likely that this round of layoffs is about programming as much as savings. As ESPN moves away from SportsCenter, it doesn’t need quite so many anchors and producers, meaning some have them have to go. Regardless of the precise reason for the layoffs, one thing is quite clear: a handful of recognizable faces will soon be looking for new jobs.