It looks like there are big changes underway at Bleacher Report. At least two prominent people (Marc Kohn, the senior director of video programming, and Barrett Sallee, the lead SEC writer and national CFB video analyst) have already left the company, and Awful Announcing sources indicate that around 50 positions may be cut this week. It appears that Kohn is leaving for a video role at Barstool Sports, while Sallee’s post doesn’t indicate a destination (beyond the radio roles he’s currently serving in), but it sounds like there are many more changes to come. It also sounds like B/R may be drastically changing what they cover. Here’s the key part of Sallee’s post on his departure:
Tuesday was the last day that you’ll see content from me under the B/R banner. Due to changes in direction, the need for day-to-day coverage of college football was no longer needed.
Beyond those two prominent departures, sources have told Awful Announcing that most of the college football and CFB recruiting staffers have been laid off, and that the video department is being downsized. The video change in particular is interesting, as Kohn was promoting B/R’s future in that realm as recently as October. Here’s the key part of what he told sportsvideo.org’s Brandon Costa then, in relation to their live productions of three high school football games:
“We’re going to be involved in this space for some time to come,” he explains, “but, right now, we are really focused on being able to zero in on these three games, learn a lot, and then figure out where we are going to take this next.”
Maybe Bleacher Report won’t be taking those high school live productions anywhere next. And maybe their college football coverage will be dropping off as well. It’s notable that it’s under “More Sports” on their homepage, behind the likes of college basketball and the NHL (that’s apparently a common move in the offseason, but has been done later after National Signing Day in the past). Keep in mind that Bleacher Report is owned by Turner, too, and Turner has good reasons to cover the NBA, MLB and college basketball thanks to rights deals (and has to cover the NFL, given its popularity), but has much less incentive to cover college football than ESPN or Fox. It will be interesting to see how Bleacher Report’s video and college football coverage evolves from here.
Update: A source close to the situation told AA that Kohn’s departure is separate from the other cuts, as he left on his own to take the Barstool job. The source also emphasized that Bleacher Report is growing overall, hiring 170 people over the last year, and currently has 45 open positions, and that they’re focused on their premium content (doubling down on video with emphasis on compelling storytelling and shareable content such as Game of Zones and Gridiron Heights, as well as text from big-name writers like Mike Freeman, Howard Beck and the key contributors to B/R Mag). The source said these cuts in particular are a very isolated situation and mainly involve B/R reducing duplication and essentially shutting down any last pieces of its user generation roots. The source also indicated that Bleacher Report remains committed to video and covering college football, regardless of Turner’s rights agreements, including content from its top CFB writers and other day-to-day coverage that comes from aggregated sources.
It should be noted that Sallee was not a “user-generation” hire. He’s a respected writer and reporter who joined Bleacher Report from College Football News in March 2012, and provided plenty of credibility for their site. Also, while Kohn’s departure was of his own volition, he’s a prominent loss as well. These other cuts may have an impact too. While B/R is hiring elsewhere, it’s clear they’re changing how they do things. We’ll see how that works out.