In the aftermath of several high-profile talent exits, ESPN insists all is well at the iconic sports franchise. “We are confident in our relationship with fans and comfortable with change,” ESPN president John Skipper told The New York Times. “We have a deep bench and a bright future.”
The bench, of course, was far deeper just weeks ago. In May, the network declined to renew the contract of Bill Simmons. Earlier this month, Keith Olbermann learned his show would not be renewed. And just last week, Colin Cowherd announced he would leave ESPN for Fox Sports.
As The Times’ Richard Sandomir notes, the network has been forced to balance big-salary talent with the rising costs of sports television and the declining revenues of cable TV:
ESPN paid $7.3 billion for the college football playoff, which made its debut earlier this year, and $15.2 billion for National Football League rights.
In each of the last four quarters, those big investments cut into operating profits of the cable networks division at the Walt Disney Company.
And, like other cable networks, ESPN is losing subscribers as customers leave their pay-TV providers and seek out unbundled viewing options like Netflix.