UPDATE (2:55 p.m. ET): The New York Post reports that Scott Van Pelt, Dick Vitale, Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jay Bilas are among those who have agreed to take the pay reduction for the 90-day period.
Original post (2:26 p.m. ET):
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the suspension of live sports, and ESPN is taking a significant financial hit as a result.
Walt Disney Company is now asking ESPN’s top paid staffers, both executives and on-air talent, to accept pay cuts.
Variety reports the network is looking for cuts of 15% that would range over three months of pay cycles, and it reflects hope that this move will decrease any need for furloughs for the low-level network staffers who don’t earn the millions that some ESPN on-air personalities do.
“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,” the network said in a statement.
Sports Business Journal previously disclosed the likelihood of pay cuts.
As Variety notes in its report, this pay cut request comes as studio talent is already putting in more hours, since there are no live sports to fill prime-time and weekend afternoon hours. There are more hours of Sports Center, more hours of Scott Van Pelt in late night and more of a focus on ESPN’s morning show Get Up.
Some of the network’s most visible on-air talent, including Stephen A. Smith, Van Pelt, Mike Greenberg, Holly Rowe and Doris Burke, participated in a PSA for COVID-19 late last month. Perhaps their understanding of how severe this pandemic is will influence these highly paid sports newsers to “take one for the team,” so to speak, and help out their colleagues and their families. At least for a little while.