Rough news coming out of The Worldwide Leader in Sports this morning.
The Walt Disney Company’s cash chow ESPN will lay off 300 staffers and leave 200 open positions unfilled.
“As you know, we value transparency in our internal dialogue, and that means in both good and challenging times,” ESPN and sports content chairman Jimmy Pitaro wrote in memo sent to staff this morning. “After much consideration, I have some difficult organizational decisions to share. We will be reducing our workforce, impacting approximately 300 valued team members, in addition to 200 open positions.”
ESPN, which employs roughly 6,000 people around the world, will also part ways with some on-air talent once contracts expire.
These layoffs mirror those made by ESPN in Oct. 2015 (300 staffers let go) and 2017 (200 staffers let go).
Pitaro also noted the “tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports,” as well as a greater need to invest in OTT and digital offerings as reasons for these layoffs.
“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 added.
The writing was on the wall here. The pandemic and suspension of live sports hurt ESPN and Disney’s revenue in 2020.
It got to the point where back in April, asked the network’s top paid staffers, both executives and on-air talent, to accept temporary pay cuts, and top personalities, including Scott Van Pelt, Dick Vitale, Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jay Bilas are among those who reportedly agreed to take the pay reduction for a 90-day period this past summer.
“Together, we have overcome tremendous challenges and adversity over these past several months and please know that the decisions and plans executed today were not made lightly,” Pitaro wrote in his memo. “They are, however, necessary and I am convinced that we will move forward and effectively navigate this unprecedented disruption.”
He added: “The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways. Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever.”