Layoffs have begun at ESPN with a total of 300 staffers set to be let go, including radio as well as TV personnel. The company, based in Bristol, CT, has approximately 8,000 employees worldwide – 4,200 in the United States. ESPN President John Skipper told employees that the layoffs were for strategic reasons, to “ensure we’re in position to make the most of new opportunities to build the future of ESPN.” In reality, the cuts are likely a direct result of the Disney-owned sports network’s shrinking subscriber base – something that all pay-TV outlets are facing. (See our story “Pay-TV Subscribers Abandoning Ship” in the TV News section.) This was foreshadowed when Disney CEO Bob Iger sparked a Wall Street panic back in August when, during an earnings call, he acknowledged that ESPN would face U.S. subscriber losses in the coming years.
At the same time, the cuts of a fraction of ESPN’s workforce are focused on adapting to new technologies, the expansion of its TV and digital businesses around the world, and new demands on the advertising and distribution front.