ESPN laying off 150 employees in another round of cuts
ESPN is laying off about 150 employees, including people who work in studio production, digital content and technology, the sports company said Wednesday.
The cuts, which are the latest sign of the financial pressures the Bristol, Conn.-based operation faces, follow a round of layoffs in April that included the departure of about 100 employees, among them several on-air personalities.
The paring back of staff at ESPN, a unit of Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., comes as the sports outlet has been struggling to adapt to changes in consumers’ television viewing behavior. For years, Disney has counted on having ESPN and other premium channels distributed to nearly all pay-TV homes, but cord-cutting has eaten into revenue generated by that business.
In 2010, ESPN, long a Disney profit center, was available in nearly 100 million homes in the country, but it is now in about 87 million, according to Nielsen data.
“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” John Skipper, president of ESPN, said in a statement posted to its website.
The latest cuts are due in part to changes in workforce needs as ESPN reallocates some resources for new ventures, including a forthcoming streaming service, according to a person familiar with the matter at ESPN who was not authorized to comment publicly.
The Times reported on the current round of layoffs in November.
ESPN, which has about 8,000 employees, also laid off about 300 people in late 2015, while opting to not renew the high-priced contracts of some star talent, including Colin Cowherd, who later went to Fox Sports.
Earlier this year, Disney announced a standalone ESPN streaming service, ESPN Plus, that is aimed in part at helping the company capture younger viewers who have turned away from traditional pay-TV options. Disney is planning to launch the service in spring 2018 (a similar service for films and TV shows is set to follow in 2019).
“We’re going into that business because we believe that our direct-to-consumer opportunities, given the technology that’s out there, are significant and given the fact that we’ve got these great brands and franchises,” Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said during a November conference call with analysts to discuss the company’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings.
Disney’s media networks unit — whose crown jewel is ESPN — had a tough fourth quarter, reporting segment operating income of $1.48 billion, a drop of 12% from a year earlier. Its operating income declined on a year-over-year basis for the sixth quarter in a row.
Staff writer Stephen Battlaglio contributed to this report.
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