ESPN lays off high-profile talent, including former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy

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ESPN on Friday laid off roughly 20 high-profile commentators, including former New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and former NBA player Jalen Rose.

The layoffs were part of a larger effort at Walt Disney Co. to cut costs, as studios and media outlets face mounting financial pressures to boost profits and reduce debt loads in an uncertain economy.

The sports juggernaut said in a statement that it was seeking additional cost savings, including in the area of public commentator salaries, and that it will look at further reductions when the company negotiates contract renewals in the months ahead.


“This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company,” ESPN said. “These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth.”

The earnings report came as Walt Disney Co. faces a challenge from an outsider, billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, who is seeking election to join the board.

Feb. 8, 2023

ESPN has shed hundreds of jobs in recent years after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down major sporting events and as consumers continued to cut cable subscriptions and migrate to streaming services.

Households with pay TV services, most of which carry ESPN, have been on a steady decline from their peak in 2010.

ESPN has successfully launched a streaming product, ESPN+, but still gets substantial revenue from fees paid by cable and satellite operations that carry its channels.

The most recent layoffs affected on-air talent including boxing commentator Max Kellerman, former NFL football player Keyshawn Johnson and Suzy Kolber, whom ESPN described as “a mainstay of the company’s NFL coverage.” She was the host of “Monday Night Countdown,” ESPN’s Monday Night Football pregame show and Monday Night Football halftime and postgame segments.

“Heartbreaking — but 27 years at ESPN was a good run,” Kolber tweeted on Friday. “So grateful for a 38 yr career! Longevity for a woman in this business is something I’m especially proud of.”


Some of those notified of their job loss Friday had years left on their contracts, and the company will pay those contracts in full and work with talent who may have opportunities that arise elsewhere, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to comment.

Some contracts that are expiring in the months ahead may not be renewed, or talent will be offered less money, the person said.

Already some, such as sportscaster Neil Everett and former NFL football player Rob Ninkovich, have not had their contracts renewed.

The cuts come after three rounds of layoffs at Disney. Earlier this year, CEO Bob Iger said there would be roughly 7,000 job cuts to save $5.5 billion in costs.

Friday’s layoffs were not part of the 7,000-headcount reduction but reflected ESPN’s effort to meet its financial targets and reduce overall costs, the source said.