On Wednesday, Bristol-based ESPN said the company will lay off 150 employees. This is the third major round of layoffs in the past two years. The company laid off 400 employees in 2015. Last April, it let go about 100 journalists and on-air personalities.
Rich Hanley, an associate professor of Journalism at Quinnipiac University, says that ESPN faces a major drawback from millions of subscribers leaving cable.
“ESPN is seeking to recalibrate itself to the realities of contemporary sports media. It paid hundreds of millions of dollars for rights fees for pro and college sports. But now it’s so many millions of subscribers leaving cable it’s caught in a revenue versus expense trap of its own making. It has to somehow make up for that loss revenue. Sportscenter and these shows similar to that where you have hosts talking with highlights is drawing fewer and fewer viewers. So there probably will be cutbacks in the scheduling of highlight shows, so they simply don’t need studio personnel.”
Hanley says even though things may look bleak for the company, ESPN is not going anywhere. “ESPN is not going away, they’re not going to have mass layoffs, or they’re not going to shut down – they’re simply recalibrating themselves to meet the new digital reality.”
ESPN President John Skipper said employees working in studio production, digital content, and technology will face elimination. Those affected will receive severance pay, a 2017 bonus and the continuation of health benefits.
ESPN has received millions of dollars in tax incentives from state government to remain in Bristol. The company employs 4,000 people at its Bristol headquarters and 8,000 people worldwide.