- ESPN is reportedly set to lay off more than 100 employees sometime after Thanksgiving.
- “SportsCenter,” the network’s flagship program, is expected to to suffer heavy losses.
- This is just the latest in a series of major layoffs at ESPN over the last three years.
Sports Illustrated has reported that ESPN will lay off more than 100 employees sometime after Thanksgiving, and the network’s flagship program, “SportsCenter,” is expected to be hit particularly hard.
The layoffs will affect employees across the company, including on-air talent, producers, executives, and technology staffers.
“SportsCenter” is still a fixture in ESPN’s lineup, but the network has de-emphasised the program in recent years. In January of this year, the 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. editions of “SportsCenter” were moved from ESPN to ESPN2, switching places with the debate show “First Take.” ESPN also revamped the 6 p.m. version of the show, breaking from its standard format to allow the hosts Michael Smith and Jemele Hill to showcase their personalities.
All of this points to the show’s waning relevance in a rapidly shifting media landscape. Sports fans of a certain age can remember flipping on “SportsCenter” to find out the latest news and watch the top 10 plays of the day, but many now use social media for updates and highlights.
This shift has been apparent with the company’s bottom line. According to Forbes, “SportsCenter” brought in just $US305 million between January 2017 and June 2017, down from $US408 million over the same period in the previous year.
ESPN has responded by focusing on its dynamic personalities, which move the needle more than an hour-long rundown of sports news. Fans can watch a highlight clip almost anywhere, but stars like Smith, Hill, Stephen A. Smith, and Max Kellerman are not as easy for viewers to replace. The network’s recent hire of the former Fox Sports host Katie Nolan was another step in this direction.
This isn’t the first time that ESPN layoffs have landed in the news. In October 2015, the network laid off nearly 300 employees, focusing mainly on upper-level positions. This past April, 100 more employees were let go, including popular personalities like the NFL insider John Clayton, the former NFL running back and analyst Jerome Bettis, and the MLB writer Jayson Stark. Several “SportsCenter” anchors were also laid off, including Jay Crawford, Jade McCarthy, and Jaymee Sire.
At the time, ESPN said that it is “constantly evaluating how we best utilise all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions.”
Sports Illustrated reports that ESPN will wait until November to announce the layoffs to get employees an additional year in their stock vesting program, but that’s a small consolation for those who are about to lose their jobs. One source said employees in Bristol, especially the SportsCenter team, are feeling “queasy.”
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