- Sports Illustrated reports that ESPN is set to lay off more than 100 employees sometime after Thanksgiving.
- “SportsCenter,” the network’s flagship program, is expected to to suffer heavy losses, Sports Illustrated said.
- This would be just the latest in a series of major layoffs at ESPN over the past three years.
Sports Illustrated has reported that ESPN will lay off more than 100 employees sometime after Thanksgiving, with 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, according to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, citing multiple unnamed sources.
According to Michael McCarthy of Sporting News, ESPN is expected to slash $80 million in salaries and other costs some time before Christmas.
“SportsCenter” is still a fixture in ESPN’s lineup, but the network has de-emphasized the program in recent years. In January, the 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. editions of “SportsCenter” were moved to ESPN2 from ESPN, switching places with the debate show “First Take.” ESPN also rebranded the 6 p.m. version of the show as “SC6,” 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 catch up on the latest top plays, 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 $305 million from January to June, down from $408 million over the same period last year.
ESPN has responded by focusing on its dynamic personalities, who 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 hiring of Katie Nolan from Fox Sports was another step in this direction.
At the same time, ESPN has laid off hundreds of employees in recent years. The network laid off nearly 300 employees in October 2015, 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 it was “constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions.”
Sports Illustrated reports that ESPN is planning to wait until late November or early December to announce the layoffs to get employees an additional year in their stock-vesting program. One source told Deitsch that employees in Bristol, especially on the SportsCenter team, were feeling “queasy.”