The Sporting News first reported a new upcoming round of cuts, with well-sourced writer Michael McCarthy placing the number at between 40-60 and timing in late November or early December. One person with knowledge of the ongoing restructuring told TheWrap that another round was looming, though the headcount is not set in stone.
Our insider said that this round is all about efficiency and cutting down on duplication. After all, the media landscape is nothing like it used to be, and few places are feeling the effects as much as the Disney-owned sports giant.
ESPN declined comment on this story when reached by TheWrap.
ESPN is certainly not alone in the notion that the media behemoths from decades’ past must become leaner — or at least reallocate resources. For example, ESPN’s new ACC Network will be hiring as its parent company is pink-slipping — so it’s not going to be a total headcount loss overall.
Still, it’s been a rough couple of years for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” and cord-cutting has disproportionately impacted the priciest non-premium cable channel. That subscriber loss has been hard to absorb, particularly with the pricey talent contracts and sports rights ESPN had compiled over the years.
And then there is the public perception problem. ESPN has had more than its share of PR issues to deal with lately.
On Monday, the channel canceled “Barstool Van Talk” after just one episode after ESPN personality Sam Ponder resurfaced sexist remarks Barstool Sports boss Dave Portnoy made about her back in 2014. And then there is the Jemele Hill issue — the channel’s “SC6” host can’t stop getting herself into hot water through Twitter.
Hill is nowhere near the first personality to get herself suspended for public comments that go against the Disney brand. Nor is her offense the worst of the bunch: Ryen Russillo was arrested late this summer for entering a stranger’s bedroom naked.
There are more examples of misbehavior inside the Mouse House’s sports-media halls, but there is no need to kick a company when it’s down.
To the contrary, it is important to point out here that for all ESPN’s lost talent and subscribers, the Bristol, Connecticut-headquartered company is still No. 1 in the business — and by a lot. And its problems are certainly not unique to ESPN — they’re just so much more pronounced at the top of the heap.
Still, don’t get too close to anyone, newbie Katie Nolan — it’s unclear who will still be your colleague come Christmas.