ESPN is slashing the editorial division responsible for esports coverage less than one week after cutting 500 positions across the company.
The esports editorial section, first created in 2016, will be phased out by January, the network confirmed Thursday. At least 10 people are affected by the move, though the network declined to discuss exact numbers.
“We have made the difficult decision to cease operations for our dedicated daily esports editorial and content,” a company rep said in a statement. “We recognize esports as an opportunity to expand our audience, and we’ll continue to do so through coverage from the broader team for major events, breaking news and coverage.”
ESPN’s esports division was “unable to achieve the reach or scale to break through or make a meaningful impact” on the industry, sources close to the deal said. The network is instead diverting resources elsewhere, though it will continue to cover live esports events — it secured rights to several upcoming gaming competitions including “NBA 2K,” “Madden,” “V10 R-League” and virtual racing competition “F1 Esports.”
With the closing of ESPN Esports, gamers lose the largest and most mainstream source of esports coverage. There are other outlets covering the space — including The Esports Observer, Esports.com, or Esports Insider — but all operate with less resources and reach than ESPN’s outfit did.
The company announced Nov. 6 it would lay off 300 staffers and revoke 200 job openings, the latest restructuring aimed at cutting costs. At the time of the layoffs, ESPN boss Jimmy Pitaro told TheWrap, “prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions.”
Pitaro added that tightening the budget is “all in an effort to weather the COVID storm.”
See reactions from some of the writers at ESPN — and fans of their coverage over the years — below.
most of us are still employed or contracted through early january which is why we can't we can't create "competing" content in the meantime (IE doing a league of legends show on our personal channels)
— Daniel J. Collette (@DanielJCollette) November 11, 2020
Hey all. Unfortunately I was one of the many to be affected by the layoffs at ESPN. I've worked in all facets of production at @ESPN_Esports and I am proud of the work I got to do there. If you're looking for a producer/video editor you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. ❤️
— Thomas Tischio (@tischphotos) November 6, 2020
Hey, everyone. Unfortunately, I just found out that I am being laid off. I'm not sure what comes next. For now, I'm just reflecting on how proud I am of this group and the growth @ESPN_Esports had this year. Being here for it is one of the highlights of my journalism career.
— Sean Morrison (@sean_morrison) November 5, 2020
Yesterday still hurts, a lot, but seeing what I think is @JacobWolf’s best story this year go live takes a bit of the sting away. Check it out. More next-gen content on the way early next week! https://t.co/5Fagbwx4gq
— Sean Morrison (@sean_morrison) November 6, 2020
Turns out I got the call today too and am one of the people who has been laid off by ESPN. It's been so much fun working here, first on the copy desk and then ESPN Esports, and I'm proud of the work my co-workers and I have done.
— Brian Bencomo (@Brian_Bencomo) November 6, 2020
It feels weird that the ESPN Esports vertical will no longer be around but for posterity, here are a few things I wrote for it that I'm quite proud of:
— Emily Rand (@leagueofemily) November 11, 2020