ESPN makes hundreds of layoffs, cites losses from pandemic
COVID-19 has impacted the sports world, derailing leagues and college sports. The fallout now includes those working in the sports industry.
ESPN, the self-proclaimed ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports,’ will reportedly lay-off hundreds of staff members on Thursday. With sports and entertainment business struggling across the board, the juggernaut of the industry is apparently not immune to the coronavirus.
ESPN will begin to cut about 500 jobs starting today. The cuts will be a combination of about 300 layoffs and 200 open positions that won’t be filled, with remote production expected to be hit especially hard (@Ourand_SBJ).
— Sports Business Journal (@sbjsbd) November 5, 2020
In a statement made on Thursday morning, ESPN acknowledged the upcoming cuts:
“For some time, ESPN has been engaged in planning for its future amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s effect on ESPN clearly accelerated our thinking on all fronts. Today, as a result of these circumstances, we informed our employees that we have made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce to create a more agile, efficient organization.”
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro also sent a note to employees this morning, according to the Sports Business Journal.
“The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions,” Pitaro said in the note. “In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm. We have, however, reached an inflection point.”
It is unclear how deep and wide these cuts will be and what the impact will be on the broad-reach of the network as well as its massive digital presence.
ESPN, through parent company Walt Disney and its auxiliary networks of ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU as well as the SEC Network and the ACC Network (and ABC), have a tremendous impact on the coverage of college sports. A broadcast partner for nearly every prominent athletic conference, ESPN’s programming is a staple of college football and college basketball.
There is also the extensive coverage of less prominent sports on the conference-affiliated networks as well as on ESPNU, all of which could be impacted by Thursday’s decisions.
Ratings for college football have reportedly been flat so far this season. The return of the NFL to the airwaves in September has been mixed for ESPN as well, affecting the bottom-line of the company.
A lack of tourism to Walt Disney properties, due to COVID-19, is another underlying reason for the usually-buoyant company’s struggles in 2020.