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ESPN could start issuing pink slips next week

The layoffs are part of a broader cost-reduction strategy at parent Walt Disney Company, and could affect key on-air talent.

The layoffs are part of a broader cost-reduction strategy at parent Walt Disney Company, and could affect key on-air talent.

Sports media brand ESPN is preparing to issue a sweeping round of layoffs, with the pink slips distributed as early as next week, according to multiple reports.

The job cuts are expected to impact on-air correspondents, analysts and other key broadcast talent at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut and elsewhere.

News of the layoffs were first reported on Wednesday by CNBC media correspondent Alex Sherman and the website Front Office Sports. It followed reports by Bloomberg and the New York Post that warned of layoffs at the sports network earlier this year.

Officials at ESPN have not commented on the reports.

The layoffs are part of a broader cost-reduction strategy announced by the Walt Disney Company late last year. In February, Disney CEO Bob Iger warned that 7,000 jobs would be eliminated as part of the strategy. ESPN is operated as a joint venture between Disney and Hearst Television; Disney owns a majority, controlling stake in the network and streaming service ESPN Plus.

The cuts come as Disney tries to curb producing and marketing costs as the company pivots away from traditional television toward direct-to-consumer streaming products.

In March, executives at ESPN were told to review the subordinates within their job groups to identify key, essential workers as well as positions that overlap in job functions. That task was first reported by the New York Post.

According to Front Office Sports, ESPN is carefully evaluating some of its highest-paid on-air talent who have one year or less to go on their contracts.

“This is really going to impact people with expiring contracts,” one unnamed source reportedly told Front Office Sports, warning that ESPN and Disney could ultimately buy out the contracts of some talent early, while allowing other employment agreements to expire. Other employees could be asked to take a pay cut of up to 50 percent.

The layoffs at ESPN would be the second of three rounds of job cuts that Disney announced earlier this year. The first round of cuts occurred in March, with Disney letting go of workers in its Beijing offices and those who were tasked with building out various metaverse-related products. The third round of layoffs is expected later this summer.

ESPN has implemented mass layoffs just three times in its 44-year history. The first layoffs occurred in 2015 and saw 300 workers receive pink slips. Two years later, another 250 workers were let go. Pandemic-related layoffs impacted 300 jobs in 2020.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).