ESPN, viewed until recently as a fortress of money and power in sports media, announced a new round of layoffs on Wednesday that further illustrated its deteriorating position in the changing landscape of the 2010s.
The current layoffs involve far fewer people than one in 2015, but this time they targeted a number of on-air personalities and reporters familiar to the public, thus garnering far more attention.
Two key factors putting financial pressure on the company are the massive rights fees paid for major sports properties and the ongoing loss of subscribers — more than 10 million since earlier this decade — as “cord-cutters” find alternatives to traditional cable TV bundles.
ESPN did not release a list of those dismissed, or the number of people involved, but many took to social media to announce their layoffs themselves, including such long-time ESPN fixtures such as NFL reporter Ed Werder.
Also among those announcing they had been dismissed were NFL analyst Trent Dilfer and football analyst/radio host Danny Kanell, a former Giants quarterback.
In a letter to employees, ESPN president John Skipper wrote, “Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent — anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play — necessary to meet those demands.”
The list of layoffs, which is expected to total about 100, shows a clear emphasis on retaining (and paying for) personalities that resonate across platforms over those tasked with basic reporting.
The network in recent years has emphasized personalities on “SportsCenter,” in part on the assumption fans now have access to highlights and basic information through smart phones.
ESPN, once a profit center for its parent company, Disney, has become a drag in recent years. The network is looking to adapt to changing times by making itself available by means other than traditional cable or satellite packages.
Competition for live game rights only will accelerate in coming years from digital behemoths such as Amazon, Facebook and Google.
Particularly hard hit among those announcing their departures were reporters who cover the NHL and college sports.
Among other familiar names on their way out were baseball writer Jayson Stark, college basketball analyst Len Elmore, motor sports reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, legal analyst Roger Cossack, golf reporter Dottie Pepper, radio host Robin Lundberg, college basketball reporter Dana O’Neil, columnist Johnette Howard and writer/columnist Jane McManus.
Tweets from those affected ranged widely in tone. One of the starkest came from Kanell, who wrote, “Poured my heart and soul into ESPN for last 8 years. Moved my wife and 3 kids to CT to go “all in” 5 years ago. Bummed it ended in 3 minutes.”
ESPN employees who tweeted that they had been laid off include:
— NFL reporter Ed Werder
— NFL analyst Trent Dilfer
— MLB reporter Jayson Stark
— Reporter Jane McManus
— College football analyst/radio host Danny Kanell
— College basketball reporter Andy Katz
— Reporter Britt McHenry
— Outside the Lines reporter Steve Delsohn
— Columnist Jim Caple
— MLB analyst Dallas Braden
— MLB analyst Raul Ibanez
— MLB analyst Doug Glanville
— SportsCenter anchor Darren Haynes
— SportsCenter anchor Jade McCarthy
— Radio host Robin Lundberg
— College basketball analyst Len Elmore
— NBA reporter Ethan Sherwood Strauss
— Correspondent Reese Waters
— SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford
— College football reporter Brett McMurphy
— Legal analyst Roger Cossack
— Golf reporter Dottie Pepper
— Columnist Johnette Howard
— MLB analyst Jim Bowden
— Hockey reporters Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald
— College basketball reporters Dana O’Neil and Eamonn Brennan
— ESPN Dallas columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor
— MLB writer Mark Saxon
— Big Ten football reporters Austin Ward and Jesse Temple
— College football recruiting reporter Jeremy Crabtree
— ESPNU anchor Brendan Fitzgerald
— Soccer writer Mike Goodman