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ESPN will shed 100 staffers, most of them on-air talent, as the network works to retrench in the wake of falling subscription revenue, increased rights fees and a more concerted focus on digital content.
ESPN president John Skipper made the announcement on Wednesday, noting that “changes” in the talent lineup will be implemented this week.
“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” Skipper wrote in a note to employees posted on the network’s website. “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.
“These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company,” Skipper continued. “I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.”
Skipper did not specifically identify staffers or the number of employees that will be let go. But longtime ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder tweeted this morning that he has been laid off.
“After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I’ve been informed that I’m being laid off by ESPN effective immediately,” Werder tweeted. “I have no plans to retire.”
So did college basketball reporter Dana O’Neil; “Add me to the list. Just got the ‘call.’ I’ve been informed my contract will not be renewed at ESPN.”
Danny Kanell, who hosted ESPN’s radio Rusillo and Kanell, with Ryen Russillo tweeted: “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.”
About 100 on-air staffers — out of 1,000 across the company — were told Wednesday that they will no longer be utilized, though the network will honor their contracts. The vast majority of those people will not be seen on the air for ESPN again, though in a handful of cases others will make final appearances in the coming days or weeks.
Other ESPN personalities may see their roles “significantly reduced,” a person with knowledge of the situation told The Hollywood Reporter. They include Baseball Tonight‘s Karl Ravitch, ESPN Radio’s Ryen Russillo and Hannah Storm, who has been a mainstay at ESPN for a decade and hosted various iterations of flagship SportsCenter. An ESPN source said that Russillo will continue at ESPN Radio. And Russillo tweeted on April 27: “Ok…Im staying and I’ll be on the radio Monday 1ET, just like the last 8 years…”
ESPN executives will continue to evaluate talent contracts in the near term; and there very well could be more talent exits, some of them high-profile. Several contracts are coming up for renewal soon, including that of SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross, whose contract is up in July. An ESPN source said the network hopes to keep Buccigross.
Some anchors have already left: Kaylee Hartung, who covered college sports for the network for the past several years, will shift to CNN.
The last time ESPN undertook layoffs was in 2015, when the Bristol, Conn.-based network eliminated 300 jobs, which was close to 4 percent of its workforce. That year, ESPN also parted ways with big-ticket personalities including Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons, who eventually went to HBO.
There were also layoffs in 2013. But this year’s cuts are much more visible given that the vast majority of them will happen to on-air reporters, analysts and play-by-play announcers.
April 26, 8:58 a.m. Updated with details about Buccigross‘ employment status.
April 28, 11:00 a.m. Updated with Russello’s April 27 tweet.
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