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ESPN staffers are bracing for another round of layoffs, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The layoffs will hit employees in various divisions, including on-air talent and executives, and are expected to number 100. ESPN currently has about 8,000 employees.
ESPN declined comment. But sources confirm that the layoffs will commence after the Thanksgiving holiday. Sports Illustrated first reported the number and timing of the layoffs on Thursday, though they’ve been rumored for several weeks.
The network pink-slipped 100 on-air reporters and journalists last April, a highly public exercise given the stature and length of employment of many of those affected. And in 2015, the company laid off about 300 people, about 5 percent of its workforce.
ESPN has been in the process of realigning its priorities as the network has been buffeted by sagging subscription revenue and escalating rights fees. In 2014, ESPN reached a new nine-year deal with the NBA worth $1.4 billion annually, an increase of close to 200 percent over the previous agreement. At the same time, cord-cutting has reduced ESPN subs from more than 100 million in 2011 to around 87 million today. At the time of the NBA deal, ESPN was still in 96 million homes.
However, the company is adding jobs as it builds out its OTT service — via Disney’s purchase of BAMTech — which is set to launch next year. And executives are bullish on the ACC Network, which is set to launch in 2019. They’ve secured several carriage deals, including with PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, YouTube TV and Hulu. (Disney owns 30 percent of Hulu.)
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Jamie Lee Curtis