UPDATE 4/26: The layoffs at ESPN are said to be closer to 100, according to sources. Here is an updated list of the biggest names laid off by ESPN.
The layoffs at ESPN might turn out worse than predicted, sources tell Sporting News.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports could cut around 70 TV/radio anchors, reporters, analysts and online writers over coming days and weeks, sources said.
That would be worse than the 40 to 50 on-air talents predicted by ESPN book author James Andrew Miller during a podcast with Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated.
The higher numbers may reflect the inclusion of online writers like respected Titans beat reporter Paul Kuharsky who tweeted Monday his contract is not being renewed.
“This could be a bloodbath,” warned one source.
ESPN’s corporate campus was “eerily silent” Tuesday, said another source, as staffers anxiously waited to see who’ll survive what management is euphemistically describing as a “right-sizing.”
“It’s like the dead calm before a horrible storm,” said the source.
ESPN management would argue that salaries for on-air talent have gotten out of control.
Some ESPN stars are earning from $1.5 million to $3 million, according to Miller. They’re not going to make that kind of scratch at other networks. To save their jobs, some of these talents are accepting pay cuts to stay with the network, said sources.
It’s no coincidence the layoffs are taking place before ESPN parent Disney’s release of its 2nd quarter financial results on May 9.
With ESPN losing 12 million subscribers over the past five years, the brass in Bristol have to show Disney management and Wall Street its willing to bite the bullet on costs.
“They’re not growing. So the only way to show fiscal responsibility is to lay people off,” said a TV insider. “This is all Wall Street-driven. This is all about Disney ordering a Code Red.”
ESPN declined to comment.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some ESPN anchors fearing the loss of their jobs are proactively asking management if they can cut their salaries, sources tell Sporting News.
The move to renegotiate existing contracts makes some sense. ESPN is poised to lay off or buy out dozens of your favorite ‘”SportsCenter” anchors, reporters, commentators and online writers over the coming days and weeks.
Rather than waiting for the Turk to come knocking on Cutdown Day, some on-air personnel, and/or their agents, are asking if they can keep their job in exchange for reduced pay.
Their pitch: They love ESPN. They don’t want to leave. They’re willing to accept deep pay cuts to stay with the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
It’s worth a shot, but it remains to be seen how successful…