ESPN announces second round of layoffs this year

Published on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 21:50
Written by JUSTIN MUSZYNSKI

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL - ESPN on Wednesday announced it is laying off 150 employees. The company would not comment on whether any of its Bristol staff will be laid off.

ESPN President John Skipper made the announcement in the morning through a memo that went to network employees.

“We appreciate their contributions, and will assist them as much as possible in this difficult moment with severance, a 2017 bonus, the continuation of health benefits and outplacement services,” Skipper said in the memo. “They will also appreciate your support.”

Skipper added that the majority of the jobs eliminated are in studio production, digital content and technology. The elimination of these positions “generally reflect decisions to do less in certain instances and re-direct resources,” the memo continued.

This round of layoffs was preceded by the elimination of 100 positions on April, which included many on-air TV personalities. Those followed 300 layoffs in 2015, in addition to another round in 2013.

Wednesday’s announcement comes as ESPN has been dealing with declining ratings, with cable viewership falling, as the company has lost nearly 13 million subscribers in the last six years. The self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports” continues to try to adapt to the habits of modern-day sports fans, as many have dropped typical cable providers in favor of streaming services.

ESPN employees about 8,000 people worldwide, including more than 4,000 in Connecticut. The most recent round of layoffs coincide with a number of new initiatives that have already gone into effect, as well as more planned in 2018 - some of which target a younger audience.

“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” Skipper said Wednesday.

Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said, “I have spoken with ESPN and while we are disappointed that these employees are being affected, we are pleased that they have offered severance, continuation of health benefits and outplacement services to the employees whose jobs were eliminated.

“ESPN is a very important partner in Bristol and we understand that there are times of corporate growth and there are also the lean times. We are facing many of these same challenges here at City Hall. We are confident that as the economy continues to improve, and ESPN continues to innovate to meet the evolving demands of their consumer base, they will continue to be a major contributor in the entertainment industry.”

Steve Yavner, a sports journalism professor at Central Connecticut State University, said from an outside perspective, it feels like ESPN might be “scaling back” or “recalibrating its plan,” but “continues to do what it does and does it really well.”

Earlier this month, the sports media conglomerate launched a short form version of SportsCenter on Snapchat. This came after the company in October cancelled its partnership with Barstool Sports after only airing one episode of a sports talk show. Barstool, a satirical sports and men’s lifestyle blog, has been linked to a younger audience, but has also been criticized for some of its questionable content.

In the spring, ESPN is planning to launch its own on-demand streaming service, ESPN Plus. It is also planning to re-launch the ESPN app in the next few months and premiere a new show hosted by Mike Greenberg in New York.

According to a statement issued by the company earlier this month, fans have viewed nearly 1.2 billion SportsCenter video clips to date in 2017 (more than 4 million per day) on ESPN.com and the ESPN mobile app. Additionally, fans have logged nearly 67.7 million hours of time streaming SportsCenter on the ESPN App.

Lorenzo Burgio contributed to this story.

Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or jmuszynski@bristolpress.com. Follow Justin Muszynski on Twitter @muszynskiBP.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General Business on Wednesday, 29 November 2017 21:50. Updated: Wednesday, 29 November 2017 21:53.