ESPN begins layoffs of nearly 300 employees

By Doug G. Ware  |  Oct. 21, 2015 at 9:54 PM
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BRISTOL, Conn., Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Sports network ESPN started laying off nearly 300 of its staffers Wednesday, a company official said, as the channel navigates an evolving television landscape that includes "cord-cutters" and declining cable TV subscriptions.

The Connecticut-based network is in the midst of a major budget trimming mandated by its parent company, Disney, which reportedly told the network earlier this year to cut $100 million for 2016 and $250 million for 2017. The network has disputed those figures but has not provided corrected figures.

The layoffs began Wednesday and cut across all departments and all salary levels, the Hartford Courant reported. The job cuts will impact employees around the world, but two-thirds of the layoffs will occur at the channel's Bristol, Conn., headquarters.

ESPN has already been cutting back this year. In July, it declined to renew the contracts of personalities Colin Cowherd and Keith Olbermann. In May, it decided to part ways with Bill Simmons.

All three personalities have since found new jobs elsewhere.

"These changes are part of a broad strategy to ensure we're in position to make the most of new opportunities to build the future of ESPN," CEO John Skipper said in a memo to employees Wednesday. "Our 36 years of continuous growth and success has been driven by our consistent willingness to reimagine our future, to embrace change and make the right choices for our business, including hard decisions that affect people who have been integral parts of our efforts."

ESPN has about 8,000 employees worldwide and about 4,200 at its Bristol headquarters. All laid off staffers are being given the option to remain with the network for at least 60 days and receive severance packages and job placement assistance, the Courant report said.

A round of layoffs two years ago cut about 125 jobs.

Analysts have said the cuts are arriving as ESPN faces ongoing fiscal challenges in the face of the growing "cord cutting" movement -- consumers who have ditched cable subscriptions for Internet-based TV.

Disney CEO Bob Iger himself addressed the problems during an earnings call in August, during which he said the network could expect losses of U.S. subscribers in the coming years.

The new round of layoffs at ESPN is expected to take several days to complete, the Courant reported.

"I realize this process will be difficult -- for everyone -- but we believe the steps we are taking will ultimately create important competitive advantages for our business over the long term," Skipper wrote in the memo.

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