ESPN fires Werder, more than 100 other network names

By Alex Butler
ESPN's Ed Werder and Chris Berman. Werder was fired Wednesday after 17 years as an NFL reporter for the network. Photo courtesy of Ed Werder/Twitter
ESPN's Ed Werder and Chris Berman. Werder was fired Wednesday after 17 years as an NFL reporter for the network. Photo courtesy of Ed Werder/Twitter

April 26 (UPI) -- Sports giant ESPN fired one of its best NFL analysts a day before the NFL Draft and several big-name hockey analysts during the Stanley Cup playoffs Wednesday.

ESPN president John Skipper sent out a staff memo Wednesday announcing the cuts.


Werder announced the news of his departure on his Twitter account, as did many other network names.

"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. While surprised and disappointed, I was fortunate to have worked @espn with so many devoted, talented journalists. I will always be grateful."

Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky, Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun, Dana O'Neil, Brendan Fitzgerald, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden, Brett McMurphy, Jeremy Crabtree, and many other prominent network personalities were among those who announced the news of their departures on social media.


The network previously fired other big names including Bill Simmons and Keith Olbermann. Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, and Mike Tirico also chose to leave the network in recent years.

"ESPN has been actively engaged throughout its history in navigating changes in technology and fan behavior in order to continue to deliver quality, breakthrough content," Skipper wrote in the company memo. "Today, we are again focused on a strategic vision that will propel our vast array of networks and services forward."

"A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions. Our content strategy — primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand — still needs to go further, faster ... and as always, must be efficient and nimble. 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. We will implement changes in our talent lineup this week. A limited number of other positions will also be affected and a handful of new jobs will be posted to fill various needs.


"These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company. I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.

"Our objective in all we do is to best serve fans and their changing consumption habits while still maintaining an unparalleled and diverse talent roster that resonates with fans across all our platforms. We will continue to foster creativity and investment in the products and resources necessary to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead."

"Thank you as always for your continuing dedication to our work."

CNN Money reported in March that Disney told ESPN to cut $250 million from its 2017 budget. Disney also told the network to cut $100 million from its 2016 budget, according to the report.

"We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them," ESPN said in a statement to Sports Illustrated in March. "Today's fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports."


ESPN had 88.4 million household subscribers in Dec. compared to 100.002 million in Feb. 2011, according to Sports Illustrated. The network pays $4.3 billion annually to broadcast the NFL and NBA.

"Tied to the news ESPN President John Skipper shared with ESPN employees this morning, we first wanted to thank our colleagues for their collective contributions," ESPN said in a statement. "It is important to us to provide some additional context on how our content is evolving. In short, given how fans' habits are changing, our focus continues to be providing high-quality, distinctive content at any minute of the day on any screen."

Multiple sources, including Yahoo Finance and Sports Business Journal, report that ESPN will fire more than 100 employees Wednesday.

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