Nov. 5 (UPI) -- ESPN announced Thursday it will lay off 300 employees and will not fill about 200 open positions, marking its largest number of job cuts in five years.
The sports network, which is owned by Disney, employs about 6,000 people worldwide, 4,000 of whom are in Bristol, Conn. It laid off 300 employees during a round of cuts in 2015.
"Today is hard because ESPN has always been -- and will always be -- fortified by its fantastic people," ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a message to employees Thursday.
"We have, however, reached an inflection point. The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of many ways."
Pitaro said COVID-19 has had a "significant impact" on ESPN operations. Since the start of the pandemic, all major sports leagues have delayed their games and mostly eliminated fan attendance.
Pitaro said the network had introduced various cost-cutting steps before the announcement, like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and operational changes.
"We are parting ways with some exceptional team members -- some whom have been here for a long time," Pitaro added.
"We're very grateful for all they've meant to us, and I assure you we are taking steps to make their transition easier."