Early Wednesday morning ESPN began making phone calls to some of its employees to inform them they were being laid off and in some cases, fired. Around 100 employees were affected by layoffs although the exact number is unknown.
Many of the writers, reporters and broadcasters who got “the call” were familiar faces and long-time employees of the company, and others were not as well known. Here are some of the biggest names to be let go: NFL reporter Ed Werder, SportsCenter anchor Jay Crawford, NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, MLB writer Jayson Stark, ESPN correspondent Reese waters, Danny Kanell from ESPN radio’s Russillo and Kanell, SportsCenter anchor Darren Haynes, and NBA reporter Ethan Sherwood Strauss.
Many of them went to Twitter to share the news.
After 14 wonderful years my time at espn is over. From Cold Pizza to First Take to SC I made more friends than I can name. Forever grateful! pic.twitter.com/WNkUGuXeVl
— Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) April 26, 2017
After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I’ve been informed that I’m being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire
— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 26, 2017
For 17 yrs I’ve had a dream job covering baseball for ESPN. Today is my last day. Thanks to all the great people at ESPN, MLB & all of you!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 26, 2017
So, I am no longer with ESPN, as of today. I want to thank all the great people I’ve worked with and, of course, the readers + listeners
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 26, 2017
ESPN essentially just put a Band-Aid over a deep, hemorrhaging gash that desperately needs stitches.
The ugly and unfortunate truth is, these 100 layoffs won’t fix ESPN’s problems, so a large number of respected, talented media members with years of experience were let go for a lost cause. ESPN essentially just put a Band-Aid over a deep, hemorrhaging gash that desperately needs stitches. What ESPN is experiencing is money problems, or cable subscription problems. They are losing subscribers and advertising dollars at an alarming rate. Over the last several years, ESPN has lost millions of subscribers, at a rate in the hundreds of thousands per month. On top of those losses, they owe billions to professional sports leagues for the rights to air their product as well as other live events. Therefore, recent layoffs aren’t going to turn around the company’s financial crisis.
The problem ESPN is having stems from a rapidly changing industry but more than that, a vastly changed world in which the way people consume, and prefer to consume their content. To watch ESPN you need to pay for a monthly subscription or pay for a cable TV package that includes ESPN, which is one of the most expensive television subscriptions to have.
But ESPN isn’t the only large and popular network or company at the mercy of the technology boom, social media age and streaming era. In a not so distant future, cable TV will be completely obsolete. So what ESPN is dealing with here is not an issue of having too many writers and reporters on the books, but an outdated business model. What sports media outlets like Bleacher Report and Barstool Sports are doing to ESPN is similar to what ESPN did to Sports Illustrated.
Moving forward they need to create more corporate partnerships, probably with their competition, to deal away some of their broadcasting rights and alleviate some of their financial responsibility. This will have a far greater impact on fixing their problems than letting go of some of the most recognizable and lovable personalities on their programs. Of course, not everyone was outraged or saddened by the layoffs. There were many people who took to Twitter to celebrate some of the talent let go Wednesday, and they even made a guessing game out of who would be gone, but trolls will be trolls.
Ultimately what ESPN needs to do is tap more into the social market by creating content exclusively on apps, and curated specifically for FaceBook, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter. By now they should know this, and hopefully they do. What’s certain is that ESPN subscriptions are too expensive and not worth it for the casual fan. The way people are consuming content has vastly changed and is continuing to change rapidly. I happen to still have ESPN as a part of my cable package but I can’t remember the last time I watched it on TV. I mean, why would I when I have my phone.
People shouldn’t be paying for a subscription but instead be able to purchase the live events they want to see like a boxing match or a UFC fight, and the rest of the content should be free and 100% available on demand and on social media.
At a time like this, and probably a long time ago, ESPN needs to talk to Gary Vaynerchuk and ask GaryVee. If the company doesn’t make significant changes to their business plan and strategy things will only get worse. More employees may get fired, shows will get cut and eventually ESPN as we know it will die altogether. But then again, that has already happened.