Throughout the early part of this week, word has begun to leak that ESPN was going to be making some serious cutbacks. More to the point, the Worldwide Leader was getting ready to lay off 350 employees, and just in time for the holiday season.
On Wednesday, the layoffs will begin, with most of the people to be whacked making six figures. This is a large-scale move by ESPN, that is reportedly trying to shave $100 million off the budget for 2016 and $250 million the following year, according to The Big Lead. This shift comes largely because the TV superpower is trying to figure out how to change its model in the ever-shifting world of sports media.
Below is the memo sent out by president John Skipper to the ESPN employees, discussing the layoffs within Bristol, per the ESPN Media Zone:
"The demand for sports remains undiminished, though the landscape we operate in has never been more complex.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.Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals – a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization.We carefully considered and deliberated alternatives before making each decision. The people who will be leaving us have been part of ESPN’s success, and they have our respect and appreciation for their contributions. We will be as supportive as we can during this transition, including providing a minimum of 60-days notice, a severance package reflective of their years of service, and outplacement benefits to help them find future employment.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. These ongoing initiatives include:Constant and relentless innovation, including integrating emerging technology into all aspects of our business.Enhancing our sales and marketing efforts with new tools and techniques that generate greater data, personalization and customization for our advertisers.Integrating our distribution efforts to better serve current and future distribution partners with our industry leading networks and services.No matter how many times we’ve adjusted course to lead the industry over the years, the decisions affecting our employees are never made lightly. It never gets any easier, but it’s a necessary part of our continued strategic evolution to ensure ESPN remains the leader in sports as well as the premier sports destination on any platform.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. I sincerely appreciate your professionalism and continued support as we move forward to ensure the continued success of ESPN and assure sports fans everywhere the best is yet to come.John"
For years, it was all about getting the best television packages and building a brand around that. In 2015, fans want to have personalization and immediate news, something ESPN is working toward but not quite there on. For example, ESPN created NFL Nation a few years ago, bringing in a beat writer for every team. The model is very similar to that of FanSided and SB Nation, where every team has its own blog. Again, personalization.
It will be interesting to see if any of the names are recognizable. The shame of it is, most of these people getting the boot are likely hard-working folks who have put sweat equity into the company. Meanwhile, mouthpieces like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless will keep their job and rake in more money than most of us will see in a decade.