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Reports: ESPN prepares for major layoffs

Significant cuts part of Disney’s US$5.5bn cost-saving operation.

21 March 2023 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • No target number in place for the number of jobs to be cut
  • On-air talent and off-air executives among those under scrutiny

Sports broadcasting giant ESPN is preparing to make significant staff layoffs as part of Disney’s restructuring operation, according to multiple reports.

Last month, Disney chief executive Bob Iger announced the media giant would cut 7,000 jobs to achieve US$5.5 billion in cost savings, with the elimination of jobs to be made across the company’s various units. The New York Post reports that ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro has now briefed heads of departments to make their divisions as efficient as possible, with no target number in place for the number of employees needed to be let go.

The newspaper adds that scrutiny will be placed across all of the broadcaster’s operations, with everyone from on-air personalities to high-ranking executives at risk of losing their jobs. The cuts are expected to occur by the end of April or early May.

While remaining a profitable business for Disney, ESPN has suffered from the drop off in cable TV subscriptions, with its reach falling to around 74 million homes. Speaking at the recent Morgan Stanley TMT Conference, Iger said it was “inevitable” that ESPN would become a fully direct-to-consumer (DTC) service, with the Post reporting it will happen in the next few years. The network’s ESPN+ streaming service was recently confirmed to have an increase of 600,000 subscriptions during the last fiscal financial quarter, taking it to 24.9 million subscribers in total.

The network has previously undergone several rounds of layoffs over the last ten years. Most recently, the broadcaster cut 300 jobs and chose not to fill 200 positions during the pandemic.

In 2017, ESPN let go of 250 employees across two rounds of cuts, including a sizeable number of on-air talents. Front Office Sports (FOS) reports that the upcoming layoffs may not be considered as severe as it was six years ago.

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