UPDATED, 4:50 PM: Longtime baseball guy Jayson Stark and veteran NFL analysts Ed Werder and Trent Dilfer are among the dozens of on-air talent and writers laid off by ESPN today. Also out are such familiar names as NHL analyst Scott Burnside, legal analyst Roger Cossack and Dodgers reporter Doug Padilla, along with SportsCenter anchors Jade McCarthy, Jaymee Sire, Chris Hassel, Jay Crawford and Darren Hayes. ESPN did not release a list people who were laid off — including several with more than a decade on the job — but many of them tweeted about their exit. See a partial list of layoffs at the bottom of this post.
PREVIOUSLY, 6:15 AM: ESPN confirmed that there’ll be a new round of layoffs today that one source says could hit about 100 of the company’s roughly 1,000 public facing on-air announcers and dot-com writers.
No one has been identified yet. These disclosures likely will trickle out once the people affected are told.
“A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions,” ESPN President John Skipper says in a memo to staffers.
Changes in ESPN content must “go further, faster…and as always, must be efficient and nimble,” he says. That means “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.”
ESPN said in March that the layoffs announced today were a possibility.
So far this year sports viewing on Disney networks is down about 4%, Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser noted this week.
But commentary shows such as ESPN’s SportsCenter have been especially hard hit as fans increasingly find the latest scores and video clips on their smart phones. ESPN’s commentary shows are down 16% so far this year, the analyst says.
Disney reported ESPN’s ad sales fell 7% in the last three months of 2016, while programming and production costs grew. Some of that was due to the shifting mix of games in the quarter vs. the previous year.
Costs will continue to rise, however, as the company absorbs the higher price of its new NBA rights deal.
The company plans to launch an ESPN-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service later this year with niche sports events it doesn’t offer to pay TV customers.
“The most important thing for ESPN is to continue to support and nurture their program offerings,” CEO Bob Iger told analysts in February. “Second to that, you have to be willing to either create or experience some disruption as we migrate from what has been a more traditionally distributed world to a more modern or more non-traditional distribution world. And some of that we’re going to end up doing to ourselves, meaning we understand that there is disruption, but we believe we have to be a disruptor, too.”
Here is a partial list of on-air talent and/or writers who were laid off today, at least those who tweeted about it:
Jade McCarthy (SportsCenter anchor)
Jaymee Sire (SportsCenter anchor)
Chris Hassel (SportsCenter anchor)
Jay Crawford (SportsCenter anchor)
Darren Hayes (SportsCenter anchor)
Jayson Star (baseball)
Jim Bowden (baseball)
Mark Saxon (baseball)
Trent Dilfer (NFL)
Ed Werter (NFL)
Jarrett Bell (NFL)
Ashley Fox (NFL)
Paul Kuharsky (NFL)
Jean-Jacques Taylor (NFL)
Justin Verrier (NBA)
Ethan Strauss (NBA)
Calvin Watkins (NBA)
Scott Burnside (NHL)
Pierre LeBrun (NHL)
Joe McDonald (NHL)
Greg Ostendorf (college football)
Brett McMurphy (college football)
Austin Ward (college football)
Jesse Temple (college football)
Brian Bennett (college football)
Max Olson (college football)
Ted Miller (college football)
David Ching (college football)
C.L. Brown (college basketball)
Derek Tyson (college football recruiting)
Jeremy Crabtree (college football recruiting)
Eamonn Brennan (college basketball)
Len Elmore (college basketball)
Dana O’Neil (college basketball)
Chantel Jennings (college sports)
Mike Goodman (soccer)
Robin Lundberg (radio host)
Danny Kanell (radio host)
Dottie Pepper (golf)
Marysol Castro (boxing)
Jane McManus (ESPNW)
Brendan Fitzgerald (ESPNU)
Roger Cossack (legal analyst)
Jerry Punch (auto racing, etc.)
Dave Tuley (sports betting writer)
Rufus Peabody (predictive analyst)
Johnette Howard (columnist)
Melissa Isaacson (columnist)
Tom Farrey (reporter)
Reese Waters (correspondent)