Another round of ESPN layoffs are coming, and apparently some big names are vulnerable.
The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that ESPN management will finalize its list of cuts within the next four to six weeks, and there are no “sacred cows.” Disney, ESPN’s parent company, is expected to eliminate 7,000 jobs across all of its divisions.
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While ESPN remains highly profitable — Marchand says the network rakes in three-quarters of a billion dollars per month due to cable fees alone — Disney lost over $120 billion of its market share in 2022. Its tumultuous recent run prompted Iger to return as CEO late last year, replacing Bob Chapek, who took over in 2020. Chapek presided over one of the most turbulent times in company history, dealing with a failing streaming service (Disney+ lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter last year) and spate of controversies.
This will be the fourth time in seven years that ESPN has undergone massive cuts. The WorldWide Leader laid off 300 people and 250 people in 2015 and 2017, respectively, including big names such as Ron Jaworski and Trent Dilfer. During the height of the pandemic, ESPN let go 300 employees and didn’t fill 200 positions.
According to Marchand, the personalities in the most danger of losing their jobs are those who make close to seven figures and aren’t considered “needle movers.” He writes that lead college football host Chris Fowler, who makes around $3 million annually, is far apart from the network in negotiations over his next contract.
ESPN has spent big money on high-end talent in recent years, signing Joe Buck ($15 million per year) and Troy Aikman ($18 million per year) to announce “Monday Night Football.” ESPN also recently re-signed Stephen A. Smith to a deal worth $12 million annually.
Scott Van Pelt, who also makes a healthy seven-figure salary, is considered untouchable as well, Marchand reports.
In addition, ESPN is still reportedly pursuing Pat McAfee, who’s in the middle of a four-year, $120 million contract with FanDuel.
ESPN has spent big on sports rights over the last few years, most notably the NFL. The network agreed to pay the league $2.7 billion per season as part of its new deal, and will broadcast two future Super Bowls.
In many ways, ESPN’s expected cuts reflect the state of our economy. The rich are getting richer, and there’s less room for those in the middle.