ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro has announced to their staffers that approximately 300 people are about to be laid off as their parent company Disney shifts to more direct-to-consumer streaming. The memo follows internal discussions about layoffs related to Covid-19. ESPN will also part ways with some on-air talent once contracts expire.
Here is the memo:
As you know, we value transparency in our internal dialogue, and that means in both good and challenging times. After much consideration, I have some difficult organizational decisions to share. We will be reducing our workforce, impacting approximately 300 valued team members, in addition to 200 open positions.
Today is hard because ESPN has always been — and will always be — fortified by its fantastic people. Teamwork, dedication, spirit and grit have built this place and are what make ESPN special. Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm.
We have, however, reached an inflection point. The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways. Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever. However, building a successful future in a changing world means facing hard choices. Making informed decisions about how and where we need to go – and, as always, in the most efficient way possible – is by far the most challenging job of any leadership team.
And, while it must be done looking through a business lens, it also must be done with great respect and genuine concern for people. We are parting ways with some exceptional team members – some of whom have been here for a long time – and all of whom have made important contributions to ESPN. We’re very grateful for all they’ve meant to us, and I assure you we are taking steps to make their transitions easier. I am proud of the people at ESPN.
Together, we have overcome tremendous challenges and adversity over these past several months and please know that the decisions and plans executed today were not made lightly. They are, however, necessary and I am convinced that we will move forward and effectively navigate this unprecedented disruption. Our Human Resources and Communications teams will continue to keep you posted on any updates, and you’ll be hearing more detail about our future direction in the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything outlined in this note, please do not hesitate to raise them with your leadership team or HR Business Partner.
Bob Ley, the former longtime ESPN host and the highly respected face of its investigative journalism group, laid into the cable sports channel over its recent mass-layoffs.
“Trying to remain objective and unemotional as I learn of the @espn team members laid off today. Not possible,” Ley tweeted on Thursday. “Not as I see countless decades of journalistic experience, and expertise jettisoned. Just when we need it most. Enjoy the DIS stock price and your NFL football.”
DIS is the ticker symbol for ESPN’s parent The Walt Disney Company. Shares in Disney rose about $2 apiece on Thursday. Reports surfaced last week that the network could suffer more layoffs, as its parent company is focuses more on its streaming service. Other legacy media companies have had similar rounds of layoffs related to the pandemic and the shift to streaming this year.