ESPN Begins Layoffs of Nearly 300 Staffers

ESPN has started the process of laying off nearly 300 staffers as the company evaluates its “continued strategic evolution” in a changing TV landscape.

ESPN chief John Skipper told employees in a memo that the Disney-owned sports powerhouse was implementing a reorganization designed to “ensure we’re in position to make the most of new opportunities to build the future of ESPN.”

Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN has about 8,000 employees worldwide, with 4,200 in the U.S. ESPN is one of the most valuable TV properties in the world but it is not immune to the turbulence in the domestic cable business at present. Disney CEO Bob Iger sparked a Wall Street panic back in August with his acknowledgement during an earnings call that ESPN would face U.S. subscriber losses in the coming years.

At the same time, the cuts of a fraction of ESPN’s workforce are focused on adapting to new technologies, the expansion of its TV and digital businesses around the world and new demands on the advertising and distribution front.

With the MVPD world shrinking, the need for an old-school distribution sale force is diminishing, while advertising sales have become infinitely more complicated as data- and psychographic-driven buying systems take root for major advertisers. The cuts today may well be replaced in the coming months by hires with entirely different skill sets.

Skipper in his memo said those receiving pinkslips would get a minimum of 60 days notice and severance packages commensurate with their years at the company.

“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,” Skipper wrote.

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