“We are asking about 100 of our commentators to join with our executives and take a temporary salary reduction. These are challenging times and we are all in this together,” the Disney-owned sports-media giant said in a statement. Sports Business Journal previously disclosed the cuts.
The salary reductions are likely to affect the network’s highest-paid commentators, who include personalities like Stephen A. Smith and Mike Greenberg. ESPN is seeking cuts of 15%, and would encompass three months of pay cycles, according to a person familiar with the matter. Executives hope the pay cuts will tamp down a need for furloughs, and keep paychecks intact for lower-paid ESPN employees who don’t earn the types of salaries that the big-name personalities do.
ESPN’s efforts are part of broader initiatives at parent Walt Disney to ride out what has become a perfect storm of tough conditions. Some of the company’s biggest operations are to be found in communal events – visits to theme parks and sports matches. But the pandemic has made such things impossible to maintain, and no one is certain how long such conditions will continue.
“We have closed our theme parks; suspended our cruises and theatrical shows; delayed theatrical distribution of films both domestically and internationally; and experienced supply chain disruption and ad sales impacts,” Disney said in a March 19 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “In addition there has been a disruption in creation and availability of content we rely on for our various distribution paths, including most significantly the cancellation of certain sports events and the shutting down of production of most film and television content.”
The request for cuts comes as some of ESPN’s top commentators are working harder and filling more hours on screen. ESPN is featuring more hours of “SportsCenter,” and, earlier in the course of reacting to the pandemic, even ran two different blocks of shows like “Get Up” on a single day. Scott Van Pelt has become even more of a focal point in late-night that he was previously.