Kenny Mayne, the longtime ESPN announcer and humorist, is set to leave the Disney-owned sports-media outlet after a more-than-quarter-century run that had him hold forth on “SportsCenter,” tackle horse racing coverage and appear in some other, very unique showcases.
On Twitter, Mayne cited “salary cap casualty” as the reason for his decision. He has been with the outlet since 1994 and in recent months had been appearing several nights each week on the 11 p.m. edition of “SportsCenter.” Mayne was said to have been offered a package to remain, but declined, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mayne’s dry, offbeat humor has made him popular with viewers and even ESPN’s business associates. For years, he held forth at an annual presentation by ESPN to its advertisers, and became one of the highlights of the TV industry’s “Upfront Week.” For a time he even was the center of “Mayne Street,” a scripted web series that depicted him as a blundering sports reporter trying to make his way. Mayne has also hosted “Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports,” another digital-first program that had him travel to see unique sports around the world.
Maybe became known for uttering some of the most original — and inscrutable — sports descriptions in the business. ”Your puny ballpark is too small to contain my gargantuan blasts. Bring me your finest meats and cheeses!” he once crowed when someone hit a home run during a baseball game.
”My premise is, I like words a lot more than sports,” Mayne told Entertainment Weekly in 1998. ”I’m not as big a sports nut as maybe I’m supposed to be.”
ESPN has over the last year tried to reshape its staffing structure for a new era. In November, the company disclosed it planned to eliminate 500 positions — 300 employees and 200 posts that were unfilled –in a bid to free up resources for streaming, digital and other kinds of video experiences designed for the new ways fans are engaging with sports.
ESPN has thrived for decades on the outsize fees it gets from cable and satellite distributors who carry its suite of sports networks. But as more fans cut their tether to traditional TV, linear networks are shedding subscribers. Even as that happens, the rights fees ESPN must pay to broadcast NFL games, NBA matches and MLB showdowns are steadily rising. ESPN recently struck a new decade-plus pact with the National Football League, for example, that calls for the company to pay an annual fee of $2.7 billion, compared with the $2 billion per year it was paying under the most recent agreement. And the company is placing more emphasis on its ESPN Plus broadband service, even moving some of its higher-value web content under its pay umbrella.