ESPN To Cut More Than 40 On-Air Personalities in May

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The struggle at the World Wide Leader in Sports is real.

Over the past year or two, ESPN watched as big name on-air talent bolted for the exit to sign on with Fox Sports.  Now, it looks as if there will be more firings on the way, but instead of just leaving, they will be shown the door.

Yahoo Finance has the details of when and how many on-air personalities will be making their exit.

“It’s been widely reported since March that the next big round of ESPN layoffs will hit on-air talent, but now we know more on the timing: the cuts will begin on May 1, sources at ESPN tell Yahoo Finance.

ESPN will part ways with more than 40 people, all of them “talent,” a label that ESPN applies to radio hosts and writers (almost all of whom regularly do video or audio), not just traditional TV personalities. ESPN says it has 1,000 people in the category. Still, you can expect most of the people cut to be faces you’ve seen on TV. In some cases, ESPN may buy people out of existing long-term contracts.

The cuts will mostly be done by May 9, when Disney announces its quarterly earnings, but could extend until May 16, when ESPN presents its annual Upfronts in Manhattan.

In a statement, an ESPN spokesperson said the approaching cuts are about innovating to suit the needs of consumers: “Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports.”

ESPN’s last major layoff round was in 2015, when it cut around 300 employees—a much larger number than is coming in May, but this time it’s viewer-facing, recognizable names.”

The reason for this is clear as ESPN has seen its subscriber numbers drop, with more and more people cutting the cable cord for other avenues.

“The reasons are clear if you’ve followed the fallout of cord-cutting: ESPN (and Fox Sports 1 just as much) is seeing viewership fall and rights fees continue to rise. ESPN pays fat fees for the right to show Monday Night Football ($1.9 billion per year through 2021), NBA games ($1.4 billion through 2025) and the College Football Playoff ($600 million through 2026), to name just a few. Its total programming costs are up to $8 billion this year. The situation is not tenable.”

In the past two years, Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, Mike Tirico, and Skip Bayless all left the network, some by choice and some via firing.

Big time names like Scott Van Pelt, Michael Smith, Jemele Hill, Mike Greenberg, Stephen A. Smith and the personalities from “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption” are reportedly in the safe zone for these firings next month.

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