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ESPN will reportedly undergo massive layoffs again

03.06.17 at 10:13 am ET
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ESPN laid off roughly 300 workers in October 2015. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

ESPN laid off roughly 300 workers in October 2015. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

For the second time in three years, it looks like ESPN will undergo significant layoffs. But unlike the purge in 2015, which primarily affected workers behind the scenes, faces that appear in front of the camera will likely be casualties this time around.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN management has been ordered to trim tens of millions of salary from its payroll over the next four months. The company will reportedly buyout contracts in order to fulfill the mandate.

In a statement sent to SI, ESPN said these anticipated moves are a part of the network’s evolution.

“We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them,” it reads. “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.”

It’s no secret that ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers in recent years. In February 2011, the network was available in more than 100 million households. As of December 2016, that number was down to 88.4 million. With soaring rights fees –– ESPN now pays $3.3 billion annually to broadcast the NFL and NBA –– and a decreased customer base, the company’s business model is being challenged. The decreased advertising revenue coming out of Bristol is one of the reasons why Disney, ESPN’s parent company, reported lower-than-anticipated first quarter earnings last month.

ESPN remains the dominant force in sports broadcasting. But in a changing media landscape, the challenges it faces aren’t going away. These expected layoffs are another reminder of this grim reality.

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