The Worldwide Bleeder: ESPN Cuts Hundreds Of Staffers One Week Removed From Its Glitzy Upfront

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hundreds of ESPN employees were laid off today. The cuts were necessary so that the company could meet its profit margin, according to a source. Also, programs such as "Unite" will become extinct as a result of the layoffs.

Hundreds of ESPN employees were laid off today. The cuts were necessary so that the company could meet its profit margin, according to a source. Also, programs such as “Unite” will become extinct as a result of the layoffs.

It’s never a good thing when a person loses his or her job.

It’s especially sobering considering the source of hundreds of job cuts is ESPN.

Yes, the network that just got finished flaunting its new multi-million-dollar studio and its new “SportsCenter” bus at its annual upfront had laid off approximately 300 to 400 people exactly one week later.

The gas for the bus isn’t going to guzzle itself, I guess.

But seriously, this is what happens when ESPN pays more than it can print to secure broadcasting rights for sports programming, including college sports, which will be the basis of the new SEC Network, due to launch next summer. They also operate other regional channels like Longhorn Network in Texas.

Incidentally, on the very same day of these cuts, ESPN announced that they are bringing in Paul Finebaum for duties at its mediums, including a video simulcast of his radio show that will air on the aforementioned SEC Network. He will be based in Charlotte, where the ESPN Radio affiliate is on a spotty AM signal. (Charlotte is one of the few major markets left without an FM sports station, but that’s another blog for another day.)

Could these cuts pave the way for possibly adding big-name talent down the road, like, say, Keith Olbermann? Yes, I’m aware they’re investing in live sports programming, but when in doubt, take the cash from your viewers in the form of a hike. Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if the network’s already highest per-subscriber rate at $5.25 will probably balloon to $7 in a year from now.

Anyway, the cuts appear to be coming from Disney corporate, according to a staffer who had suddenly found himself out of a job. A great deal of ESPN’s cuts will impact its sales department – because, really, it’s cheaper not to have a fully-stocked sales staff, because ESPN just sells itself, doesn’t it? The network’s technology sector is also going to take a hit.

As far as on-air content is concerned, one casualty of this round of layoffs is the ESPNU late-night show, “UNITE.” ESPN analyst Danny Kanell, who co-hosted the program, will likely remain with the network in other capacities, but comedian Reese Waters and others involved with the program will presumably exit stage left.

And other programs could join the list, as the network will be reviewing its studio programming over the next month or so. Sadly, “First Take” will likely remain unscathed.

You can say ESPN has done its share of cold things, but unexpectedly dropping the ax on 10% of your staff has to rank right up there with, well, anything Rick Reilly has ever done.

As for the hundreds of now-former ESPN employees, I have but one tip for you: I’m sure Fox Sports is still hiring. It would make for a revenge game that ESPN has no choice but to cover.

ESPN Upfront 2013 Message: Destroy Fox Sports 1 Or Bus(t)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among other things at their 2013 upfront presentation, ESPN introduced a new bus, as well as a new million-dollar "SportsCenter" studio. Fox Sports 1, launching this summer, likely had a hand in these being created.

Among other things at their 2013 upfront presentation, ESPN introduced a new bus, as well as a new million-dollar “SportsCenter” studio. Fox Sports 1, launching this summer, likely had a hand in these being created.

Before I paint the picture of ESPN’s annual upfront presentation for 2013, let me first give you a quick recap of last year’s edition: the place was packed with advertisers and sports media observers (of course, the show is mostly for the advertisers). The headliners were “stars (including would-be ESPN analyst Ray Lewis), a marching band (the one belonging to The Ohio State University) [and] mascots (Mr. Met and Al E. Gator, among others).” Many of the announcements last year included the unveiling of a new ESPN Radio app, and the expansion of Bill Simmons’ Grantland franchise.

You could say that this year’s ESPN upfront presentation was just a little bit different: oh, sure, the ad buyers and sports media flacks packed the house again, and sports stars were once again present; in fact, New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera “closed” the event (watch the righty, currently in his final year in the major leagues, shadow Lewis and become an analyst next year; in fact, bank on it). And yes, there was some more mascot mischief.

But when you’ve got a competitor in Fox Sports 1 launching in a few months – perhaps the first network in the Worldwide Leader’s existence that can call themselves a legitimate competitor – not only do you have to top your previous upfront, oh, no: you also have to top Fox Sports 1’s upfront in March.

Yes, there was your average slew of announcements – new slate of “30 For 30” documentary films; new football (“NFL Insiders”, replacing the incumbent “NFL32”) and soccer (“ESPNFC”) programs; new “ESPN The Magazine” “body issue” featuring San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in all his tattooed glory, much to the chagrin of David Whitley.

But there were two gigantic things that ESPN unveiled at this year’s upfront.

First, starting next year, ESPN’s “SportsCenter” shows will emanate from a brand new, state-of-the-art – make that continent-of-the-art, it’s so huge – 193,000 square foot studio, being billed “Digital Center 2.” Estimated cost to erect the set: $125 million.

Yes, cable subscribers, that is where your hard-earned inflated cable bill dollars is going.

Oh, and you’ll also be footing the bill for fuel that ESPN will be needing to get around in their brand new bus!

The vehicle, dubbed “SportsCenter On The Scene,” will be mobile for many sporting events year-round. Among its features, according to the network, are “satellite technology, bureau kit camera, lighting and equipment to do a live shot.” Yes, but will it prevent the trajectory of rogue water bottles being thrown in its direction?

By the way, ESPN’s “SportsCenter On The Scene” bus is said to be the first vehicle for the Worldwide Leader since Stephen A. Smith’s old late-night talk show on ESPN2, “Quite Frankly.”

And ESPN president John Skipper was quite frank in talking about the soon-to-be-launched Fox Sports 1 and other competitors that are already in battle (CBS and NBC Sports Network, just to name a couple) in the sports cable trenches. “We like competition,” he admitted. “It makes us better.”

Well, if it took Fox being committed to a new national sports cable network for ESPN to make a dramatic upgrade in their “SportsCenter” set and add a pair of wheels, what took them so long?

Yes, who needs the duo from the Canadian version of “SportsCenter” (that would be Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, who will be leaving TSN to anchor Fox Sports 1’s nightly “Fox Sports Live” program) when you can watch who we have in a breathtaking new structure!

There’s ESPN bidding aggressively on sports broadcasting contracts – and it is these contracts, as well as long-term carriage deals with cable companies, that Skipper says is the backbone of ESPN’s success – and then there’s flat-out largesse.

A bus? Really? Were plans for a “SportsCenter In The Sky” helicopter a little out of hand?

In a related item, earlier in the day, Fox Sports fired a salvo and announced that when the current Speed channel morphs into Fox Sports 1 on August 17, its action sports-themed network Fuel will indeed be transformed into Fox Sports 2 on the very same day. A third Fox Sports network (Fox College Sports?) can’t be far behind at this point.

But for now, with its splashy “look at how much money and talent we have” upfront, ESPN wins the day in the end.

The question is, will they win the fight with the elephant in the room that will be Fox Sports 1?