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.

Fox Sports War With ESPN Gets Upfront And Personal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Sports will likely use the money reserved for a potential regional sports network deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers (who have since agreed to a deal with Time Warner Cable) and beef up the resources for their new Fox Sports 1 and 2 networks, which will launch in August. (Pictured: News Corp. chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch and then-Dodgers owner/president Peter O'Malley, who left the team the year this photo was taken in 1998; credit: NY Times.)

Fox Sports will likely use the money reserved for a potential regional sports network deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers (who have since agreed to a deal with Time Warner Cable) and beef up the resources for their new Fox Sports 1 and 2 networks, which will launch in August. (Pictured: News Corp. chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch and then-Dodgers owner/president Peter O’Malley, who left the team the year this photo was taken in 1998; credit: NY Times.)

Fox Sports is officially putting ESPN on notice in March.

That’s when Fox will be holding their first-ever “upfront” presentation with advertising buyers, with respect to their sports department.

The main focus of the presentation will be the soon-to-be-launched Fox Sports 1 network, as well as a companion Fox Sports 2 channel and the nearly two dozen regional sports networks in their empire.

And Regis Philbin, whom Fox has been reportedly trying to hook to host a daily “The View”-like sports talk show that would air weekday afternoons, is rumored to make a cameo at the presentation.

You know that Fox is planning to convert the Speed channel into Fox Sports 1. But with Fox Sports 2 also being involved in this event, scheduled to take place next month in New York City, it likely signals that both national networks will launch simultaneously. The Fuel network, available in 37 million households, would be sacrificed for Fox Sports 2.

Meanwhile, Speed is available in 87 million homes, which is a footprint 57% larger than Fuel’s distribution, but just 13% less than ESPN’s reach of just over 100 million.

Combined, Speed and Fuel cost just 37 cents per month per subscriber. Fox will be asking for a 400% rate increase for Fox Sports 1 alone, with the going rate for Fox Sports 2 all but expected to rise, especially as it’s available in more households.

Of course, with live sports programming serving as the backbone of these channels, this was a foregone conclusion.

And you can bet that the money that Fox attributed to holding onto their rights to Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasts – the team instead will leave Fox’s Prime Ticket RSN and join forces with Time Warner Cable to form a new regional sports network – will be added to the Fox Sports 1 war chest. Because, let’s face it, Fox is declaring war with ESPN.

And the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader says, bring it on.

“We like our position and the fact that others recognize what we’ve known for a long-time, which is the power of live sports,” taunted ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys.

We know Fox has already locked up programming deals that would bring MLB and college sports broadcasts to Fox Sports 1.

Then there is the NFL. While Fox Broadcasting is about to embark on their twentieth season (and counting) of the NFL, the Thursday night game package, which was expanded from eight games per year on NFL Network to thirteen just last year, is also up for grabs. CBS and NBC might have a reasonable chance to secure that package for their own cable sports networks. And while TNT is currently tied up with the NBA on Thursday nights, I’m sure Turner Sports would love to get back into the NFL broadcasting loop once again.

But the smart money is on the Thursday night package going to Fox Sports when all is said and done.

“If you think Fox Sports 1 won’t pony up the necessary billions of dollars,” writes the Dallas Morning News’ Barry Horn, “you haven’t paid attention to the way Fox Sports has done business over the last twenty years.”

Like Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network before them, Fox Sports 1 and 2 likely will not turn profits immediately upon their launch. An esitmated per-household rate of 90 cents for Fox Sports 1 (that’s only expected to grow over the years) will soften the blow somewhat. But it’ll only be worth the asking price if the programming on Fox Sports 1 is just as good.

Many cable subscribers want an alternative to ESPN. And ESPN, as you can tell by that quote from their spokesperson, welcomes it. They’ve already vanquished a competitor or two. (Remember NewSport?)

Fox Sports 1 will be signing on in six months. The official start date has not yet been confirmed, but I’m speculating August 1 due to it being a Friday and, by the way, the name of the network is Fox Sports 1. Of course, we now have Fox Sports 2 expected to launch at the same time, and both networks planning to hit the ground running with live sports programming starting in August.

Oh, and that new show Regis Philbin will be hosting. Given his co-hosting shows with a female throughout his career, I could see Erin Andrews alongside Regis on this new show. The male/female co-hosting format has basically been in effect on sports cable networks for years (“SportsNation” on ESPN, “Lead-Off” on CBS Sports Network, and most recently, “The Crossover” on NBC Sports Network), so it’s certainly not out of the question here.

It’ll take a lot more than Regis Philbin and Reggie Wayne, but Fox is in this fight for the long haul.

Quoth a Fox Sports exec: “How do you devour a whale? One bite at a time.”