ESPN is laying off a portion of its staff today, a network spokesman confirms to us. How many? ESPN won't say. A tipster told us earlier today that it would be more than 400 staffers. A source at ESPN said that number is a little high, but it appears to be in the hundreds.
Here's the statement from ESPN:
We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive.
So where in the world did this come from? ESPN is monstrously profitable and we hadn't heard a word about this until this morning. Well, ESPN has been gobbling up live rights to events left and right, and those rights are really expensive. We've heard they needed to reduce costs as a result. Also: ESPN's parent company Disney is apparently asking all divisions to cut costs.
This is ESPN's first major staff reduction since 2009.
We heard the technology group is getting hit pretty hard: at least 40 layoffs are coming there. A source told us that some employees who get a pink slip today can continue working through the end of the week if they'd like. ESPN has 7,000 employees.
UPDATE, 11:54 a.m.: A laid-off ESPN employee writes us:
I was laid off from ESPN today after 9 and a half years. Completely out of the blue, no warning at all. I was told it was 10% across the board, which would be roughly 400. I was told the reason was they needed to make their profit margin and they chose to do that via layoff of staff.
UPDATE, 12:10 p.m.: More from the laid-off staffer:
btw.....we were told that the layoffs ARE tied to the profit margin that ESPN needs to meet and the fact they haven't met that number. Your comments about them buying all of these live rights and now needed to reduce overhead costs is dead on.
Additionally, this staffer got the following:
- gets to keep key cards and access until Friday
- will continue to get paid through the end of July
- a severance package, which appears to be 2 weeks for every year worked
UPDATE, 12:20 p.m.: A reader writes that ESPN's "Denver Office in the Denver Tech Center was shut down yesterday. All 20 staff members were let go." A second source told us the same thing about the Denver office.
UPDATE, 12:25 p.m.: Those Guys Have All The Fun co-author Jim Miller hears that the number of layoffs is between 300 and 400.
UPDATE, 12:39 p.m.: By the way, Disney's stock hit an all-time high two weeks ago. God.
UPDATE, 12:48 p.m.: More from our source who was just laid off by ESPN:
The majority of the layoffs today and tomorrow are in Technology...something like 40 people, at least that's what I've heard. All three HR people assigned to Technology are handling layoffs today and tomorrow. No idea what is going on in the other departments. I was told ESPN was forced, by Disney, to do the layoffs due to profit margins. The end numbers / percentages, may not be exactly what they're telling us as we're being laid off. The last time there were layoffs, ESPN used it as an opportunity to get rid of older, higher paid workers, while continuing to fill jobs, including the same jobs of people who were laid off (Supervisors in Operations, for instance). I haven't quite figured out why they didn't try salary reductions, or at least offer salary reductions as an option / alternative to being laid off. It doesn't seem like they're quite the people caring company they'd have people believe they are.
UPDATE, 1:05 p.m.: Reminder: Last week, ESPN released a video of its huge new SportsCenter set. The building that's going to house that set is going to cost ESPN $125 million.