It’s not often that we’ve had the chance to associate the word “biblical” with ESPN. However, according to the Sporting News, biblical best describes the current freak-out level amongst talent at the sports cable giant.
One week after finding out about massive layoffs, overwhelmingly targeted at the “on-air” side of the network, a source has told the Sporting News, that the impending cuts have set off a “panic of biblical proportions” among ESPN on-air talent.
The last round of layoffs at ESPN probably set off a panic as well, but without the attention this one has received, since the previous round targeted support staff only with over 300 production and behind-the-scenes types getting let go.
This time, however, the layoffs will be televised with many on-air personalities said to be on the chopping block.
A source told the Sporting News, “Everybody’s calling their agent. Nobody is safe.”
According to Sports Illustrated, the layoffs won’t take place all at once. Instead, they’ll stretch out over the course of next four months.
Another source told the Sporting News, “The analysts are responding very differently than the non-athletes. Ex-jocks are used to coming and going. The non-athletes are more panicked.”
ESPN has gone from 100 million subscribers to just 88 million in the last five years. A crushing blow in any era, this massive subscriber loss has occurred while exclusive TV rights fees for sports leagues has grown exponentially. ESPN will pay the NBA $1.4 billion dollars annually for the next seven years, in addition to paying the NFL $1.9 billion per year through 2021.
And that’s for “Monday Night Football,” one game per week.
As noted just last week, while cord-cutting is its own separate issue, ESPN’s ratings have taken a hit as well though not necessarily due to its live sports programming. Instead, the ratings hits have come on “Sportscenter,” and ESPN’s opinion/commentary shows.
The hosts of those opinion shows will be the ones watching for pink slips over the next four months.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn