Reports that the ESPN layoffs would not impact on-air talent, appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Moreover, it looks like ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter programs will be hardest hit.
According to a memo from ESPN Executive Vice President Norby Williamson, who oversees the SportsCenter franchise, the network will reduce its number of SC anchors and airings of the program. The evening airings of ESPNews will end on Thursday.
As Williamson explains in the memo:
With these initiatives we will shift existing resources and the current editions of SportsCenter airing on ESPNEWS between 7-11 p.m. will end on November 30.
SportsCenter will continue to air on ESPNEWS from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Sundays during the NFL season.
As always, we will cover important breaking news at all times of day.
How will ESPN reduce the number of SC anchors without actually laying any on-air talent off? The network will accomplish that by not renewing the contracts of anchors whose contract were due for renewal this year.
SI’s Richard Deitsch explains:
Earlier in the month sources within ESPN said they expected some front-facing television talent to be part of this round of layoffs—including on the SportsCenter side. But ESPN management is now likely not to re-sign anchors with contracts coming up in the next 12 months as part of cost savings. What is likely to happen is some SportsCenter shows will be cut from airing on ESPNews, according to multiple ESPN staffers.
That maneuver has a nice political benefit for ESPN as well. By simply letting the contracts of their employees expire, the network avoids the highly-publicized bloodletting that occurred in April, where dozens of instantly recognizable and well-known personalities were suddenly eliminated.
It also has a financial benefit, in that ESPN won’t have to pay severance packages or benefits to former employees who aren’t doing any work for them. In any event, the “company line” that the layoffs would not have an impact on their on-air product, was only partly true.