ESPN is under fire for bringing political commentary to their “sports” network. Now, the network is paying the price for playing political favorites.
CNBC reports that ESPN will soon lay off more than 100 employees. The cut is scheduled to happen after the Thanksgiving holiday season. Out of all the areas receiving cuts, it is projected that SportsCenter, which some call ground zero of ESPN’s political chatter, will be subject to the most layoffs. At the time, ESPN refused to comment on the claim.
This is the latest series of layoffs to affect ESPN. Since October of 2015, ESPN has laid off over 400 employees.
Starting in October of 2015, the network laid off 300 people, most of whom were upper-level, higher paid employees. These cuts were likely meant to save money due to dwindling viewers.
Following this event, another 100 employees saw layoffs in April of this year. Sports personalities such as former NFL running back Jerome Bettis, NFL insider John Clayton, and quite a few others involved with SportsCenter.
ESPN claimed that they were “constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources and that sometimes involves difficult decisions.” A decline in viewership resulting from ESPN’s increasing political banter has likely influenced these decisions.
According to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, the layoff will impact the company as a whole. On-air talent, producers, executives, and technology staffers alike will be laid off from their positions.
ESPN officials also claimed that they are moving further away from cable and more towards digital streaming services. They are working on an “add-on” service which will allow people to watch ESPN on their smartphones and tablets.
Disney, the parent company of ESPN, reported their earnings this past Thursday. Perhaps unsurprising to many, ESPN missed their earnings projections and succumbed to a four percent drop in their after-hours trading. These losses are in addition to the network’s loss of 13 million subscribers since 2011.
Some have argued that ESPN’s loss of viewers is due to their support of the NFL players’ protest of the national anthem. Specifically, ESPN has praised the players protesting the anthem — although many frown upon this seemingly unAmerican gesture. Combine this factor with on-air personalities expressing their political opinions and issuing outlandish claims, and it is not hard to see why ESPN is losing money.
Jemele Hill, an ESPN anchor, was suspended for making inappropriate remarks. First, she called President Trump a “white supremacist” without citing any evidence to support her claim. However, her suspension only came after she called for a protest of Dallas Cowboys’ sponsors. Her outrage focused on the NFL protests and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones saying that he would bench any player protesting the anthem.
Anchors like this are the cause of ESPN’s failures, many would argue. They manage to alienate the viewers who tune in to be entertained by sports. They don’t want to tune in to ESPN for political banter. The sooner the sports giant understands the desires of their viewers and delivers non-politicized sports coverage, the better off they will be.