ESPN Begins Major Layoffs Despite Enormous Profits

ESPN Begins Major Layoffs Despite Enormous Profits

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Ok we are back, back, back, back, back!

What’s going on here? Forbes calls ESPN the world’s most valuable media property. Earlier this month, the stock of ESPN’s corporate parent Walt Disney Co. hit a record high. Then in what seems like a contrary move, ESPN slashed its workforce.

It’s true, the ESPN  lay offs count to the hundreds although ESPN refused to confirm any number, stating instead: “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.”

One anonymous laid-off employee was quoted saying  10 percent of the 4,000-person staff in Bristol, Conn., was getting the pink slip, but ESPN responded that the 400 estimate is “wrong and high.”

In 2001 and 2009, ESPN also had large-scale layoffs but still ultimately grew its workforce, and there are reports that the network still plans to hire at its new SEC Network.  Layoffs here and hiring there is common in business so that isn’t a surprise but it does have a tendency to piss people off.

But the focus on efficiency comes on the heels of several expensive live sports-rights purchases, staff reductions across Disney divisions and increased competition from other cable sports networks.

“I was told the reason was they needed to make their profit margin and they chose to do that via layoff of staff,” the now ex-employee, who claimed to have been with the network for 9½ years. The entire 20-person staff of ESPN’s Denver office also was dismantled on Monday, according to reports.

ESPN, which averages 115 million viewers a month, is remarkably profitable. In the last quarter, the operating income of Disney’s cable networks rose 15 percent to $1.72 billion, with Disney partly attributing that to ESPN’s success.

The laid-off worker also said that the last time there were layoffs, in 2009, older and more expensive workers faced the brunt of the bloodbath. The cable network stated at the time that it was replacing those jobs with others that “more effectively grow our company.”

ESPN has a superb record of job creation in Connecticut. and the network has received more than $100 million in state tax breaks over the past dozen years and special commendations from the governor for its positive contribution to the state’s economy.

ESPN’s campus has also been physically growing for its 33-year history, from a single 20,000-square-foot building to a million-square-foot complex spread over 123 acres, connected by a shuttle bus.


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