The latest round of ESPN layoffs included basketball icons Chad Ford and Marc Stein and while the names might come as a surprise, it’s just a sign of the times. The depth and breadth of layoffs in sports media and media in general has been on-going for years in the US and Canada.
Layoffs end my 16 yr run covering the NBA Draft for ESPN on June 30. Will do my best to make next 60 days special for our Insider readers
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) April 29, 2017
Informed I’m among ESPN’s layoffs. But basketball, as they say, never stops. To readers/viewers/listeners/countless colleagues … grateful
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) April 28, 2017
This round of layoffs is just the second (we’ll be nice) shoe to drop as Disney tries to maintain the profitability of their sports franchise and the rational is basically the same with TSN/Bell Media and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.
In 2015, Michael McCarthy in Sporting News reported the shocking (at the time) ESPN layoffs.
One week ago, ESPN unceremoniously laid off 300 employees, many of them well-regarded producers, programmers and editors at the peak of their talents and careers.
Their career prospects may be bleak in a sports media industry riven by cutbacks, ageism and shrinking cable TV audiences.
McCarthy wasn’t wrong. Disney had their sights set on further cuts in the near future. The continued loss of big names in sports media like Ford and Stein was as predictable as it was unbelievable.
Disney ordered ESPN to trim $100 million from its 2016 budget and another $250 million in 2017.
Joe Drape and Brooks Barnes bring the picture up to date in The New York Times. As cable subscribers turn away in droves, ESPN has been paying record amounts for access to programming.
The network has lost more than 10 million subscribers over the past several years. At the same time, the cost of broadcasting major sports has continued to rise. ESPN committed to an eight-year, $15.2 billion deal extension with the N.F.L. in 2011; a nine-year, $12 billion deal with the N.B.A.; and a $7.3 billion deal for the college football playoffs, among many others.
Those looking for careers in sports media should probably take note. This trend of continuing cost reductions (layoffs) because pressure on revenues doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
A January 2016 article in the The Star by The Canadian Press highlighted just some of the decimation in Canada.
It was another bleak day for Canadian news outlets on Monday as Rogers Media moved to trim its workforce by 4 per cent — or 200 jobs.
Bell Media cut 380 jobs from its operations, production and editorial staff in November.
Like ESPN, Rogers got caught up in paying record amounts for access to sports programming in a cable TV market that has continued to see downward pressure in subscribers.
The 12-year agreement, announced jointly by the NHL and Rogers in a Tuesday morning press conference, is for $5.232 billion (Canadian). It’s the largest media rights deal in NHL history and one of the largest media rights deals in Canadian history. It is also Canada’s largest sports-media rights agreement. – NHL.com
The trend includes traditional print media as well as TV and radio. It’s been well documented that newspapers have struggled adjusting to the on-line environment and they’ve coped, as best they could, by continual cost cutting and that means fewer jobs for journalists.
For NBA fans, Ford and Stein are just a recognizable tip of a series of very large icebergs.