It was a tough day for the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports.
Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN cut almost 350 employees—4 percent of its workforce—Wednesday in response to rising programming costs and a loss of viewers.
The network, which commands the highest price per customer among basic cable channels, has lost more than 4 million subscribers in the past four years.
The job cuts are a “necessary part of our continued strategic evolution to ensure ESPN remains the leader in sports as well as the premier sports destination on any platform,” said ESPN CEO John Skipper in a memo to employees that was posted online.
Disney is threatening to sell ESPN directly to viewers if they experience big declines in subscribers over the next couple years cut more costs. Popular networks, such as HBO, CBS and Showtime are already sold independently and seem to be doing just fine.
Skipper said employees affected by the cuts would get a minimum of 60 days’ notice, severance packages and job search assistance.
Read Skpper’s full memo to employees below:
The demand for sports remains undiminished, though the landscape we operate in has never been more complex.
Our 36 years of continuous growth and success has been driven by our consistent willingness to reimagine our future, to embrace change and make the right choices for our business, including hard decisions that affect people who have been integral parts of our efforts.
Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals – a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization.
We carefully considered and deliberated alternatives before making each decision. The people who will be leaving us have been part of ESPN’s success, and they have our respect and appreciation for their contributions. We will be as supportive as we can during this transition, including providing a minimum of 60-days notice, a severance package reflective of their years of service, and outplacement benefits to help them find future employment.
These changes are part of a broad strategy to ensure we’re in position to make the most of new opportunities to build the future of ESPN. These ongoing initiatives include: Constant and relentless innovation, including integrating emerging technology into all aspects of our business; Enhancing our sales and marketing efforts with new tools and techniques that generate greater data, personalization and customization for our advertisers; Integrating our distribution efforts to better serve current and future distribution partners with our industry leading networks and services.
No matter how many times we’ve adjusted course to lead the industry over the years, the decisions affecting our employees are never made lightly. It never gets any easier, but it’s a necessary part of our continued strategic evolution to ensure ESPN remains the leader in sports as well as the premier sports destination on any platform.
I realize this process will be difficult – for everyone – but we believe the steps we are taking will ultimately create important competitive advantages for our business over the long term. I sincerely appreciate your professionalism and continued support as we move forward to ensure the continued success of ESPN and assure sports fans everywhere the best is yet to come.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports