Layoffs hit ESPN on-air talent as 100 staffers lose jobs

ESPN will shed 100 staffers, most of them on-air talent, as the network works to retrench in the wake of falling subscription revenue, increased rights fees and a more concerted focus on digital content.

ESPN president John Skipper made the announcement on Wednesday (April 26), noting that "changes" in the talent lineup will be implemented this week.


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"A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions," wrote Skipper in a note to employees posted on the network's web site. "Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent—anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play—necessary to meet those demands."

RELATED: The 15 highest-earning sportscasters of 2017

15 highest-earning sportscasters 2017
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15 highest-earning sportscasters 2017

15. Charles Barkley
"Inside the NBA," CBC, Turner

Salary: $1.5 million annually

Source: Total Sportek


14. Gary Neville

Salary: $2.5 million annually

Source: Total Sportek

Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic 

13. Mike Tirico

Salary: $3 million annually

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

12. Chris Berman
NFL, SportsCenter, Commentator

Salary: $3 million annually

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

11. Joe Buck
Fox Network

Salary: $3 million annually

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York)

10. Stephen A Smith

Salary: $3 million

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams/FilmMagic)

9. Al Michaels

Salary: $5 million

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

8. Jim Nantz

Salary: $5 million

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

7. Dan Patrick

Salary: $5 million

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

6. Max Kellerman
ESPN, Boxing Pay-Per-View

Salary from ESPN: $3 million
Salary from PPV: Uknown

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

5. Skip Bayless
ESPN, Fox Sports

Salary: $5.12 million

Source: Total Sportek

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for IAVA)

4. Jon Gruden

Salary: $6.5 million

Source: Total Sportek


3. Thierry Henry
SkySports, BBC

Salary: $6 million

Source: Total Sportek

REUTERS/Eric Vidal

2. Bob Costas
NBC Sports

$7 million

Source: Total Sportek

Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

1. Jim Rome
CBS Sports Radio

Salary: $14 million

Source: Total Sportek

Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports


"These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company," Skipper continued. "I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN."

Skipper did not specifically identify staffers or the number of employees that will be let go. But longtime ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder tweeted this morning that he has been laid off.

"After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I've been informed that I'm being laid off by ESPN effective immediately," Werder tweeted. "I have no plans to retire."

Other ESPN personalities are seeing their roles "significantly reduced," a person with knowledge of the situation told The Hollywood Reporter. They include Baseball Tonight's Karl Ravech, ESPN Radio's Ryen Russillo, college basketball reporter Dana O'Neil, NFL analyst and Super Bowl winner Trent Dilfer and Hannah Storm, who has been a mainstay at ESPN for a decade and hosted various iterations of flagship SportsCenter.

And some have already left: Kaylee Hartung, who covered college sports for the network for the past several years, will shift to CNN.

The last time ESPN undertook layoffs was in 2015 when big-ticket personalities Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons were let go. That year, the Bristol, Connecticut-based network eliminated 300 jobs, which was close to 4 percent of its workforce. There were also layoffs in 2013. But this year's cuts are much more visible given that the vast majority of them will happen to on-air reporters, analysts and play-by-play announcers.

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