The Walt Disney Co. could start issuing pink slips at its flagship cable sports channel ESPN on Wednesday, and according to several reports the layoffs could be larger than expected.
According to a report in the Washington Post, ESPN is expected to start jettisoning employees on Wednesday in a continuing effort to keep down costs. But the number of workers affected could be larger than the 40 to 50 people expected back in March, with some reports saying as many as 70 TV/radio anchors, reporters, analysts and online writers could get the axe in the coming days and weeks.
ESPN declined comment.
This wouldn't be the first round of layoffs for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. In 2015 ESPN laid off about 300 behind-the-scenes workers.
Pay TV networks have been hit hard as consumers have increasingly cut the cord or switched to less expensive – and less sports intensive – skinny bundles. According to Convergence Research Group, U.S. pay TV customers declined by 2.05 million in 2016 – nearly double the 1.16 million lost in 2015 – and are expected to shed another 2.11 million this year.
ESPN has been clobbered over the past few years, shedding millions of subscribers as consumers have opted out of pay TV all together or drastically reduced their video packages. According to March Neilsen Universe estimates, ESPN was in 87.4 million homes, down 748,000 from January.
This round could include some fairly prominent on-air personalities, according to reports, although none were named. According to a report in Monday’s Sporting News, some workers have approached the company offering to take pay cuts to stay while others have received buyouts to release ESPN from long-term contracts.