ESPN will eliminate 500 positions, including 300 currently filled, according to an internal memo from chairman Jimmy Pitaro.
"Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports," said Pitaro in the memo, sent Thursday and subsequently published by Deadline. "The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm.
“We have, however, reached an inflection point," he continued. "The speed at which change is occurring requires great urgency, and we must now deliver on serving sports fans in a myriad of new ways. Placing resources in support of our direct-to-consumer business strategy, digital, and, of course, continued innovative television experiences, is more critical than ever."
As a sports vertical, ESPN has been heavily impacted by the 35% to 50% declines in sports' TV ratings seen since major-league sports franchises resumed play following being on hold during the early months of the pandemic.
Moreover, ESPN is owned by Disney, which has taken severe hits to core businesses including movies, theme parks and cruises.