Sports fans reacted with a fury Wednesday to news that ESPN was laying off about 100 employees — including pro football analyst Trent Dilfer, NFL beat reporter Ed Werder and Major League Baseball scribe Jayson Stark — in a move designed to cut costs and realign the all-sports network in an era of online, personality-driven media.
While ESPN did not put out an official list of those being let go, names quickly emerged via Twitter and other social media outlets. Among others being let go: “Sports Center” anchor Jay Crawford, radio host Danny Kanell, college basketball analyst Len Elmore, college basketball reporter Dana O’Neill, hockey writer Joe McDonald, Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and college basketball reporter C.L. Brown.
ESPN made its move after the recent loss of 10 million subscribers, many of them “cord cutters” fleeing cable for streaming alternatives online.
Also thinning the network’s bottom line are the enormous contracts it signed to carry sports like the NFL ($15.2 billion over 10 years) and the NBA ($12 billion over nine years.)
ESPN President John Skipper explained the job cuts in a memo to employees, saying the network was “melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts,” changes he pledged to take “further, faster & and as always, must be efficient and nimble.”
In a statement, ESPN cited programs like its late-night “SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt” and “SC6” with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill as among the host-driven shows it hopes will power the franchise in the future.