Personalities to exit in new round of ESPN layoffs

Published on Monday, 6 March 2017 22:29
Written by SUSAN CORICA

STAFF WRITER

BRISTOL - ESPN has plans to lay off some of the personalities who appear on TV, radio and online in the first half of 2017, however rank and file employees will reportedly not be affected.

No announcement has been made about which personalities will be affected, but it seems those with contracts up for renewal may be cut first. ESPN may also buy out some contracts that aren’t ending soon, according to sources as reported on the CNN Money web site.

In 2015 ESPN jettisoned big names Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons, and then later that year laid off about 300 employees at its Bristol headquarters on Middle Street, as well as other locations around the world. The global corporation, Bristol’s largest employer, also had layoffs in 2013.

“We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them,” said Mike Soltys, ESPN’s vice president of corporate communications, in a prepared statement.

“Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports,” Soltys said.

ESPN’s parent company, Disney, has seen great success in recent years thanks to its “Star Wars” and Marvel franchises, and improving results at its global theme parts.

However, Disney CEO Robert Iger’s contract runs out next year, creating management uncertainty just as Disney needs to keep its television offerings relevant in a world increasingly dominated by streaming services.

The company faces “a time of transition” as consumers abandon expensive cable subscriptions, said Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne. That shift threatens Disney mainstays such as ABC and ESPN.

ESPN has been one of Disney’s crown jewels, but with cable viewership declining, its ratings have been under pressure.

It has been the top taxpayer in Bristol by far for years, accounting for 5.69 percent of the city’s tax base on the 2016 Grand List. Its land and property in the city were assessed at $222,486,506.

By agreement with the city, the taxes increase each year on ESPN’s Digital Center 2, which first appeared on the tax rolls in 2014. By 2020, ESPN will have to pay 100 percent of the real estate tax rate, according to the agreement, Assessor Tom DeNoto has said.

Disney revenue and profit at the end of 2016 were hurt by ESPN’s decline and negative comparisons to a year ago, when it released “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Profit dropped 14 percent to $2.48 billion on revenue that declined by 3 percent to $14.78 billion.

Overall cable network revenue fell 2 percent to $4.4 billion, hurt by the lower ESPN revenue. Disney blamed the ESPN results on higher programming costs and lower advertising revenue, partially offset by affiliate revenue growth.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Business, General News on Monday, 6 March 2017 22:29. Updated: Monday, 6 March 2017 22:32.