ESPN cutting 300 staff to adapt to TV realities

GMT 18:42 2015 Wednesday ,21 October

Arab Today, arab today ESPN cutting 300 staff to adapt to TV realities

ESPN chief John Skipper
New York - AFP

US sports broadcaster ESPN announced cuts of some 300 jobs Wednesday, saying a reorganization is needed to adapt to a changing media landscape.

A memo to staff from ESPN president John Skipper said the company is making changes as part of "a broad strategy to ensure we're in position to make the most of new opportunities to build the future of ESPN."

It will mean "constant and relentless innovation, including integrating emerging technology into all aspects of our business," he said.

ESPN is facing challenges as Americans shift away from cable television to online video which may be less lucrative.

The memo gave no specific number of job cuts but the company later indicated it would be "approximately 300" from a worldwide workforce of roughly 8,000.

"Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals -- a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting  friends and colleagues across the organization," Skipper said.

"The people who will be leaving us have been part of ESPN's success, and they have our respect and appreciation for their contributions.  We will be as supportive as we can during this transition," offering severance and other services.

Skipper said the shift would be accompanied by stepped up sales and marketing "with new tools and techniques that generate greater data, personalization and customization for our advertisers."

ESPN, which is a unit of the Walt Disney Company with a minority stake held by Hearst Corp., faces competition from rival networks such as Fox, part of the Murdoch family's conglomerate, but is also impacted by declines in cable TV subscriptions, which provide much of its revenue.

The group includes eight US cable channels, 26 international networks as well as a variety of radio, publishing and digital assets.

Disney warned earlier this year that the "unbundling" of television cable packages could impact channels like ESPN.

A move away from the large bundles of channels could have a cascading effect of cutting fees from cable firms as well as ad revenues.

The big threat to the industry is from "cord cutting," which has been modest until now. If it accelerates, that could unravel the model which has worked for the industry for years.

Disney shares rose 1.2 percent in afternoon trade to $111.18.

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