ESPN Layoffs Are Business As Usual, Not A Conspiracy

This morning, we learned of another round of layoffs at ESPN, this one directed at on-air talent, reporters and analysts.

In October of 2015, 300 employees were laid off in cost cutting measures. Because the majority of those folks did not appear on camera, and toiled away in anonymous business operations, it didn’t quite hit home in the way that today’s news did.

Rumors of the impending layoffs had been percolating for months. ESPN has lost more than 1 million subscribers since January, and more than 10 million over the last few years. In the face of increased rights fees that the network ponied up and declining advertising revenue, the business needed to make budget cuts. 

The subscriber losses combined with the unabated escalating costs of broadcasting major sports events is the basic element here in examining the why’s of ESPN’s talent purge.

The “Worldwide Leader In Sports” committed to a 10-year, $15.2 billion deal with the N.F.L. in 2011. There’s also the recent nine-year, $12 billion price tag to work with the N.B.A. and a $7.3 billion they paid for the rights to broadcast the college football playoffs.

Whether you’re a Wharton School of Business alum or a homemaker penning this week’s grocery budget, the simple axiom of an income versus cost analysis prevails. When expenses rise and income remains the same or falls, it’s time for some belt-tightening.

Unfortunately, it happens in the commercial sphere all the time. 

Within the last few months, Sears laid off 130 employees at its corporate offices as the company struggles to stay relevant after its dismal performance over the holiday season. In the face of slumping sales, Coca-Cola announced this week that it is parting ways with 1,200 employees in order to become more agile. Once a retail powerhouse, J.Crew’s financial struggles in today’s marketplace resulted in the elimination of 250 full-time and part-time jobs, mostly in its corporate headquarters.

It’s the way of the world, a reality of changing business landscapes and outdated models.

Those of us who are intimately familiar with what happened in our beloved daily newspaper sports sections in the 2000’s know the playbook. Many outstanding journalists are now college professors or public relations professionals, if they’re lucky, after being replaced by a cheaper labor force. Some are tending bar or driving an Uber, others remain underemployed because the once robust days of classified ad money went the way of the West Virginia coal miner. 

ESPN is doing what all businesses and households do during tough times. They’re scaling back, re-grouping, ensuring that they can recalibrate towards a position of strength in the future.

It ain’t that deep. 

But to listen to some folks out here, you’d swear that there’s some type of blowback against ESPN’s supposed liberal agenda. Really?

This nonsensical blabber is the same type of idiocy that blamed the NFL’s declining ratings on Colin Kaepernick. Oh, yeah, folks decided to skip the Cowboys vs the Redskins this year because of the San Francisco quarterback’s protest against societal inequities.

If you think people stopped watching the NFL because of Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem, you’re a special type of fool, and I have had my wallet stolen in Mozambique and am in need of $5,000 U.S. currency in order to catch my 5:00 PM flight back to JFK . Please send cash immediately, along with your address and social security number. It will be greatly appreciated. 

Never mind that the NFL’s Thursday Night Lineups this year were worse than Reefer Madness.

Never mind that people are no longer consuming most of their sports at home in front of the television, but rather through smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices. Never mind that some people are really turned off by this whole CTE epidemic, and the NFL’s insistence on lying about what they knew of how the game was ravaging brains and causing premature deaths in order to save money on retired players medical fees.

To claim that people are no longer subscribing to ESPN because the brilliant Bomani Jones makes people uncomfortable with his truth-slaying, or the Guru playlist that finds it’s way onto Jemele Hill and Michael Smith’s “The 6“, aka the 6:00 PM EST edition of SportsCenter, is the same type of foolishness spouted by Oswald Bates.   

Folks kill me with their desires to “…ejacutate to the prophylactic of the bowels of society.”

ESPN was once seen as invincible, as was the Roman Empire. Things change. In the business world, they change every day. 

Before you want to get all righteous, go take an economics class. Or go to the grocery store with less than your normal budget, and figure out what you can afford to buy, and what you can’t.

People losing their jobs is not easy when looked at from the human element. People and their families suffer. But it’s a cold hard fact that most of us have had to deal with at one point or another.

Blaming things in this particular instance on liberal agendas? Ok. And please don’t forget that I’m stranded in Mozambique and need $5,000 U.S. currency immediately. Thanks in advance for your help. It’s greatly appreciated. 

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