The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), perhaps the most well-known global sports broadcasting company and self-dubbed “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has dismissed nearly 600 employees over the past two years, in addition to cutting $250 million from its budget in 2017.
“The majority of the jobs eliminated are in studio production, digital content, and technology and they generally reflect decisions to do less in certain instances and re-direct [sic] resources,” John Skipper, the current president of ESPN, said in his memo to staff on Nov. 29, which announced the cut of 150 employees.
In 2011, ESPN peaked at 100 million subscribers. Since then, however, its base has been reduced by nearly 12 million individuals and counting, decreasing the total to 88 million. ESPN executives are now faced with the task of finding alternative ways to reach out to sports fanatics and regain once-loyal devotees.
According to the Pew Research Center, digital streaming services now dominate media, with 61% of young adults ages 18 to 25 preferring them over traditional cable and satellite networks. ESPN, a cable company itself, is struggling to recover from its troubles that have resulted from the growing popularity of streaming services. Now, in an attempt to no longer be outperformed, one of ESPN’s major ambitions for the future is a streaming service of its own.
The service, called “ESPN Plus,” is set to launch in the spring of 2018. Its subscribers will be able to view over 10,000 live sports events per year, including baseball, soccer, hockey, tennis, and collegiate athletics. ESPN claims that the service will also aim to target those who do not wish to pay fees for a cable subscription.
In 2019, ESPN’s parent company Disney also hopes to expand its BAMTech subsidiary, a direct-to-consumer video service, to offer television and movies. There are high hopes for the service’s success in order to put it in direct competition in the expanding realm of other nontraditional networks such as Netflix and Hulu.
“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” Skipper said.
Employees and fans alike are hopeful that ESPN’s new ventures will be able to rebound the company from its losses and allow it to continue its role as a major sportscasting channel without needing to eliminate jobs anytime soon.