ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro
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Disney’with ESPN on Friday informs 20 of its on-air personalities that they will no longer appear on any of the network’s platforms.
The cuts include former National Basketball Association head coach and current game analyst Jeff Van Gundy and former NBA player and studio analyst Jalen Rose, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined that it is necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public commentator salaries and has begun that process,” ESPN said in a statement. “This exercise will include a small group of redundancies in the short-term and an ongoing focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals over the coming months.”
“This is an extremely challenging process involving individuals who have had a tremendous impact on our company,” the network said. “These difficult decisions, based on overall efficiency rather than merit, will help us meet our financial goals and ensure future growth.”
The cuts are part of ESPN’s effort to meet its financial goals for 2023 and beyond. Targeting highly paid on-air employees will allow ESPN to retain more employees throughout the organization.
Disney, which owns a majority of ESPN, recently closed its own rounds of layoffs in the amount of 7,000 employees. The media giant is shedding costs as streaming growth falters to boost free cash flow. Disney may need cash if it decides to acquire Comcast’s minority stake in Hulu – agreement with option activation at the beginning of 2024.
ESPN’s cuts are separate from that initiative and related to its own set of metrics and priorities. Disney reorganized the company earlier this year, giving ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitara sole responsibility for the balance sheet.
ESPN also plans not to renew the contracts of other on-air employees as their contracts expire in the coming months, said the person, who asked not to be named because the details are private. That could represent about 20 more departures, the second person said.
The laid-off employees will be able to work elsewhere but will have to renegotiate their remaining contracts with ESPN, one of the people said. If the employees find jobs with a competitor, ESPN can offer lower severance payments for the remainder of the contract than employees who find jobs in other fields, the person said.
Van Gundy has been with ESPN for 16 years and has been widely recognized for his game commentary and sense of humor. He was part of a three-man broadcasting team for NBA games along with play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and co-analyst, former NBA player and coach Mark Jackson.
ESPN announced last month that it had hired a former NFL punter Pat McAfee, host of “The Pat McAfee Show.” It was reported by The New York Post ESPN is paying McAfee approximately $85 million over five years. Still, ESPN’s McAfee is coming up with a ready-made show that the network believes will be profitable from day one.
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