The NFL has not been doing too well since the media sensation surrounding players kneeling for the national anthem. Ratings and players notoriety and support have taken a hit because people are sick and tired of watching others disrespect the flag and the veterans and service members who fought for it. Now ESPN is taking a hit because of it.
After the Thanksgiving holidays, multiple sources have told reporters from Sports Illustrated that ESPN is expected to lay off more than 100 of their staffers. The positions that are being targeted for layoffs are front facing talent on the television end of the business, executives, producers, as well as technology and digital staffers. On-air talent is being considered for a cut because of how much ratings have plummeted as well as viewership. The on-air talent is being held responsible for not keeping people’s attention.
However, ESPN officials have refused to publicly comment to Sports Illustrated. Hiring has continued though, so it appears that layoffs will be considered for older employees who have been with the network longer. A sort of out with the old and in with the new type of deal.
Sports Illustrated reported,
“In Oct. 2015 the company laid off roughly 300 employees, about 4-5% of its workforce—a particularly brutal act of gutting given the long tenures of many of those who were cut. Many of those employees helped build the foundation of ESPN and had given their professional life to the company.
Last April, ESPN eliminated around 100 journalists and on-air personalities. At that time the company said: “A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions.” ESPN continues to be impacted by the changing habits of consumers including cord-cutting and cord-nevers (those who have never purchased a cable subscription) as well as the rising costs of sports rights. The network has dropped in households from 100.13 million in 2011 to an estimated 87.5 million households today.
Part of the reason ESPN will conduct the moves in late November/early December, two sources said, is to get employees an additional year in the stock vesting program. Last month Michael McCarthy of Sporting News first noted a round of layoffs were coming to ESPN. If you have endured layoffs at your place of employment, you know how extraordinary awful they are. Multiple ESPN employees in speaking with SI said the atmosphere in Bristol is tense, especially in the SportsCenter division. Asked to characterize how employees are feeling, one longtime on-air anchor offered one word: “Queasy.””
The Free Beacon reported,
“The network has suffered from steep expenditures on broadcasting deals in tandem with a reduced subscriber base, even as it has made a series of public missteps.
One public relations challenge came when “SportsCenter” host Jemele Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter and then called for a boycott of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ advertisers. ESPN suspended her for twice violating company social media policy, and Trump publicly mockedthe network for its ratings.
Executive decisions have also harmed the network’s image. Examples include the rapid canceling of a partnership with Barstool Sports and the controversial removal of an Asian-American announcer from a University of Virginia football game over his name’s similarity to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Rumors of layoffs surfaced in October, when Sporting News reported that 40 to 60 positions would be eliminated. Even with that modest estimate, sources were saying at the time that the layoffs would affect popular people at all levels. “This time it won’t matter if you’re ‘liked’ or not. It’s not going to be pretty,” one source said.”
The irony of this report coming out a day after Veterans Day cannot be lost on, or forgotten by anyone. NFL ratings through ESPN have been decreasing rapidly and it is in no small part due to the fact that players have been kneeling during the national anthem. Football viewership has a stronghold in middle America and average citizens love America, work hard, and respect this country. They have chosen not to tune in because of it.
The MLB does not have this issue and the NFL would do well to look at the MLB as an example of what to do if they want to remain relevant and making money. Because if they continue on the path they are going their ratings will get worse and their business will flop.
Given that yesterday was Veterans Day this is very good news. People need to be held responsible. And the best part of it all is that these paid athletes and celebrity sports entertainers are being held responsible with their layoffs based purely on the fact that their actions have consequences and nobody wants to watch them anymore.
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