ESPN has launched it’s long-expected layoffs, with the biggest news so far being that long-time NFL reporter Ed Werder has been let go. While the moves will presumably affect all aspects of the network and the sports it covers, the timing is odd.
Roughly 100 employees are being laid off only one day before the draft, which is one of the biggest annual events for ESPN. The three-day affair will result in millions consuming ESPN television, radio, and online content. And it’s all happening one day after what will be the biggest one-day exodus of talent in the history of the network.
Regardless of the reasons for the departures (and in any business where revenue is dramatically shrinking, costs must be slashed), making the moves right now makes it a head-scratcher. Perhaps the thinking is that the moves will be noticed less than they would have been given the pendency of the draft, and that the intensity of the draft coverage will make the audience forget by Monday that the layoffs even happened.
The real question is whether the audience even cares. People in the media do because people in the media know many of the people who are being affected by these moves, and they can sympathize/empathize with the situation. At an operation like ESPN, however, people come and go all the time without the average consumer even noticing.
Despite the timing, it’s a sad day for many ESPN employees and their families. It’s also a reminder that every media entity is a for-profit operation. If not enough profit is being generated for those who hold the equity, reductions will have to be made.