Disney CEO calls ESPN layoffs “not that significant” in terms of “scale and size”

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A network that grew from tiddlywinks and tractor pulls into the Worldwide Leaders in Sports has fallen on tough times, as evidenced by last month’s layoff of roughly 100 employees. On Tuesday, Disney CEO Robert Iger addressed the moves made and challenges faced by the company owned by the corporation he runs.

“A lot has been said about cost reductions at ESPN,” Iger said during a conference call to discuss Disney’s second quarter earnings, via Yahoo.com. “We’re managing that business efficiently. We always have, we always will. Obviously, there’s been a greater need to do it given challenges in the near term, but frankly what we’ve been doing, in terms of scale and size, is not that significant given that ESPN has 8,000 employees and we reduced by 100 employees. I don’t take it lightly but, the number gets these headlines . . . it wasn’t a particularly significant reduction.”

It’s 1.25 percent of the full workforce, which is more than a blip. It seemed like a bigger deal because it included plenty of recognizable names and faces.

For years, the narrative in the industry was that ESPN would always generate strong ratings because it had become the default sports network among fans. That has changed not simply because sports fans are changing the channel but because people who aren’t sports fans: (1) have stopped paying for ESPN and various other channels they never watch; and (2) have no reason to purchase ESPN content elsewhere.

Plenty of opinions and hot takes have emerged regarding whether an actual or perceived left-of-center political lean has greased the skids for ESPN. While it’s impossible to rule it out as a contributing factor, it’s important to keep in mind the political leanings of those who are making that argument the loudest, since using ESPN as the head on a spike could bully others into avoiding any and all political commentary or nudge them toward moving the sports conversation right of center.

42 responses to “Disney CEO calls ESPN layoffs “not that significant” in terms of “scale and size”

  1. What he really meant is that the layoffs are not that significant in terms of the number of competent people leaving.

  2. Too much fluff and too much politics. Stop telling me how I should feel on social issues and just show me the highlights. Oh, and don’t make me wait through golf and tennis highlights to see some football highlights.

  3. That’s right — it’s not politics — it’s economics and demographics. Households are increasingly cutting the cable cord while pro sports broadcast rights fees are increasing.

  4. Hey BSPN, this is how you know you’ve tangled with the champs. Also had to fact check The NY Times and got their sports editor to publicly admit he was an “idiot.” You’re welcome, America.

  5. What a tone-deaf, clueless CEO!
    And with all the firings & “retirements” at ESPN, how in the hell is that loudmouth, bloviating jacka– Steven A Smith still employed??

    All he does is scream & yell & offer ridiculous opinions!
    ESPN has seriously hit hard times and it’s a damn shame

  6. I’m so glad that liberal shmuck didnt get a piece of the Raiders. ESPN is a joke. I’m surprised they extended Tim Tebow considering he is a White, Heterosexual, Christain, Male.

  7. The market has become too diluted; the content has become redundant and stale; the personalities are weak and try to out do each other by becoming more outrageous than the competition.
    Televise a football game with no announcers, and just provide the critical stats on screen. The audio will be from mics on the field, and in the stands. We don’t want Joe Buck providing endless promos for the next Fox shows or Tony Romo babbling on about what it was like when he played.
    Deconstruct the broadcast to the bare minimum; people will watch and listen. It will be like they are “at the game.”

  8. It’s really not that significant? Well then, that begs the question… why lay off anybody at all? You just didn’t want certain families to have a paycheck to rely on?

  9. sort of like the saying that “minor surgery” is defined as surgery on other people.

  10. There is a 3rd group I consider myself a part of: I would gladly pay for ESPN, but not $40-$100/month of a cable/satellite/streaming-live-tv bill (the only way I can get it). I don’t want Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, ABC Family, Oxygen, etc….only “cable channel” I really want is ESPN as it’s the only one I care to watch “live”.

    Every other show I can watch after it’s aired (Hulu, purchased on Amazon, or wait until next season to get it on Netflix/Amazon Prime).

    If ESPN would give me a way to send them $5-$10/month and watch all their channels, I would happily do so.

  11. Seems pretty simple to me-Stop with race, gender and government politics. Go back to covering the sports.
    I don’t think any player drafted a few weeks ago ever made a statement on stage, kneeled, or wore a BLM hat after being chosen. It’s just sports, let’s have fun and talk about sports. There are PLENTY of other platforms to voice opinions for other matters.

  12. Wasted PR opportunity. He could have said they are changing their format to be less opinionated and more informative. And that they are getting back to the roots that made ESPN a world wide leader in the world of sports information. But instead he more or less said, Nothing to see here. Business as usual.

    Business as usual is not going to fix the viewers issues with ESPN.

  13. A CEO who most likely makes millions upon millions of dollars yearly trying to rationalize layoffs like it’s not substantial or significant smh. Tell that to the employees that do not have a place of employment anymore. You may have 8000+ employees but the 100 that you did layoff are still human beings that now have no job. But it’s basic work place 101 impacting the bottom line

  14. I can only speak for myself, but I always check the political leanings of the people involved before I watch anything to make sure they all agree with me.

  15. Yeah, not that significant from the big wig’s leather chair in the penthouse office suite. Corporate jackass… ESPN sucks.

  16. He’s right. It isn’t significant. If you think about them as numbers. But they are people. And laying off even one person should always be seen as significant.

  17. “Just shows that CEOs see numbers on spreadsheets and not people. Remember that always.”

    Got that right. But in a way that is their job.

  18. ESPN’s only real value is the airing of live football, basketball..etc. The rerun of highlights and windbag talk shows don’t make the bulk of their revenue.

  19. since using ESPN as the head on a spike could bully others into avoiding any and all political commentary or nudge them toward moving the sports conversation right of center.

    well, darn, what sport’s site will I go to to get my political information then I wonder?

  20. I turn on ESPN & what I see are people either trying to get you to believe they know what they’re talking about or ex-players. Same w/NFL Network. Too many people trying to desperately get our attention. Their web sites are no better: ESPN seems to think paying for it makes it better. All the articles written on NFL Network makes me want to look for an AP byline. And the Sunday shows are worse.
    If I want (pretty much) up-to-date, (usually) accurate information, I come here. At its best, I get news w/some opinions and no ‘filler’. At worst, I get what I pay for. Not a bad deal.

  21. .
    No one has taken a bigger hit than Bob Iger, the ” el jefe” of Disney/ESPN. From 2015 to 2016 Iger forfeited a million dollars in pay. His salary was slashed from 44.9 million to 43.9 million.

  22. ESPN’s desire to inject politics into every discussion of sports is definitely a contributing factor. Very few people desire to go to a sports network to hear liberal political commentary. Even if it were conservative commentary, people don’t want it from that outlet.

  23. Perhaps they should get rid of a few of their 50 different channels nobody watches but everyone who has cable is forced to pay for. Next thing you know they’ll have ESPN LBGTQ.

  24. First. A layoff is always significant, fundamentally for the people that are laid off.

    Second. His comments show a total disconnect with the people he is supposedly leading.

    Third. A measure of how significant from a business perspective this was is to know how much their payroll cost was reduced by laying off the 100 people. Pure diversion tactics on display from Mr. CEO here.

    Fourth. Basic, fundamental problem…ESPN has not adjusted to the new entertainment landscape adequately. And that Mr. CEO is your responsibility!!! Even though you don’t feel the price tag yourself, you pass it on to the ‘insignificants’ you laid off, the failure rests squarely on your shoulders.

    Fifth. Disney is not what it used to be!!! Mr. Lucas, you sold out to the dark side!!!

  25. redlikethepig says:

    I can only speak for myself, but I always check the political leanings of the people involved before I watch anything to make sure they all agree with me.

    That’s what ESPN does before they hire someone.

  26. What he doesn’t realize is that some of us watch sports to get away from the political BS….

  27. I think the biggest disconnect is contained in the phrase in the last conversation: “moving the sports conversation.”

    I personally don’t care if the dynamic is right of center or left of center, but I never signed up to be part of any “sports conversation” in the first place.

    That’s different than saying “stick to sports,” which usually means ‘I don’t like your views, so stick to sports.’ In this case, what I’m getting at is that I don’t care to litigate any social issues from any point of view through the prism of sport. There are plenty of other avenues to do it.

    If sports are on some kind of precipice, it’s because very little content caters to fans. Instead, it’s all social issues and discipline. Social issues may have a place in sports, but just following the games ought to be paramount.

  28. Of course the CEO of Disney thinks it’s not significant…I’ m sure the money will be well spent on remaking the entire cartoon catalogue all over again BUT IN 3D!

  29. Jason Saidoo says:
    May 10, 2017 12:15 PM

    If ESPN would give me a way to send them $5-$10/month and watch all their channels, I would happily do so.

    For every one of the people that would buy bspn a la carte there are 100’s that could care less about having it that the cable companies are paying bspn $7.00+ a household for. You shouldn’t expect to see bspn dilute their stranglehold on anything above ‘lifeline’ type cable packages by live streaming their programming directly to the consumer.

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