ESPN Layoffs are Not a Good Sign For Sports Reporting Industry

Trey Lower, Staff Writer

As a sports broadcasting major here at Wingate, my lifelong dream has been to be an announcer for ESPN. Whenever you think of sports, you ultimately think of the channel, and I always had a path in place to get there.

However, as the years have progressed and the broadcasting industry continues to change, my goals have forcibly changed along with it. Last week, ESPN announced that in a cost-cutting maneuver, it would lay off 100 employees, most of whom were seen on ESPN on a regular basis.

The company took a beating on social media because of it, as fans soon realized many familiar faces were leaving the network. Longtime reporters Dr. Jerry Punch, who served ESPN for 30 years, and NFL reporter Ed Werder, who spent over 15 years at the network, were among the major layoffs.

ESPN gutted its entire team of NHL writers in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and also significantly diminished its analysts and writers for both the NBA and MLB. So, why did the layoffs happen? Simple. People are cutting the cord on cable, plus a change in direction at the company has led to significant money loss and cost-cutting measure had to be taken.

ESPN is one of the most expensive channels you pay for on your cable bill, charging nearly $5 a month by itself. Add in the fact that the programming at the channel has begun to lack significantly in terms of content, and people just are not interested in watching ESPN anymore.

I scrolled through twitter most of the day when these layoffs were happening, gauging reaction from the average viewer, as well as from the ESPN employees. The average fan appeared disgruntled with not only the cost of paying for ESPN, but that lack of content as well.

Shows like First Take and Around The Horn have become mainstays on the network, and the greatest show in the history of the planet, Sportscenter has drifted away from highlights and become more of a news show, similar to what you would find on CNN or FOX. This aggravated the viewers and turned them away.

ESPN2’s midday viewership was so bad, that the company resorted to re-runs of shows from earlier in the day and even earlier in the week. In addition, most tweeters were mentioning that they usually only watch ESPN for the live sports; and because of the change in content they simply didn’t need to watch the other programming anymore.

In addition, technological advances have also begun as the Worldwide Leader’s downfall. As more and more people begin streaming events on their phone or tablet, the less a television is needed.

The addition of WatchESPN several years ago, an app that allows you to watch ESPN wherever you may please, has been among the catalysts in the rise of streaming sports events. In 2016, Twitter teamed up with the NFL to live-stream Thursday Night Football, and in 2017 Amazon will take over this service.

Additionally, ESPN has since combined the WatchESPN and the ESPN apps, into one app, to make it simpler for the avid sports fans to keep up. It’s because of this shift in technology that ESPN simply doesn’t need some of the same employees around anymore.

The journalism industry continues to change, and many believe that these layoffs by ESPN are simply just the beginning. It is believed that ESPN will eventually turn into a service similar to HBOgo, where there is a certain price to pay each month to watch the channel’s content. As for me, I still have my dreams of being a great sports broadcaster, but the changing industry has certainly cast a darker cloud over my future, and all aspiring sports broadcasters futures.

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Edited by: Brea Childs

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