ESPN is cutting a number of on-air personalities Friday as it seeks further savings.
The new round includes “a small group of job cuts,” as well as “a continued focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals in the coming months,” according to a statement from ESPN.
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A source close to the cuts tells The Hollywood Reporter that about 20 people are warned today, including some big names that regular ESPN viewers will know.
Among the cuts, a source confirms, is Jeff Van Gundy, the chain’s top NBA games analyst and a 16-year veteran of ESPN. ESPN veterans Max Kellerman, Suzy Kolber, Keyshawn Johnson and Jalen Rose are also leaving.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined that it is necessary to identify additional savings in the area of audience commentator salaries, and that process has begun,” ESPN’s statement read. “This is an extremely difficult process, involving people who have had a huge impact on our business. These tough decisions, based more on overall efficiency than on merit, will help us achieve our financial goals and ensure our future growth.
The source added that the series of talent cuts were not a directive from Disney and were not tied to larger cuts at the company. On the contrary, ESPN had additional financial goals it needed to meet and opted to tap into its talent pool rather than have more layoffs among other employees.
Although the notified talents are off the air as of today, the network is expected to honor their contracts, which means they will likely be paid and could potentially seek work elsewhere, provided they negotiate an exit. with Disney.
And as the statement says, there will be additional departures as more contracts are renewed.
ESPN’s parent company, The Walt Disney Co., has suffered a financial squeeze as it seeks a more profitable base in streaming and tries to navigate a tough advertising environment and a declining linear TV business.
As part of this, the company has cut 7,000 jobs over the past two months.
ESPN was hit by the April cuts, with ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro telling staff that “we need to identify more ways to be efficient and nimble.” THR reported at the time that those reductions were not to include on-air talent and that ESPN would review its talent deals once the layoffs were completed.
THE New York Post Andrew Marchand first reported on the talent cuts.
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