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What’s Behind The ESPN Layoffs?

The National Hockey League and NBA have the playoffs, but ESPN has the layoffs. Yesterday and today, it’s the ESPN layoffs getting a lot of publicity.

Some recognizable names in sports media were among the cuts. On that list were Ed Werder, Brett McMurphy, Len Elmore, Trent Dilfer, Jayson Stark, and Jim Bowden. This is a list of both on-air and on-web personalities, and while the axe spared many, this was a thinning of the herd.

What was behind the proverbial bloodbath in Bristol?

Leaner and Meaner For SportsCenter

Business Insider offered up that this round of ESPN layoffs centers around, well, SportsCenter. It is to both save their flagship program and retool as a more digital product that ESPN jettisoned personnel.

There is also a cold, hard truth: ESPN is losing subscribers as people cut the cord from cable and satellite. When you pay your cable bill each month, ESPN and many other channels get a cut. Because there is a migration to so-called non-traditional media, like Netflix, Hulu, and direct sports sources like MLB.tv, cable isn’t happening for more people.

More cable providers are also offering a la carte plans whereby users can pick and choose their channels. Part of ESPN’s schtick was getting all the subscriptions under basic cable, even if subscribers didn’t watch. Now, they’re not watching it and not paying for it.

As For SportsCenter’s Issues…

I am old enough to remember the days when SportsCenter was a staple in sports fan viewing. A college basketball player and former classmate, now in the NBA, once told our class it was all he watched. The sentiment resounded, but that’s not the case now.

SportsCenter serves highlights, but over the years, it’s also served hot takes. This is in addition to all of the shows ESPN has which dish the spiciest of takes as well. It’s irrelevant in the sense that people don’t need to catch highlights anymore in a mobile media age. Additionally, and this is just me, SportsCenter is like the rest of ESPN’s talking head shows: irksome and exhausting. It is redundant on several levels and therefore unnecessary.

ESPN is still a behemoth in sports media, and it’s the gold standard for other sports channels. They are still about as good as it gets when it comes to live games. The truth is that ESPN doesn’t need SportsCenter to survive. People will still watch the games and whatever other dreadful debate shows they roll out.

The ESPN layoffs do not mean the channel is about to croak. It does mean things are changing, and they acknowledge they’ve taken a hit. One can liken ESPN to the Roman Empire. It wasn’t built in a day, and it’s not going to come down in a day. A whole lot of Barbarians had to attack it before it weakened. Until the Visigoths and Vandals get through to Bristol and bring it down, ESPN is still the king, but a slightly leaner one.

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