ESPN to Lay off 300 Employees Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

ESPN is getting ready to make some big changes. On Thursday, the sports network announced it will lay off 300 employees. ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro announced in a memo to employees obtained by the New York Post. The memo also stated that 200 open positions at ESPN would not be filled.

"Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports," Pitaro wrote in his memo. "The pandemic's significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions." Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reported that the layoffs could come this week. Remote production is expected to be hit the hardest while other moves will include expiring talent contracts not being renewed. One ESPN personality to look out for is Trey Wingo as his contract runs out at the end of the year, according to The Post.

"We are parting ways with some exceptional team members – some of whom have been here for a long time – and all of whom have made important contributions to ESPN," Pitaro continued. "We’re very grateful for all they’ve meant to us, and I assure you we are taking steps to make their transitions easier." Pitaro wrote that while he's happy with what the company has accomplished recently, the move is necessary.

"I am proud of the people at ESPN," he stated. "Together, we have overcome tremendous challenges and adversity over these past several months and please know that the decisions and plans executed today were not made lightly. They are, however, necessary and I am convinced that we will move forward and effectively navigate this unprecedented disruption."

Another reason for this move is ESPN is looking to shift more of its business to direct-to-consumer, just like the rest of the brands owned by Disney. ESPN has ESPN+, which has a reported 8.5 million subscribers as of this summer. In contrast, ESPN is laying off employees, Disney looking to build its NFL brand. Along with paying $2 billion for Monday Night Football, which airs on ESPN, Disney is looking to get Sunday Night Football from NBC. Disney would also like to have an NFL Sunday afternoon package.