ESPN on Thursday morning announced that it was eliminating around 500 jobs globally, including 300 through a new round of layoffs.
The reductions represent around 10% of the Worldwide Leader's total workforce, the Associated Press reported. The other 200 reductions were previously vacated jobs that would not be backfilled, the network said.
Chairman Jimmy Pitaro cited the economic impact of the coronavirus as the primary reason for the move in an email to the company's employees.
“In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm,” Pitaro wrote. “We have, however, reached an inflection point.”
The cuts had been widely speculated on for weeks, with several recent reports suggesting it was likely to happen before the end of the year.
Longtime ESPN host Bob Ley took to social media to empathize for the hundreds of suddenly unemployed workers, most of whom contributed to behind-the-scenes production -- and to voice his frustration over what he saw as a callous decision.
"Trying to remain objective and unemotional as I learn of the @espn team members laid off today," Ley said on Twitter. "Not possible. Not as I see countless decades of journalistic experience, and expertise jettisoned. Just when we need it most. Enjoy the DIS stock price and your NFL football."
The highly respected Ley, 65, was at ESPN from its inception in 1979 until his retirement in June 2019. He hosted the flagship SportsCenter program as well as more investigative-leaning shows like Outside The Lines.
The network was also expected not to retain some on-air talent when their contracts expire, according to The Associated Press.
The round of layoffs comes about three years after the last batch of substantial dismissals at the network, when around 250 people were let go in two separate moves in the spring and fall of 2017.
The pandemic has plunged millions into unemployment and economic insecurity, further besieging a population where nearly 80% of workers already lived paycheck-to-paycheck.
From ballpark workers to sports journalists, all the way up to coaches, athletes and maybe even some owners, the sports industry has felt the impact of the virus like most other sectors of the economy.