Barry Jackson

ESPN makes big hire amid more notable layoffs; why ESPN is changing; media notes

ESPN president John Skipper gestures as he talks about the new ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thurs., July 21, 2016. ACC commissioner John Swofford listens at rear right.
ESPN president John Skipper gestures as he talks about the new ACC/ESPN Network during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thurs., July 21, 2016. ACC commissioner John Swofford listens at rear right. AP

While ESPN has dumped several well-regarded reporters as part of massive layoffs in the past week, the network is poised to add the dean of NBA information men: Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

As first reported by Recode’s Peter Kafka and confirmed by USA Today, Wojnarowski will join ESPN after the June 22 NBA Draft. Wojnarowski, who reportedly will take some of his Yahoo/Vertical staff with him, has not yet alerted his 1.7 million Twitter followers of the impending move.

ESPN’s layoffs last week included several first-rate reporters: Marc Stein (NBA), NBA draft analyst/reporter Chad Ford, Ed Werder (NFL), Andy Katz (college basketball), Jayson Stark (baseball), Brett McMurphy (college football), among others.

Werder, in the Doomsday Podcast, said he was told his dismissal was "effective immediately," but ESPN asked for him to "stay and cover the Saints draft, which seemed like an odd way to begin your unemployment. It seemed like it was my option and I chose not to. I just didn’t feel like it was the right place for me to be.”

He said ESPN is "going to honor our contracts’ and that former employees will not be able to "double-dip" if they take a job elsewhere and want to continue being paid by ESPN for the duration of their contracts.

He is not permitted to work in TV or other media platforms "without risking all that they owe me, except for the podcast, which I had gotten clearance in advance.... I'm not the only one who in my mind was unjustly fired. There were an awful lot of really good people let go and you can staff an entire sports network with them."

Werder also offered this on the Podcast: “What is ESPN about? I thought it was about news and information and highlights and I’m not sure that is the point of emphasis anymore. How is ESPN going to cover the NFL without all of the people who just lost their jobs? ... Are we really about to see a time when ESPN can no longer afford to cover its most valuable property in the way historically it has?”

Werder said the “most surprising” person to call him after his dismissal was NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who Werder said was "angered" by the moves.

"I haven’t spoken to him yet, but that surprised me and that tells me something about Roger Goodell as a human being,” Werder said.

Here are most of ESPN’s other layoffs, which weren’t announced by the network:

Danny Kanell, NFL studio analyst Trent Dilfer, longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder, former Washington Nationals general manager and ESPN.com contributor Jim Bowden, college basketball analyst Len Elmore, SportsCenter anchors Jay Crawford, Jade McCarthy and Jaymee Sire, MLB analyst Doug Glanville, longtime college football and auto racing reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, legal analyst Roger Cossack, MLB reporter Doug Padilla, ESPN Dallas Columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor, soccer reporter Mike Goodman, Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky, golf commentator Dottie Pepper, ESPNU anchor Brendan Fitzgerald, NBA writer Ethan Strauss, Outside the Lines reporter Tom Farrey, New Orleans Pelicans writer Justin Verrier​ and Dallas Cowboys writer Calvin Watkins, boxing host Marysol Castro, Chicago columnist Melissa Isaacson, NFL reporter Ashley Fox, columnist Johnette Howard; espnW writer Jane McManus; NHL reporters Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside, and Joe McDonald and college sports reporters Jeremy Crabtree (a recruiting maven), C.L. Brown, Eamonn Brennan‏, Max Olson, Dana O’Neil, Ted Miller, Jesse Temple, Derek Tyson, Brian Bennett, David Ching, Chantel Jennings‏ and Brian Bennett.

According to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, “ESPN agreed to pay out full contracts, which in some cases lasted more than five years. Several reporters offered to continue working through their contracts without incurring expenses, but they were told they couldn’t.

“Talent that had contracts were told that they were still employees of ESPN on payroll, but they no longer worked for the company. Many have non-compete clauses in their deals, which means they can’t report their beats, even on social media, until their contracts end or they are released. In order to get around the non-compete clauses, they would have to report on entirely different beats than the ones they spent years developing at ESPN.”

This round of layoffs followed the purging of 300 employees a year-and-a-half ago.

ESPN president John Skipper (pictured above) and his top executives are in the midst of this cost-cutting frenzy primarily because of two reasons:

• Since August 2013, ESPN has lost 10.8 million subscribers – and is now in 86.9 million homes – because of consumers who have decided to go without traditional cable or satellite service.

Because ESPN charges cable operations $7 per month – by far the most of any cable network – ESPN’s subscriber loss translates to more than $900 million in lost revenue over the past few years.

• Rights fees to carry sports have skyrocketed, and ESPN has a total of $39B committed to the NFL, NBA, MLB and college football, according to SI.com, with considerably more allocated for other events.

• I don’t agree with ESPN anchor Linda Cohn’s assertion, on WABC radio in New York, that ESPN is losing subscribers partly because viewers are turned off by ESPN inserting politics into its coverage.

Cohn said via The New York Post: "That is definitely a percentage of it. I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”

Couple other media notes:

• ESPN2 this week began airing MLB Network’s Intentional Talk – with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar – at 4 p.m. weekdays.

• Mike Tirico is replacing Tom Hammond as NBC’s Triple Crown host.

• Phil Simms, shifted to the studio after being replaced by Tony Romo on CBS’ lead NFL announcing team, told TMZ: “I’m very happy with it, yes. I mean, I get to sit next to Boomer Esiason. That’s a great thing, right? You hear the fans cheering they’re so excited about it.”

Please cleck out the first of my five posts today on the weird development about Derek Jeter’s plans to run the Marlins’ baseball operations department if Jeb Bush and Jeter buy the team.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments