ESPN has had a dismal year. There have been massive layoffs twice this year already, and numerous publications suggest the everything-sports behemoth may still be struggling after it was reported that the company lost 15,000 subscribers a day in October. Early projections predict that ESPN may have to drop its Monday Night Football license to stay afloat.
According to Outkick The Coverage, ESPN pays $2 billion a year to the NFL for broadcasting licensing fees, something that may be coming to an end if ESPN keeps losing revenue.
With so many others clamoring for the opportunity to broadcast Monday Night Football, it isn’t hard to believe that ESPN is well aware that the sharks smell blood in the water and are circling.
ESPN’s current business model seems flawed if the massive cuts they’ve already implemented aren’t helping to keep the company solvent. Unfortunately, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that ESPN may decide to cut more employees. The Washington Post has reported that ESPN will layoff anywhere from 40 to 60 more employees by the end of the year.
If this happens, it would become ESPN’s third layoff this year. The first round of layoffs was mostly the men and women who worked behind the scenes. The second round was much more newsworthy as some high-profile individuals and well-liked anchors were laid off.
ESPN has lost over 13 million subscribers since 2011, according to Fox News. The company has had plenty of controversy as well. The whole Jemele Hill fiasco comes to mind first. Hill called Trump a racist on air which may have negatively impacted their brand with certain viewers.
ESPN also pulled an announcer from a Virginia game where he was scheduled to provide the on-air play-by-play because they were concerned his name, Robert Lee, was too similar to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. After the violence in Charlottesville and ongoing disputes in small towns about Confederate statues, ESPN decided to err on the side of caution. However, some observers found the decision foolhardy and a bit too politically correct.
Will ESPN be able to recover from their floundering fan base, or will they have to accept a smaller role within their niche market? These answers will surely be coming in the next year.