WASHINGTON — ESPN is planning to lay off nearly 300 employees and eliminate 200 open positions amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports on Thursday.
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro made the announcement in a company-wide memo that was obtained by The New York Post and Sports Business Daily. The cuts amount to about 10% of the employees at the sports network.
The memo did not explicitly say which positions were being cut. However, a source told New York Post that on-air personnel will mostly be spared for the time being.
"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," the memo stated.
It added: "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. 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 said in the memo that the company took various steps like reducing talent salary, furloughs and budget cuts to weather the virus, but said ESPN reached an "inflection point." He said it was a hard decision to make but said they were necessary.
ESPN released the following public statement about the layoffs:
"For some time, ESPN has been engaged in planning for its future amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports. The pandemic’s effect on ESPN clearly accelerated our thinking on all fronts. Today, as a result of these circumstances, we informed our employees that we have made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce to create a more agile, efficient organization.
We are parting ways with many exceptional teammates, all of whom have made important contributions to ESPN. These are not easy decisions, and we will work hard to make their transitions easier.
We will move forward in a manner that will allow us to continue to best serve sports fans.”
The layoffs come three years after ESPN cut about 250 jobs, including journalists and on-air talent.
ESPN's parent company, Disney, announced plans to lay off 28,000 in September at its parks and resort division in California and Florida because of the pandemic.
Disney’s parks closed last spring as the coronavirus began spreading in the U.S. The Florida parks reopened this summer with restrictions on how many people could be in the parks at any given time and new requirements for social distancing and mask-wearing. The California parks have yet to reopen because of restrictions by the state of California.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.