ESPN mum on post-Thanksgiving layoffs, John Skipper contract talks

By Media & Advertising FOXBusiness

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ESPN is staying mum this week on multiple reports about the future of its business, including another wave of layoffs that are purportedly just days away and an apparent contract extension for the network’s embattled president, John Skipper.

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The Disney-owned cable sports network is purportedly preparing to lay off dozens of employees after Thanksgiving, with many cuts focused on its flagship “SportsCenter” franchise. The Sporting News reported ESPN will part ways with about 60 employees, clearing an estimated $80 million from its budget in the process. Sports Illustrated reported the layoffs will exceed 100 employees, including on-air talent.

Separately, Skipper, who has served as ESPN’s president since early 2012, is said to be close to a contract extension that would keep him in the role through 2021, according to multiple reports. The Big Lead was first to report the contract talks.

ESPN declined FOX Business’ request for comment on the rumored layoffs and contract talks with Skipper.

Once the top-performing segment of Disney’s business, ESPN has struggled in recent quarters amid a shifting media landscape. The network has lost roughly 13 million paid subscribers since 2011, losing tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue, as more customers ditch cable in favor of cheaper streaming services. ESPN also paid record sums to secure television rights for the NFL and NBA, only to experience ratings declines.

Disney is expected to launch a subscription-based, ESPN-branded streaming service in 2018 to combat subscriber losses.

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Last April, ESPN laid off roughly 100 employees, including many of its most recognizable on-air journalists, as part of a bid to streamline its content offerings and emphasize its digital and mobile efforts. The network laid off about 300 employees in Oct. 2015.

ESPN has also faced accusations of exhibiting political bias in its sports coverage. Critics have pointed to the alleged bias as a factor for the subscriber losses. However, network executives have repeatedly denied that ESPN has any stance on political issues.

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