ESPN to Cut 150 More Jobs as It Shifts Focus -- Update

By Amol Sharma Features Dow Jones Newswires

Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN said it is laying off 150 employees, the sports TV giant's latest round of cuts as it deals with pressures in the pay-TV business and aims to shift resources into new areas such as a planned direct-to-consumer streaming service.

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In a memo to staff on Wednesday, ESPN President John Skipper said the majority of the jobs being eliminated are in studio production, technology and digital content, "and they generally reflect decisions to do less in certain instances and redirect resources." ESPN has 8,000 employees.

"We appreciate their contributions, and will assist them as much as possible in this difficult moment," Mr. Skipper wrote.

ESPN's business has taken a hit as more consumers cut the cable TV cord or switch to "skinny" bundles of channels. The network has built a lucrative business, largely from the subscription fees that come from monthly cable bills.

The changes in the industry have put pressure on many networks to restructure their businesses and cut costs. In April, ESPN laid off about 100 employees, including on-air talent.

ESPN continued to lose cable subscribers in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30, as ad revenue declined and programming costs for sports rights rose. Subscription revenue still increased, partly because of price increases built into contracts. The company's cable revenue in the quarter was flat at $3.95 billion and operating income declined 1% to $1.24 billion from the year-earlier quarter.

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ESPN plans to continue hiring as it invests in new initiatives, a person familiar with the situation said. Besides ESPN+, the streaming service that will debut this spring, ESPN has also launched a version of "SportsCenter" for Snapchat.

On the traditional TV side, the network will be launching some new shows, such as "Get Up," featuring longtime morning host Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, the person said.

On Wednesday, ESPN also said the weeknight editions of "SportsCenter" that air on its ESPNEWS channel from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. will end on Nov. 30.

Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president and executive editor of studio production, said the change is part of the franchise's evolution as its shifts resources to new such initiatives as its Snapchat show, morning show "SportsCenter:AM," and "SportsCenter Right Now," which provides up-to-the-minute news updates across television and digital platforms.

"As always, we will cover important breaking news at all times of day," Mr. Williamson wrote in a memo to employees. "SportsCenter, ESPN's biggest sub-brand, remains a vibrant and vital part of our plans going forward as we find the best ways to serve sports fans."

Write to Amol Sharma at amol.sharma@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 29, 2017 17:38 ET (22:38 GMT)