ESPN Announces Massive Layoffs of on-Air Talent, Including Some Big Names

Screenshot via ESPN

As its parent company Disney continues economic restructuring, ESPN has purged many big-name hosts.

It was a dark day at the sports leader, ESPN, as the network has gone through a string of layoffs involving more than behind-the-camera workers but also many well-known and/or long-term on-air talents being let go. The sweeping layoffs were spread across numerous sports and affected the broadcast or studio hosting positions covering many professional leagues. 


In an unattributed internal email, the network announced the changes but did not list specific names directly; those affected have been gradually alerted of their departure through their agents or on social media. Among the names known so far:

  • Steve Young
  • Keyshawn Johnson
  • Jalen Rose
  • Jeff Van Gundy
  • Todd McShay
  • Matt Hasselbeck
  • Suzy Kolber

  • Max Kellerman
  • LaPhonso Ellis
  • Rob Ninkovich
  • Chris Chelios
  • Joon Lee
  • Jason Fitz
  • Ashley Brewer

More are possible to be added to the list as the day goes forward. While both the number and the stature of those released are jarring it is also something that was alluded to earlier this year. Back in March, as Disney was announcing its plans for a series of layoffs, the company noted that at ESPN, there could be top-flight talent released. Still, some of the names departing are well-known to viewers but also border on institutions on the network.


Steve Young has been an NFL voice for 22 years, while Kolber saw the end of a 27-year career at the network. College basketball analyst Ellis has been there for 14 years. Van Gundy is considered one of the best NBA voices in broadcasting. Todd McShay, with the network since 2006, is one of the premier NFL Draft experts going. The mounting list of names is creating tremors across the sports landscape.

While parent company Disney is dealing with both market challenges and self-created controversies leading to failed product releases, currently, ESPN is also going through a period of repositioning inside the corporation. Ahead of the announced 7,000 layoffs, declared last February, it was decided that ESPN would become a standalone division as returning CEO Bob Iger was doing away with the Media Distribution structure inside the company.

As ESPN is reorganizing itself financially, it will also be altering its broadcast structure, with a nod to slicing away seven-figure contracts for unproven commodities and personalities. Both television and radio are experiencing a number of changes involving both talent and programming. 

In direct contrast to this programming purge today, last month, Pat McAfee was signed to a multi-year deal worth over $8 million annually. It is felt that his popular radio and video shows will be a boon for the network, as ESPN is facing competing realities: The rights for sports broadcasting are rising, but the customer base is shrinking with cord-cutting moving forward at an accelerated rate.


The paradox for broadcast and cable networks is that while viewers are fleeing for other platforms, live sports remain the lone major draw left on television. This means that these days, more games are populating the top of the ratings charts, giving professional leagues bargaining power, all while networks are struggling to say afloat as the rest of their broadcast schedules whither.

One thing today’s desk-clearing events assure us is that in the coming months, the sports broadcasts we have come to be comfortable with will have a distinctly different appearance and feel.


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