Another round of layoffs is expected at ESPN, with production staff as well as on-air talent in danger of being let go.
The changes due to come down in November or early December could affect between 40 and 60 positions at all levels of the network, Sporting News reports. ESPN has already gone through major layoffs, mostly affecting people behind the scenes, but one source says people on- and off-camera will be leaving—even from the network's flagship "SportsCenter" program.
"This time it won't matter if you're ‘liked' or not. It's not going to be pretty," one source said.
The network has primarily suffered from steep expenditures on broadcasting deals that have coincided with a shrinking subscriber base. As subscriptions have gone down due to cord-cutting, high-dollar contracts for talent and broadcasting are fixed at expensive levels—and are squeezing ESPN financially.
"I see [ESPN] going down a path where they have less staff—and hire more production companies to provide programs and fill air time," another source told Sporting News.
ESPN pays $1.9 billion for "Monday Night Football" alone each year, and it has millions in severance pay to give the 100 people it laid off in April.
Public-relations missteps have also plagued the network recently, in large part due to political controversies it has gotten into. "SportsCenter" host Jemele Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter last month and then called for a boycott of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' advertisers, which earned her a suspension for twice violating network policy.
Trump has mocked ESPN for Hill's comments and the network's "tanking" ratings. Hill admitted she made a mistake but has refused to apologize.
Did I say I regret what I said? No. Did I say I take back what I said? No. I violated a rule. I stand by what I said. So no, not the same.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 24, 2017
Bizarre executive decisions have also harmed the network's image, ranging from the improvident to the absurd. ESPN canceled its partnership with Barstool Sports on Monday over the website's politically incorrect past, which is a well-known aspect of Barstool that ESPN appeared not to heed before signing them to do a show. But the network also faced embarrassing attention in August over its decision to prevent Asian-American announcer Robert Lee from calling a football game in Charlottesville, Va., owing to the similarity Lee's name has to the name of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.