ESPN will lay off more than 100 employees after Thanksgiving, further trimming the network's workforce following previous rounds of layoffs, according to a new report.
The layoffs will affect on-air talent as well as digital staff and even executives, Sports Illustrated reported Thursday. One source briefed on the layoff plans said the flagship program "SportsCenter" is expected to take a major hit, threatening television anchors as well as producers and technology staff.
ESPN laid off about 100 writers and on-air personalities in April of 2016, and in 2015 it laid off about 300 employees, which reduced its workforce by about five percent. After the 2016 layoffs, ESPN said they made the decision because they are "constantly evaluating" company operations.
"A necessary component of managing change involves constantly evaluating how we best utilize all of our resources, and that sometimes involves difficult decisions," ESPN said at the time.
ESPN declined Sports Illustrated’s request for comment Thursday.
The network has suffered from steep expenditures on broadcasting deals in tandem with a reduced subscriber base, even as it has made a series of public missteps.
One public relations challenge came when "SportsCenter" host Jemele Hill called President Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter and then called for a boycott of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' advertisers. ESPN suspended her for twice violating company social media policy, and Trump publicly mocked the network for its ratings.
Executive decisions have also harmed the network's image. Examples include the rapid canceling of a partnership with Barstool Sports and the controversial removal of an Asian-American announcer from a University of Virginia football game over his name’s similarity to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Rumors of layoffs surfaced in October, when Sporting News reported that 40 to 60 positions would be eliminated. Even with that modest estimate, sources were saying at the time that the layoffs would affect popular people at all levels.
"This time it won't matter if you're ‘liked' or not. It's not going to be pretty," one source said.