In a move that surprised many sports fans and underscored the challenges for media companies, ESPN announced Friday that it had laid off some broadcast journalists in hopes of saving money.
ESPN said in a statement that it needed to cut costs “in the area of public-facing commentator salaries,” including “a small group of job cuts in the short term.” The layoffs included some of the network’s biggest names.
Suzy Kolber, an N.F.L. reporter and the host of the pregame show “Monday Night Countdown,” publicly acknowledged in a Twitter post on Friday afternoon that she had been laid off. “Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off,” she said. “Heartbreaking, but 27 years at ESPN was a good run.”
Jeff Van Gundy, the former coach of the New York Knicks who had been an N.B.A. analyst with ESPN, was also let go. Van Gundy had worked at ESPN since 2007, according to his company biography. Jalen Rose, a studio analyst and a member of the University of Michigan’s storied “Fab Five,” was also among those laid off. The layoffs of Van Gundy and Rose were first reported by The New York Post and were confirmed by The New York Times.
In all, about 20 commentators were laid off, and the company told staff members that it would renegotiate some contracts at reduced salaries or let some expire at the end of their terms, said a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to reveal the details and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Background: An uncertain time in media.
The news comes one day after National Geographic announced its second round of layoffs this year, joining The Los Angeles Times, Vox Media, BuzzFeed and The Washington Post on the list of media companies that have tightened their belts recently.
Disney, ESPN’s parent company, has struggled to stem the tide of losses related to its streaming services as traditional television viewing declines. In May, Disney announced on its earnings call that revenue from its networks, which include ESPN, had fallen 7 percent. Earlier this year, the company’s chief executive, Robert A. Iger, announced a plan to cut $5.5 billion in costs by eliminating 7,000 jobs, which is 4 percent of Disney’s worldwide work force.
Why It Matters: High-profile ESPN personalities.
Kolber said in her announcement that “longevity for a woman in this business is something I’m especially proud of.” Her company biography states that she has been “widely praised for elevating the N.F.L. sideline role” and notes that she was the first woman to win the Maxwell Football Club’s Sports Broadcaster of the Year Award. In 2019, she was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
Van Gundy has become a familiar voice in professional basketball. He was courtside for coverage on both ESPN and ABC, working with one of his former players, Mark Jackson, and Mark Breen to call some of the biggest N.B.A. games. This month, he provided commentary during the N.B.A. finals.
Rose first gained national attention as a point guard at the University of Michigan, where his team reached back-to-back N.C.A.A. Division I men’s basketball tournament finals in 1992 and 1993, losing both times. His star-studded recruiting class was known as the Fab Five, and Michigan made history as the first team to start five freshmen in the Final Four. He reached the 2000 N.B.A. finals with the Indiana Pacers. Rose had been with ESPN since 2007.