IS ESPN BEGINNING A DOWNWARD SPIRAL? MAYBE

The so-called “World Wide Leader in Sports”, ESPN, is starting to feel the pangs of success.  Once considered the only all-sports network, ESPN is now competing with other sports entities and the pressure is being felt.  Within the past 10 days or so, John Skipper…President of ESPN…began laying off employees…over 100 of them, so far!  The fact that a major corporation is laying off hundreds of employees is not the story here.  What the story is: how ESPN is doing it.  From what I have read and heard, ESPN basically told the affected employees, “Nice to see you, thanks for your service, now goodbye!”

Secondly, it appears as if ESPN is not following the basic Corporate rule of “last one hired, first one fired.”  Some of the employees who were let go have been with the network for several years:  Ed Werder, Andy Katz, Danny Kanell, Jayson Stark (WHAT??!!), Ron Jaworski, Doug Glanville, and Jim Bowden are among those who were let go.  Yet, newcomers like Mike Golic, Jr., were retained.  With all due respect to Mike Jr., he should have been the one to go instead of, say, all the others!

What was really incredulous was what Ed Werder tweeted…he said that after ESPN told him he was being laid off, they asked him to stick around for the NFL draft!!!

In addition to all of those employees who were laid off, some long-term employees are going to experience significantly reduced roles.  Ryen Rusillo, Karl Ravech and Hannah Storm will have fewer assignments…perhaps, in a effort to get those veteran announcers to leave on their own.

There have been other personalities who have left “The Mother Ship” as Dan Patrick refers to ESPN.  Patrick left almost ten years ago in order to pursue other opportunities.  He has his own show, “The Dan Patrick Show” and has been quite successful since breaking out on his own.  Colin Cowherd left ESPN for Fox and has also enjoyed much success.  Other personalities to either leave ESPN or retire (perhaps before being laid off) are:  Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, Erin Andrews, etc.

Not only are employees being let go, ESPN is saying goodbye to a couple of long-term programs.  The Sports Reporters, a long-running Sunday show featuring four veteran reporters trading barbs and stories, is going off the air after this Sunday’s show.  The show was anchored for a long period of time by the late John Saunders until he passed away. Mike Lupica tried his very best to fill in as host but the program is still going off the air.

Then, it has been announced that the long-running morning show, “Mike and Mike”, featuring Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic, is going off the air after over 18 years of being together.  Greenberg is going to host a “Today Show”-type television morning show and will be joined by Sage Steele.  With all due respect to Ms. Steele, not having Greenberg and Golic bantering back and forth is going to be a severe loss to morning programming.

With the news of the demise of the above two shows, could “The Sports Reporters” and “Pardon the Interruption” be far behind?  And…oh, by the way, do people really like watching Dan LeBatard, his Papi, and Bomani Jones, all scrunched together in one small place?  If they were any closer, they would have do use much more deodorant!

So, why did all of this happen?  My purely unprofessional opinion is that ESPN simply got “too big for its britches”.  They flipped one successful network into:  ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPNU, not to mention ESPN Classic.  They had too many employees to begin with and it is now taking its toll.  I mean, do you really need five people previewing the NFL schedule on Sunday mornings?  Do you really have to have three people on Baseball Tonight?  Does every football game need two to three people in the booth…and two sideline reporters?

So, apparently, Mr. Skipper is going to try and get leaner and meaner.  The only problem, if all of the good on-air personalities are gone, who is going to be watching the shows?

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