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ESPN's first-ever program, Sportscenter. Photo: Christopher Capozziello/Zuffa LLC via Getty

Approximately 300 people are being laid off at ESPN, sources tell Axios, and the company also plans to leave about 200 vacant positions unfilled, meaning the total workforce will be reduced by about 10%.

Between the lines: The cuts are attributed to the financial strain on the live sports and sports media industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an internal note from ESPN president James Pitaro to employees.

Details: ESPN was already looking at strategies to ensure success “amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports” prior to the pandemic, Pitaro wrote in the memo obtained by Axios. But COVID-19 — which has cost sports leagues $300 million — accelerated the need to act.

  • Salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts weren't enough, and it became clear that ESPN would need to serve sports fans in new ways, Pitaro noted.
  • These include bolstering direct-to-consumer business strategies, digital and "innovative" television experiences.

By the numbers: ESPN will have roughly 5,000 employees post-cuts.

Be smart: Aside from live sports struggling, TV advertising — which ESPN relies on — has also taken a hit due to the economy's strain on brands.

The big picture: The pandemic has taken a massive toll on ESPN's parent company Disney, which has seen revenues drop dramatically due to the closure of many of its parks and resorts, as well as movie theaters.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Sports

Overtime: A new approach to sports for a new generation

Endless articles have examined how young sports fans consume content. But here's the real question we ought to be asking: What content do they consume?

Driving the news: Young sports fans don't follow sports the way their parents did. And that change in fandom gets more extreme with each generation.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Economy & Business

Niche sports reporting finds a home

Numerous journalists, from sports writers to tech reporters, have recently launched their own, independent publications, mostly via email newsletters.

Why it matters: The rise of independent journalism has breathed new life into niche content, with tools like Substack helping subject matter experts carve out their own corner of the internet.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Nov 13, 2020 - Sports

The emerging media landscape for sports bettors

Al Bernstein (left) and Brent Musburger unveil VSiN's first studio in 2017. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As the U.S. sports betting market matures, a robust media landscape is forming alongside it, with companies aiming to educate and entertain bettors.

The state of play: One of the early entrants is Vegas Stats & Information Network (VSiN), which launched in January 2017. VSiN has three studios in Las Vegas (South Point, Mandalay Bay, Circa), one in Atlantic City (Borgata) and one outside Chicago (Rivers).