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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

Dec 21, 2020 - Podcasts

Milwaukee Bucks owner: NBA teams will lose money this season

The NBA tips off tomorrow night, making it the first major U.S. sports league to play a second season amidst the pandemic. No bubble this time, but also not many in-person fans.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry on the business of basketball, how much he expects to lose this season and that massive new deal for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Several states declare emergency over Colonial Pipeline shutdown

A sign warns consumers on the avaliability of gasoline at a RaceTrac gas station in Smyrna, Georgia, on May 11. The average national price of gasoline has risen to $2.985 a gallon, Bloomberg notes. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Reports of fuel shortages across the U.S. emerged on Tuesday as the national average for gasoline prices soared to its highest level since 2014 amid a key fuel pipeline shut down, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Operator Colonial Pipeline aims to have service restored by the week's end following last Friday's ransomware attack that shut down some 5,500 miles of pipeline from Texas to New Jersey. The governors of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency Tuesday due to shortage concerns.

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.