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What’s Happening In Bristol?
There has been a massive layoff of ESPN on-air talent over the past week, with no signs of things slowing down anytime soon. The worldwide leader in sports has parted ways with NBA commentator Jeff Van Gundy, NBA on ESPN host Jalen Rose, NBA writer Nick Friedell, NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young, former NFL players Keyshawn Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck, Rob Nikovich, NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay, radio host Max Kellerman, along with Suzy Kolber, who’s been with ESPN for over 25 years. In recent months, ESPN has experienced changes in executive personnel that have carried over to its show host talent, losing college football host David Pollack and men’s college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis. Sportscenter, ESPN’s flagship show, also experienced some turnover, losing hosts like Ashley Brewer and Neil Everett, who chose to resign amid layoffs. ESPN attributes the shuffling of its media talent as a way to cut costs and save, they released in a statement.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it is necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead.”
Even though ESPN had to make tough decisions regarding the laying off of tenured on-air talent, it is clear that as we advance, the network will prioritize quality over quantity regarding its content offerings. One of ESPN’s key talent additions has been Pat McAfee, the former NFL pro-bowl punter, who became a household name in the sports content industry with The Pat McAfee Show. ESPN signed McAfee to a $17 million-dollar-a-year deal, featuring his show on multiple platforms, including ESPN and ESPN+. The Pat McAfee show will replace the canceled Keyshawn, JWill, and Max show. Additionally, ESPN still has Stephen A. Smith, arguably the industry’s top on-air sports media figure. If you are going to build the next phase of your sports media network, having those two personalities at the cornerstone of your foundation is more than promising. One of the names to pay attention to is Shannon Sharpe. His recent departure from Fox Sports 1 Undisputed has some speculating if he will join ESPN.
something to consider
As the sports content landscape grows, we will continue to see talent overhauled. Sports media is becoming more competitive, and consumers are being more selective about the content they want. When big media networks evaluate talent today, the most valuable commodity that they have is their audience. The more eyes you can bring to a platform, the better. It is also important to consider what is coming down the pike for ESPN. Last month news surfaced about them building a stand-alone streaming platform along with the NBA’s media deal coming up. ESPN’s need to adapt to the nuances of the sports media landscape has resulted in a more deliberate approach to their talent selection.
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