ESPN's Skipper Announces Job Cuts in Memo to Employees

Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN said it’s eliminating jobs in response to the changing climate for pay television.

John Skipper, head of Disney’s sports network, announced the move Wednesday in a message to employees. Just under 300 people will be fired, ESPN said. That’s about 3.8 percent of the total workforce at the Bristol, Connecticut-based cable programmer.

“Beginning today, we will be enacting a number of organizational changes at ESPN to better support our future goals –- a process that will include the elimination of a number of positions, impacting friends and colleagues across the organization,” Skipper said in the memo.

Conventional cable-TV programmers like ESPN have had to contend with rising content costs and a drop in subscribers, driven partly by the popularity of online video services. Disney triggered a plunge in media stocks in August when it lowered its outlook for profit growth in cable TV, citing viewer losses as one factor.

Skipper, in his memo, said ESPN needed to integrate new technologies into its business, develop tools that serve advertisers better and prepare to work with new distribution partners.

People with knowledge of the matter said Tuesday ESPN would be cutting as many as 350 positions.

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