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Jimmy Pitaro Calls ESPN Layoffs ‘Inflection Point’

“The boss writes that ESPN+ and other digital properties will get a renewed focus, while the company continues to figure out the best ways to present innovative television.”

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Jimmy Pitaro

Jimmy Pitaro acknowledged that layoffs will indeed hit ESPN today. Andrew Marchand of The New York Post obtained an internal memo from the network’s President to his staff. In it, he confirms that 300 employees will be laid off and 200 open positions will be effected as well.

“Prior to the pandemic, we had been deeply engaged in strategizing how best to position ESPN for future success amidst tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports,” Pitaro writes. “The pandemic’s significant impact on our business clearly accelerated those forward-looking discussions. In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm.”

Pitaro writes that ESPN has “reached an inflection point” and cannot ignore the realities of what it has to do in order to fall in line with the Walt Disney Company’s focus on its direct-to-consumer businesses. The boss writes that ESPN+ and other digital properties will get a renewed focus, while the company continues to figure out the best ways to present innovative television.

A reality that isn’t mentioned in the memo, but has been widely reported on, is Disney’s willingness to spend more money on play-by-play rights. The company is reportedly dedicated to doing what it needs to in order to secure ABC a spot in the Super Bowl broadcast rotation. It also needs to finalize a new deal for ESPN with Major League Baseball and has expressed interest in being a part of the NHL’s next round of media rights negotiations. Those factors likely play a role in ESPN’s need to free up some money.

The memo strikes a somber tone as Pitaro acknowledges what is about to happen in Bristol. “We are parting ways with some exceptional team members – some of whom have been here for a long time – and all of whom have made important contributions to ESPN.”

Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports also obtained a copy of the memo. He posted it in full on Twitter.

Outkick’s Bobby Burack was the first to report that layoffs at ESPN were looming. It will be the third round of staff reductions in the last five years. The previous two events, in 2015 and 2017 respectively, resulted in a combined 500 job losses.

Sports TV News

FOX Says NFL Ad Sales Up From 2021, ‘Record Pricing’ Expected for Super Bowl LVII

“It’s obviously such a huge year for us,” Murdoch added later. “We’re looking forward to getting record pricing for the Super Bowl.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Super Bowl 57

FOX shared some lucrative news with investors on its quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. The network said sales for the NFL season are in a very short word: up.

FOX CEO Lachlan Murdoch said “We sold more NFL Sunday advertising in the current upfront market than we did across Sunday and Thursday combined in the prior year’s market.”

He also went on to note that didn’t include commitments made for the network’s presentation of Super Bowl 57 in February.

“This excludes advertising commitments for the upcoming Super Bowl, where we are pacing well ahead of schedule and seeing very robust demand and record pricing levels.”

FOX began selling Super Bowl 57 ads last summer.

Murdoch didn’t share specific numbers regarding Super Bowl sales but in comparison, NBCUniversal sold 3-second spots for upwards of $7 million this last February.

“It’s obviously such a huge year for us,” Murdoch added later. “We’re looking forward to getting record pricing for the Super Bowl, and we’re well ahead of plan in terms of selling our Super Bowl positions.”

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Sports TV News

Potential Big Ten/ESPN Deal Did Not Include ESPN Plus Option

“I’ve been told ESPN’s deal did not include direct-to-consumer on ESPN+, it was a strict linear television deal.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN, BIG TEN

A shockwave went thru the sports media landscape on Tuesday when reports surfaced that the Big Ten would not be awarding a media rights deal with longtime partner ESPN. Since then, more details have come out about why the two might not be in business together after this season.

On The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, John Ourand added another piece of the puzzle that could offer some illumination. According to his reporting and sources, ESPN wanted to be able to offer Big Ten games on their direct-to-consumer streaming option, ESPN+ and the Big Ten didn’t receive that well.

“I’ve been told ESPN’s deal did not include direct-to-consumer on ESPN+, it was a strict linear television deal.”

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Sports TV News

Bill Spaulding to Become New Jersey Devils New TV Play-by-Play Voice

Spaulding will replace Steve Cangialosi on the MSG Network broadcasts.

Jordan Bondurant

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New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils will have a new TV play-by-play voice when the puck drops on the 2022-23 season in October.

According to sources, Ryan Novozinsky of NJ.com reported the team has hired Bill Spaulding for the job. Spaulding will replace Steve Cangialosi on the MSG Network broadcasts.

Cangialosi left as the team’s play-by-play man at the end of this past season. He had been with the team for 11 seasons.

Spaulding is a Syracuse University grad and has previously called Olympic hockey, as well as college games, on NBC. Additionally, Spaulding has experience calling college sports for ESPN. He’s a recipient of the Jim Nantz Award, which is given each year to the nation’s top collegiate sportscaster.

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