Heard on All Things Considered
April 30, 2017
Bloomberg reporter Max Chafkin talks about the future of ESPN as the network behemoth sees lower profits. This past week the sports media hub let approximately 100 employees go, including big names.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There’s some news about sports news we want to talk more about. For years, ESPN has been the big name in sports broadcasting showing live events, reporting news, hosting talk shows about sports, airing documentaries about sports. But the network has also been making news itself for losing millions of subscribers in recent years and in the wake of that, losing hundreds of staff.
Last week, there was another layoff – some 100 employees were let go, including well-known names who covered the NFL and college hoops and so on. We were wondering why this is happening and why it matters, so we called Max Chafin. He’s a writer for Bloomberg Businessweek. He’s been writing about all this. We reached him in Vancouver where he’s attending the TED conference. Max, thanks so much for taking time out of the conference to talk with us.
MAX CHAFKIN: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So last week’s layoffs are just the latest. There was a massive layoff in 2015 like some 300 staffers were let go. Why is this round of layoffs getting so much attention? And why is all this happening?
CHAFKIN: So the reason this is getting attention is because these are in some cases well-known names. These are people who were on-air talent – combination of people who are on Sports Center which is ESPN’s kind of signature sports highlights show – it’s actually the first show that ever aired on ESPN – and you have some sort of beat reporter.
So these are people that fans know about, and the other reason that this is getting attention is because it’s part of this long-running story that we’ve been seeing playing out over the last few years where ESPN which for a time was probably the most powerful entity in all of sports and maybe arguably the most powerful entity in all of media has now been suddenly laid low by what’s known in the industry as cord-cutting which is to say people who are deciding not to subscribe to cable anymore which cuts directly to their bottom line.