Mayor concerned, but understands ESPN’s latest lay-offs

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

With the news that the city’s biggest taxpayer and biggest employer is laying off more than 100 workers, the mayor expressed some concern while acknowledging the tough economic times facing the cable sports network…and Bristol.

Early last week, ESPN President John Skipper announced to employees that ESPN had notified 150 workers that their jobs were being eliminated.

Following the announcement, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said, “I have spoken with ESPN and while we are disappointed that these employees are being affected, we are pleased that they have offered severance, continuation of health benefits and outplacement services to the employees whose jobs were eliminated.”

Additionally, Zoppo-Sassu said, “ESPN is a very important partner in Bristol and we understand that there are times of corporate growth and there are also the lean times. We are facing many of these same challenges here at City Hall.

“We are confident that as the economy continues to improve, and ESPN continues to innovate to meet the evolving demands of their consumer base, they will continue to be a major contributor in the entertainment industry,” said the mayor.

Skipper told ESPN employees, and in particular those being laid off, “We appreciate their contributions, and will assist them as much as possible in this difficult moment with severance, a 2017 bonus, the continuation of health benefits and outplacement services. They will also appreciate your support. The majority of the jobs eliminated are in studio production, digital content, and technology and they generally reflect decisions to do less in certain instances and re-direct resources.”

“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” said Skipper in his message.

A spokesperson said Skipper’s message was all they.were ready to say about the layoffs at this time.

However, the spokesperson did note that ESPN still employs 8,000 workers world-wide, including 4,000 in Connecticut. Additionally, the lay offs come as ESPN launches several new initiatives for 2018, which necessitated the changes.

Among the items on ESPN’s agenda these coming months include:

Launching ESPN+, a direct-to-consumer service debuting this spring.

Relaunching the ESPN app.

Premiering new shows including “Get Up, from New York” featuring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose, and a new daily show with Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre.

Evolution of SportsCenter, like the new digital SportsCenter on Snapchat.

The network also is taking a “hard look” at linear editions of SportsCenter and deciding which shows bring maximum value and impact.

Launching the ACC Network.

Merging its news-gathering, creating a more unified and effective operation.

Although there are layoffs, the ESPN spokesperson said, “We are absolutely still hiring and focused on areas of growth.”

ESPN is Bristol’s largest taxpayer. In the most recent grand list, ESPN’s property is assessed at  $222,486,506, accounting for 5.69 percent of the tax rolls.

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.