ESPN is letting go of about 20 on-air personalities, including two familiar names to NBA viewers: game analyst Jeff Van Gundy and studio co-host Jalen Rose.
A person familiar with the cuts told Deadline that they are unrelated to the multi-round Disney layoffs implemented in recent months. Those cuts caused several senior-level executives to leave ESPN but saved much of the on-air talent. The source indicated that many of those affected by the new cuts have contracts beyond June 30 and will be paid accordingly, but the separation will allow ESPN to avoid widespread layoffs. The sports operation is now Disney’s own division, making its financials more clear.
Also part of the new wave of departures are NHL analyst Chris Chelios, NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich and 23-yr. game Center Anchor Neil Everett. Those individual exits were reported in recent weeks.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has deemed it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries and has begun that process,” ESPN said in a statement. “This exercise will involve a small group of job cuts in the short term and a continued focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals in the coming months. This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had a tremendous impact on our company. These tough decisions, based on overall efficiency over merit, will help us meet our financial goals and ensure future growth.
ESPN is undergoing a dramatic change in its economic foundation due to continued cord-cutting. After reaching around 100 million homes a decade ago, the network is reported to reach 74 million homes in 2022, netting it significant distribution revenue. Aside from events like college football, the NFL and the NBA, which have seen strong ratings, linear tune-ins for all traditional networks are declining as more viewers turn to streaming.
Disney has confirmed that it actively plans to offer a more complete version of ESPN as a stand-alone streaming option, but given the network’s agreements with pay-TV operators, leagues and other stakeholders. Relocating it is a difficult process. ESPN+, which launched in 2018, reached 25.3 million subscribers earlier this year, but doesn’t have a full complement of news or live events programming.
Former New York Knicks head coach Van Gundy has been a longtime part of the trio calling NBA games for ESPN, along with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson. Rose, in addition to his NBA studio duties, also previously hosted the daytime talk show Jalen and Jacoby,