What ESPN’s layoffs mean for sportscasters

ESPN’s announcement last week of major layoffs prompted an email to me from the parent of a student sportscaster. She wrote, “I always thought that now is a good time to go into sports broadcasting/journalism as there are so many different channels on TV and social media. Should I be concerned that ESPN laid off 100 employees today?

The answer: no.

The ESPN layoffs are not a sign of apocalypse. What they are is a reminder of massive, ongoing changes in our industry.

The situation at ESPN shouldn’t impact anyone’s decision to be a sportscaster. ESPN made the cuts for three reasons:

  1. Many subscribers are no longer willing to pay subscription fees that are four times higher than the average fee for other cable channels.
  2. ESPN has paid a ton of money for play-by-play rights fees.
  3. Social media has eroded ESPN’s position as the “go to” place for breaking sports news.

Sports broadcasting opportunities will continue to be numerous. However, the position descriptions are changing. Most gigs now include multimedia. A person can still broadcast play-by-play, host a sports talk show, or be a local TV anchor/reporter. However, they now also have to create audio, video and written content for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

In addition, sportscasting is moving away from scores and highlights to features and opinions. Same field; Different duties.

While we’re on the topic of change, let’s put to rest rumors of the demise of local TV sportscasts. For the past many years we’ve heard that local stations are eliminating sportscasts. They’re not. Look at the number of TV job posts on the STAA forums.

What local stations are doing is eliminating the coverage of pro and major college scores and highlights in favor of hyper-local coverage.

Today’s college students who are studying sports broadcasting are being taught these various skills. The people whose careers are jeopardized by the changing landscape are sportscasters who don’t have these skills and refuse to learn them.

Music has progressed from records, to 8-tracks, to cassettes, to CDs, to digital. Through the changes, the music never went away. Similarly, sportscasting careers are changing, but they’re not going away.