SBJ/May 1-7, 2017/Media

Industry execs greet news of cuts with sadness

Even though rumors of the pending ESPN cuts had been swirling for months, executives in the sports business reacted with a mix of shock and sadness when names became public.

“It’s just a sad day,” said Todd Goldstein, AEG’s chief revenue officer. “One of the reasons I got into sports is because of ESPN … To see this public, high-profile letting go of some immensely talented individuals, you can’t help but feel sad and disappointed.”

Goldstein spoke on a panel session at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last Wednesday, the same day the layoffs became public. Despite the layoffs, Goldstein and others on the panel remained bullish about the sports media business, especially for companies that are able to adapt to the changing landscape.

“ESPN is still the Worldwide Leader in Sports, so it’s hard to write an obituary for ESPN based on today,” said Sacramento Kings President Chris Granger. “This is another reminder that the market is shifting. It’s another reminder that you have to meet people where they are. It doesn’t mean that broadcast television is going to go away. The audience is becoming more fragmented. You have to meet them online. You have to be mobile-centric in terms of how you’re providing content to people going forward.”

Craig Barry, Turner Sports executive vice president and chief content officer, agreed.

“People who are cutting cords are actually going to other destinations to consume content,” he said. “In sports in general, there’s a lot of fatigue. There’s a lot of places to consume sports.”

Many of ESPN’s top hockey writers, like Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald, were released. But Keith Wachtel, NHL executive vice president and chief revenue officer, remained confident that ESPN will continue to cover the league’s games and news.

“ESPN covers sports,” he said. “As a major professional sports league, they will continue to cover it.”

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