Disney renews ESPN chief Skipper contract through 2021: report

ESPN President John Skipper
ESPN President John Skipper (ESPN)

Despite the recent struggles for ESPN, parent company Disney has reportedly signaled its confidence in ESPN President John Skipper by extending his employment contract until 2021.

The renewal for Skipper, who had been president of ESPN since 2012 and with the company since 1997, comes as the network could be preparing to undergo another round of layoffs.

ESPN will reportedly cut around 100 jobs from both in front of and behind the cameras after the Thanksgiving holiday. According to Sports Illustrated, the layoffs will impact on-air talent as well as producers, executives and digital and technology staff. The staff at SportsCenter is expected to bear the brunt of the job cuts.

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The layoffs would represent the third time in about two years that ESPN has cut more than 100 jobs. In April, the company laid off around 100 people. In October 2015, the network laid off about 300 employees.

While ESPN has recently been a drag on Disney’s earnings due to a combination of declining subscribers and ad revenue mixed with ever-rising sports distribution rights costs, the network managed to at least hold steady in the most recent quarter.

Disney’s third-quarter earnings saw its overall revenues down 3%, but the company’s cable networks segment, which houses ESPN, remained largely flat with revenues of $3.95 billion.

While cable networks like Freeform struggled, results at ESPN remained flat as higher programming costs and lower advertising revenue were offset by higher affiliate revenue. The decrease in advertising revenue was pinned on lower average viewership and lower units delivered. The affiliate revenue growth came from contractual rate increases, though ESPN continued to lose subscribers.