Merry Christmas, ESPN! Here are your layoffs…

ESPN is learning a hard lesson about politics after needlessly dragging itself into the fray: you can’t please everyone. If the network panders to one side of the political aisle, it alienates the other half of its viewership.

The backlash over politicized sports coverage has ESPN reeling. The network is finding itself forced to layoff 100 employees, the Hollywood Reporter found.

What makes this worst for the heads of the Disney-owned company is that the layoffs come after they delivered a mass firing of 300 employees–five percent of the ESPN workforce–in 2015.

The now-frequent large-scale personnel cuts are indicative of internal problems and a struggle to retain its audience.

Photo by Jesse Grant/BET/Getty Images for BET

ESPN has gone from having 100 million subscribers in 2011 to just 87 million today. The drop in subscribers has happened even as the network has taken initiatives to remain relevant, including striking a $1.4 billion-a-year NBA contract.

Executives at ESPN hope to offset the losses with ambitious new projects, such as the OTT internet streaming service set to launch next year. They’ve also secured carriage deals with giants like PlayStation, DirecTV, YouTube TV, and Hulu.

But these moves, however cutting-edge they may be, fail to address the major issue facing ESPN and the sports world in general: the loss of viewers due to the politicization of sports.

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Granted, part of that is outside ESPN’s control. If NFL players choose to kneel in protest to the national anthem, ESPN feels the dissatisfaction from Americans who decided to turn off the TV.

But they haven’t helped themselves by fomenting political coverage by left-wing sportscasters like Jemele Hill.

ESPN has put itself into a catch-22. They can acquiesce to their estranged conservative viewers by disciplining Jemele Hill and other hosts who cross the line, but then they incur anger from the liberal members of their audience.

Either way, the network loses. The solution would have been to have never gotten political in the first place. It’s clearly too late for that.

A helpful hint to ESPN for remaining employees: ditch the leftist politics and several million Americans might start watching your “sports” network again.


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