The Walt Disney unit
employs about 4,000 people in the U.S. and 7,000 worldwide. She
declined to disclose the number of employees affected.
"We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our
continued growth while smartly managing costs," Ms. Arnold said.
"While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more
competitive, innovative and productive."
Deadspin's John Koblin, who first
reported the layoffs, wrote earlier Tuesday that the cuts
appeared to number in the hundreds. But James Andrew Miller, author
of the best-selling ESPN book, "Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside
the World of ESPN," tweeted the number is more like 300 to 400 --
and includes open jobs that won't be filled.
A person familiar with the situation said the move is a
companywide restructuring. But since some open jobs won't be
filled, the number of actual layoffs will end up lower than some
reports, the person said.
The pain caused by layoffs at the insular, self-enclosed bubble
at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., is not taken lightly, Mr.
Miller said. The last layoffs were in 2009. But with cable
competitors such as News Corp.s Fox Sports 1
looming, ESPN has been spending big money lately to stockpile
ESPN President John Skipper recently announced a $825 million,
11-year deal to put the U.S. Open tennis tournament, a longtime
staple of broadcast TV, entirely on cable. Starting in 2015, ESPN
will pay $825 million over 11 years to take over the TV rights has
held by CBS Sports for 46 years.
Said Mr. Miller: "This is not a story about retrenchment. It's a
story of realignment. They're looking how and where they can be
most productive. If there's way they can achieve some savings in
some places, that's great."
The demand for cost-cutting could also be coming down on high
from parent Disney, Mr. Miller
said. CEO Robert Iger recently laid off hundreds of employees
across Walt Disney Studio, LucasArts and Lucasfilm and streamlined
Mr. Miller's Twitter followers immediately erupted Tuesday with
calls for ESPN's to fire highly paid columnists such as Rick
Reilly, the former Sports Illustrated
writer who makes an estimated $3 million a year.
"Today is a Twitteverse dream. Because everybody gets to sound
off on who they think should be fired," Mr. Miller said.