ESPN is laying off about 20 on-air personalities, including two names familiar to NBA viewers: game analyst Jeff Van Gundy and studio co-host Jalen Rose.
Keyshawn Johnson, a former NFL player who had co-hosted ESPN Radio’s national morning show in one of many installments in a 16-year career at ESPN, is also among those leaving. Also out is Max Kellerman, Johnson’s co-radio host and host of This just in and Stephen A. Smith’s former training partner for a long time on the daily staple of morning TV first take.
A person familiar with the cuts told Deadline that they are not related to the multi-round layoffs at Disney implemented in recent months. Those cuts caused several high-level executives to leave ESPN, but did not affect on-air talent. The source said many of those affected by the new cuts have contracts after June 30 and will be paid accordingly, but the separation will allow ESPN to avoid broader layoffs. The sports operation is now its own division of Disney, making its finances more visible.
Also part of the new wave of departures are NHL analyst Chris Chelios, NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich and 23-year veteran Sports Center anchor Neil Everett. Those individual departures had been reported in recent weeks.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined that some additional cost savings need to be identified in the area of public commentator salaries, and that process has begun,” ESPN said in a statement. “This exercise will include a small group of short-term job cuts and a continued focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals in the coming months. This is an extremely challenging process, involving people who have had a tremendous impact on our company. These tough decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us achieve our financial goals and secure future growth.”
ESPN has been navigating a dramatic change in its economic base due to continued cable outages. After peaking at around 100 million homes a decade ago, the network reported reaching 74 million homes by 2022, depriving it of significant distribution revenue. In addition to events like college football, the NFL and the NBA, which have had strong ratings, linear viewership has declined for all traditional networks as more viewers turn to streaming.
Disney has confirmed that it is actively planning to offer a more comprehensive version of ESPN as a standalone broadcast option, but migrating it is a complicated process due to the network’s agreements with pay-TV operators, leagues and other interested parties. ESPN+, which launched in 2018, reached 25.3 million subscribers earlier this year, but doesn’t offer a full complement of news or live event programming.
Van Gundy, the former head coach of the New York Knicks, has been part of a longtime trio announcing NBA games for ESPN, along with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson. Rose, in addition to his NBA studio duties, previously hosted a daytime talk show. jalen and jacoby.