News that ESPN was laying off more than 100 employees broke on Wednesday, but how will it affect the sports juggernaut’s MMA coverage?
It had been widely reported for some time that numerous ESPN cuts were on the way, but Yahoo Finance on Wednesday reported, “The 100 people getting cut are all ‘on-air talent,’ a label ESPN uses for TV personalities, radio hosts, and writers who regularly appear on TV and radio.”
Mixed martial arts has never been a primary focus for ESPN, but the company has a strong backbone for its MMA coverage with veteran reporter Brett Okamoto leading the way. ESPN also has fighters Chael Sonnen and Gilbert Melendez on staff as expert analysts.
The ESPN cuts are largely due to a shift in content strategy, as ESPN president John Skipper said in a public statement, “Given how fans’ habits are changing, our focus continues to be providing high-quality, distinctive content at any minute of the day on any screen.”
As such, Okamoto confirmed to MMAWeekly.com that he would be staying at ESPN. That’s not really a surprise, as Okamoto already fits the mold for ESPN’s developing strategy. He’s a solid reporter with strong writing skills, frequently appears on-air to discuss breaking stories, and hosts a podcast on ESPN.com. Okamoto is the dynamic type of content creator that is needed for “distinctive content on any screen.”
Sonnen and Melendez’s roles moving forward weren’t quite as clear. Sonnen told MMAWeekly.com that, as of mid-day on Wednesday, he had not been contacted by ESPN about any change in his status. Melendez had not yet returned a request for comment about his status.
Some of the significant layoffs already made public included Ed Werder, Danny Kanell, Jayson Stark, Pierre LeBrun, Scott Burnside, Trent Dilfer, Jay Crawford, Paul Kuharsky, Jane McManus, Brett McMurphy, and many other longtime employees.