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ESPN to lay off 150 employees Wednesday

ESPN President John Skipper says the Bristol-based sports broadcasting company plans Wednesday to lay off roughly 150 employees in its latest round of cuts this year.

“We appreciate their contributions, and will assist them as much as possible in this difficult moment ...,” Skipper wrote in a note that went out to employeesWednesday morning. The company declined to say how many of the impacted employees are based in Bristol.

The cuts come at a time when the network is facing changes as audience demands shift to digital platforms instead of cable television. ESPN has seen its subscriber count drop from 100.1 million in 2011 to 87.2 million this year, according to Nielsen data.

The majority of the layoffs will be employees working in studio production, digital content and technology amid decisions to “do less in certain instances and re-direct resources,” Skipper wrote. This is the latest round of layoffs at the media giant in recent months.

In April, ESPN laid off about 100 journalists and on-air talent, including longtime NFL reporter Ed Werder and MLB reporter Jayson Stark.

The company continues to hire as it undertakes new initiatives including ESPN+, a direct-to-consumer streaming service that will carry thousands of live sporting events.

The number announced Wednesday is greater than what was rumored earlier this month. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch reported in early November that the company was going to cut 100 employees by the end of the year, and the long-running SportsCenter program would be hard hit.

“We will continue to invest in ways which will best position us to serve the modern sports fan and support the success of our business,” Skipper wrote.

Quinnipiac University journalism Professor Rich Hanley said that the network has been struggling.

“The ESPN layoffs were expected but the action reinforces that the network peaked some time ago and is seeking more so to manage the decline in overall cable subscriptions than it is to promote growth at this point,” Hanley said.

The company employs about 8,000 worldwide and 4,200 at its Bristol headquarters.

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