ESPN Seeks Pay Cuts From On-Air Talent

With live sports sidelined by the Coronavirus, ESPN is asking some of its highest-paid on-air commentary to take a 15% pay cut over the next three months.

ESPN is part of The Walt Disney Co., whose theme parks are shut down and whose movies can’t be shown in theaters because of the crisis. Disney’s senior execs--including at ESPN-- have already taken pay cuts of between 20% and 30% and thousands of employees have been furloughed.

The pay cut requests are designed to prevent further furloughs and save weekly paychecks for ESPN employees who may be more financially vulnerable than the network’s top exec and personalities.

According to Sports Business Daily, ESPN executives including Connor Schell, executive VP, content; Norby Williamson, executive VP, event and studio production; and Stephanie Druley, executive VP, event and studio production, were on the phone Monday calling commentators and their agents, urging them to accept voluntary pay cuts. The paper said it was not known how many had agreed to take the reductions.

“We are asking about 100 of our commentators to join with our executives and take a temporary salary reduction. These are challenging times and we are all in this together, ESPN said in a statement.

Sports Business Daily named Stephen A. Smith, Mike Greenberg, Alex Rodriguez and Kirk Herbstreit as being among those with seven-figure paychecks being asked to accept cuts.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.