ESPN layoffs cut deep

(This has been updated to show that KTLA will show the May 21 Dodgers-Marlins game.)

This is my first TV-Radio column since Aug. 26, 2016. That was the week I was asked to give up one of my two weekly columns so I could focus more on covering local sports. I reluctantly gave up my TV-Radio column in order to keep the general Tuesday columns that frankly had more readers and received more comments.

The nice thing about a blog is that you can write whatever you want. So here goes:

Ed-Werder2-310x310
Ed Werder

Layoffs are happening in a lot of places these days. I should know. One of the more dramatic reductions happened last month at ESPN. The network known as the Worldwide Leader in Sports laid off about 100 employees, many of them on-air talent with recognizable names. Among the best known were NFL reporter Ed Werder and baseball analyst Jayson Stark.

Werder has been quite vocal about his departure, revealing to the Washington Post that ESPN gave him the option of covering the NFL draft after laying him off and saying that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told him “he was angered by (the layoff).”

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Jayson Stark

Stark is rumored to be headed to MLB Network, which would be an obvious next step. He told a Philadelphia radio station, “I didn’t see it coming. I was really surprised by it.”

What’s even stranger is that ESPN is going to limit Baseball Tonight  to a Sunday pregame show and start simulcasting MLB Network’s Intentional Talk on weekdays. That’s a ridiculous move. The shows are not interchangeable; Intentional Talk borders on the inane.

Sara Walsh - May 16, 2014
Sarah Walsh

Layoffs are never kind. SportsCenter anchor Sarah Walsh returned from maternity leave after having twins to find out she was no longer an ESPN employee.

What’s interesting, however, is that since the layoffs, ESPN has made several talent moves, including hiring play-by-play man Adam Amin and extending the contracts of college football analyst (and minor league baseball player) Tim Tebow, baseball analyst Eduardo Perez and commentator Will Cain.

The media landscape is changing quickly and often without much common sense.

PREGAME POSITIONS

Speaking of changing landscapes, NFL pregame shows are playing musical chairs as they seem to do annually about this time.

Tony Gonzalez is moving from CBS to Fox and Nate Burleson is going to CBS. Also, James Lofton will be a game analyst for CBS.

Earlier, Phil Simms was relegated from the No. 1 CBS broadcast team with Jim Nantz to the pregame show when CBS hired Tony Romo as a game analyst.

FAMILY TRAGEDY

The family of Chris Berman said in a statement Wednesday that they “are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and sympathy” after his wife Kathy was killed Tuesday in a car accident in rural Woodbury, Conn. The other driver, 87-year-old Edward Bertulis, also was killed.

Kathy Berman, 67, was a school teacher. The couple had been married 33 years.

The Berman family, Chris and children Meredith and Doug, said in the statement, “Kathy Berman had a huge heart and this would have warmed hers beyond belief. It certainly warmed ours. All of us need to keep the family of Edward Bertulis in our thoughts and prayers as well.”

ESPN president John Skipper also issued a statement:

“This is a devastating tragedy and difficult to comprehend. Chris is beloved by all his ESPN colleagues and for good reason: He has a huge heart and has given so much to so many over the years. We know how much his family means to him and all we can do at a moment like this is give him the love and support he will surely need at this hour. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chris, Meredith, Doug and the entire family.”

Chris Berman joined ESPN in 1979 and stepped down as a host of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown in January after 31 seasons. He remains under contract with the network.

INTRODUCED TO EMMY

Fox and Fox Sports 1 led in Sports Emmys received this week with 16 total, thanks primarily to the Chicago Cubs’ World Series championship. NBC and HBO each received five Emmys, followed by CBS, ESPN and MLB Network with four each. Craig Sager was posthumously honored as outstanding sports personality. Brent Musburger was given a lifetime achievement award. Bob Costas won for studio host. Mike Emrick was honored for play-by-play. Among analysts, Charles Barkley won for studio work and Bill Raftery won for event work.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Spectrum has announced that KTLA (Channel 5) will show the May 21 Dodgers-Marlins game along with SportsNet LA. KTLA was supposed to show the May 7 game at San Diego, but it was rained out. It’s the last of the 10 games scheduled to be televised by Channel 5. Of course, a sizable chunk of the Los Angeles market doesn’t get SNLA, so it’s a significant rescheduling. … NBCSN will show the Amgen Tour of California starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Sacramento. … The Kentucky Derby averaged 16.4 million viewers and a 9.3 rating for NBC, up 6 percent and 3 percent respectively from last year. … ESPN will show the ceremonies at Yankee Stadium for Derek Jeter on Baseball Tonight at 3:30 p.m. Sunday prior to the Yankees and Astros playing at 4:30. … ESPN’s E:60 moves to 6 a.m. Sunday this weekend with features on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and the Syrian national soccer team. … The WNBA starts Saturday with the champion Sparks hosting the Seattle Storm at 2 p.m. Also Saturday, NBA TV will show San Antonio-New York.

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