Colin Cowherd spent more than a decade working at ESPN before leaving The Worldwide Leader in Sports in 2015 to join Fox Sports. So like most people, he felt "awful" when he heard about the massive layoffs that took place at ESPN on Wednesday. About 100 employees, including many popular on-air personalities, were relieved of their duties in a shakeup that shocked the sports media world.
"It makes me sick," Cowherd said during an interview on the CBS show Bull & Fox. "The good news is most of the people let go are really talented, but this is all about business, and when you have overpaid for products—sometimes six and seven hundred million more than you had to pay, certainly with the NBA that’s the case—they just pay way too much for it."
Cowherd was referring to ESPN inking a nine-year, $24 billion deal with the NBA in 2014 there, but he said he believes that ESPN has routinely paid too much money for the rights to air certain sports and sporting events. And while it took some time, he said he thinks that finally caught up with the network and forced them to fire some of their best people. He claimed he could see the writing on the wall shortly after the NBA deal went down, and he suggested he sought out a new job after seeing the direction ESPN was heading in.
"I told my producers, 'Fellas, it’ll never be the same here,'" he said. "You cannot pay four times for the house [more] than what you paid for the house last year. And I said this company will never be the same. It was at that point I started looking, and this is not going to end today. They have really cost-prohibitive contracts, combined with cord-cutting."
Cowherd also hinted that the most recent round of layoffs could be just the beginning for ESPN. He reiterated his belief that layoffs could become commonplace at ESPN in the coming years.
"It's awful," he said, "and it will happen annually for the next decade."
You should obviously take Cowherd’s comments with a grain of salt, since he works for a competing network right now and isn’t as connected at ESPN as he once was. But after what happened on Wednesday, it’s not hard to see that ESPN seems to be struggling right now and is not the same giant as it was even just a few years ago. You can listen to Cowherd talk more about ESPN at the 13-minute mark here: