Disney embarks on second wave of layoffs, affecting ESPN

Disney has begun its second round of scheduled layoffs, multiple media outlets reported on Monday, as the company continues its initiative to cut 7,000 jobs by mid-year.

Initial layoffs began at the end of March, with Disney CEO Bob Iger informing employees to expect “several thousand more staff reductions” in April. This week’s move would bring the company’s total number of layoffs this year to 4,000, Disney confirmed to Forbes.

Layoffs will reportedly impact Disney’s core business segments – Entertainment, Parks, Experiences and Products and ESPN. Mike Soltys, ESPN’s VP of communications, announced on LinkedIn he will depart the company by the end of June.

“After 43 years at ESPN — 98% of the company’s history — my only full-time job comes to an end in late June,” Soltys wrote. “I’m full of gratitude for the front row seat I’ve had for a business journey like no other. With ESPN retirement, I turn to thinking about the future.”

Russell Wolff, EVP and general manager of ESPN+, is also leaving the company, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

In a memo to employees posted by Deadline, Disney Entertainment co-chairs Alan Bergman and Dana Walden said the company will continue to notify affected employees “over the next several days.”

Plans to reduce jobs were first announced in February, when Iger disclosed Disney is targeting at least $5.5 billion in cost savings over the next few years, with around $3 billion going toward content savings. At the same time, Iger reiterated streaming remains Disney’s “number one priority.”

“The senior leadership teams have been working diligently to define our future organization, and our biggest priority has been getting this right, rather than getting it done fast,” said Bergman and Walden in the memo.

As Disney undertakes layoffs, it’s also tapped Hulu President Joe Earley to lead the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming business, including Hulu and Disney+. Earley replaced Michael Paull, who left after spending six years at Disney.

Disney maintains two-thirds ownership of Hulu and has the option to buy out the remaining stake from Comcast. But Iger in March said the company is considering what to do with the platform “before we make any big decisions about our level of investment.”

Disney at the end of 2022 reported 46.6 million Disney+ subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, along with 57.7 million international subscribers. Hulu and ESPN+ reached 48 million and 24.9 million subscribers, respectively, in the U.S.