1 July 2023 | 12:12 p.m
Pat McAfee has spoken out about the backlash following his massive ESPN contract as the network simultaneously makes layoffs.
ESPN laid off about 20 prominent on-air talent Friday and a number of social media users connected the dots that McAfee just received a deal from the worldwide executive that The Post’s Andrew Marchand reported is worth about $85 million over five years.
Among the firings were Jeff Van Gundy, Jalen Rose, Steve Young, Suzy Kolber, Keyshawn Johnson, Max Kellerman and Todd McShay.
McAfee spoke out that his big-money deal, which comes at the same time as ESPN, has cut costs.
“I did a lot of reflecting on our show’s journey while being murdered on the internet today (hell yes). All roads lead back to how honored I am to lead such a talented group and how lucky I am to be a part of this team (missing some in pictures and a couple I couldn’t tag),” McAfee tweeted Friday.
“We do our thing. We have fun. And we never blink… Basement, Boxcar, World Stop… you name it.. the show rolls on.
“We are very pumped to join ESPN and our goal is that ‘mass exits’ are never a thing again.. we hope to help that.. sure it’s a lofty goal but that’s how I really see it on life… I wish we could have worked with many of the people who were released today.
“Some absolute legends that we all respect in the sports media world today were trending out of jobs. It’s a shame.. any way you cut it.”
Everything to know about ESPN layoffs
On Friday, ESPN began the latest round of its layoffs, with several big names among the expected 20 on-air personalities being let go.
Network stalwarts Jeff Van Gundy, Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson, Suzy Kolber, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Young and Todd McShay were some of the biggest names ESPN let go.
It marked the third round of layoffs from the “Worldwide Leader,” with the previous two focusing on behind-the-scenes workers.
The massive layoffs come as part of mandates from parent company Disney, which announced earlier this year that about 7,000 jobs would be eliminated.
Frankly, it will be an uphill climb for McAfee to prevent future layoffs at ESPN.
The network was in about 100 million homes a decade ago, and now it’s in about 70-75 million; every home in the cable and satellite package pays over $10 a month for ESPN and ESPN2, regardless of whether anyone in the household watches ESPN.
The back-of-the-envelope math reveals that this loss of subscribers adds up to several billion dollars in less revenue per year.
At the same time, rights fees for live sports are on the rise, and ESPN parent Disney’s foray into streaming has also been a costly endeavor.
Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that one talent has a significant impact on the factors that affect ESPN’s business.
Nevertheless, there isn’t exactly a linear relationship between the current ESPN talent cuts and the eye-watering sums they’re paying McAfee either.
If ESPN can leverage McAfee’s significant social media and YouTube presence to sell major sponsorships, which the network believes it can, then he could generate profits for the company and thus theoretically help save a modest amount of jobs.
McAfee was a big driver of affiliate signups for FanDuel; If, for example, Fanatics, which is making a big push into sports gambling, were to become the presenting sponsor of McAfee’s show on ESPN, one could imagine a lucrative partnership.
That said, while McAfee generates tens of millions of dollars in profits for ESPN, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the pressure the network faces with cord-cutting and escalating rights fees for the NFL, NBA, UFC, college football and other live sports.
“We will continue to control the things we can control,” McAfee continued in his tweet on Friday.
“[T]ry to do daily sports coverage in an entertaining and informative way.. and be grateful for all the opportunities that have been earned through a lot of hard work and commitment from the group of guys I get to call colleagues. Have an incredible weekend. Cheers from all of us at #PMSLive.”