This week, news broke that two of ESPN’s biggest names are leaving the network. Mike Tirico, who calls Monday Night Football, college basketball, and various other sports for the network, and First Take star Skip Bayless are off to NBC Sports and Fox Sports, respectively, and it has many asking questions about ESPN’s ability to hold on to its top talent.
President John Skipper is looking to put a halt to that narrative, publishing a post today about ESPN’s efforts to retain and acquire talent.
At ESPN, we have more than 1,000 public-facing talent, clearly the broadest, most experienced and most diverse collection of writers, analysts, hosts, commentators, reporters and expert opinion leaders in the sports media industry.
It is a also a remarkably stable group, though some change is inevitable for a variety of reasons.
While some may leave, ESPN has always continued to thrive and we have a demonstrated track record of the ability to identify and develop talented people. The current and next generation of great talent lives here at ESPN and we look forward to showcasing them across our unparalleled collection of platforms.
Vice President John Wildhack says that the network has managed to keep 95-percent of its talent, and goes on to list examples from the over 200 high profile people that the company has signed to contract in the last year.
“Understandably when there is a high-profile change, the picture might be viewed through a very small lens,” said ESPN Executive Vice President, Production and Programming, John Wildhack. “Yet the facts are that more than 95 percent of our talent have remained at ESPN and there are a wide range of circumstances surrounding the few who don’t.”
As surprising as both departures are, Tirico and Bayless are just two people at a massive company. Still, they represent pretty effective shots across the bow from some of ESPN’s competitors, especially after drawing a direct reaction from its president.