Although the fact has already happened, it only took until now for questions to be asked of Disney with regards to the layoffs done at the cable sports channel ESPN, which it jointly owns. They were directed at CEO Bob Iger in the course of the company’s quarterly earnings call.

The layoff has gotten lots of attention in the world of sports media over the past months, however, in a show of solidarity, nobody from Disney made any comment, official or otherwise, about what had happened at ESPN. This was the first time in several months that the elephant in the room has finally been addressed.

‘Not as bad as reported.'

The Disney earnings call, done Tuesday, May 8, saw Bob Iger being asked almost nothing but questions about the ESPN layoff, and tangential queries like whether or not the House of Mouse is even taking steps to look after the channel and its talent. The one reason given long ago for this drastic course of action was the necessity of cost-cutting measures in the face of cable viewing trend shifts.

But it wasn’t as catastrophic as feared, Iger stated. He insisted that Disney has always been managing that portion of their business efficiently and that it had to be done due to the challenges that were in the way of ESPN’s continuing operation.

Still, Iger points out that the layoffs, “regarding scale and size, is not that significant given that ESPN has 8,000 employees and we reduced by 100 employees.”

Now while indeed there were only a hundred people let go from the sports network, some of these were some of ESPN’s prominent on-air talents, among them Trent Dilfer, Ed Werder, and Jayson Stark.

With the rise of the internet and online streaming of sporting events, the cable TV platform of ESPN has had difficulty competing, resulting in a loss of cable subscribers. On top of that, the rights fees for both college and pro sports coverage continue to rise into billions of dollars annually.

‘Tough’ love?

Leave it to Bob Iger however, to try and put a positive spin on Disney’s decisions regarding ESPN; the company is still in the midst of its transition to the digital format.

Back in 2016, the company had invested BAMTech, a streaming outfit with which ESPN hopes to help in developing their in-house online content.

"We will eventually be in a direct-to-consumer business for ESPN product,” noted Iger. “We hope to launch one on our Bam Tech product before the end of this year."