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Sources: ESPN heading for more painful layoffs

• Sporting News

The next round of cutbacks could come down in late November or early December, with 40-60 positions potentially being impacted, according to sources. The layoffs could hit both on-air TV/radio talent and behind-the-scenes production staffers. 

"This time it won't matter if you're 'liked' or not. It's not going to be pretty," one source warned. 

Another source expects the flagship "SportsCenter" franchise to lose people in front of and behind the camera. "I see (ESPN) going down a path where they have less staff — and hire more production companies to provide programs and fill air time."

ESPN is like the NFL of sports media: It's so big that competitors such as Fox Sports' FS1 would kill to have its ratings/audiences.

Through Week 7 of the 2017 season, ESPN's "Monday Night Football" was the lone NFL TV package up in ratings, according to Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily. In September, ESPN's "First Take" with Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim tripled the TV audience of FS1's rival "Undisputed" with Skip Bayless, Shannon Sharpe and Joy Taylor (461,000 vs. 150,000 average viewers). With 96.9 million digital users, ESPN had five times as many unique viewers in September as Fox Sports.

ESPN is still able to lure top talent from rivals, such as Katie Nolan of Fox and NHL blogger/editor Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports. And ESPN has few rivals in storytelling (a recent example being Tom Rinaldi's touching "SportsCenter" feature about quarterback Carson Wentz of the Eagles and the 10-year old "Dutch Destroyer.")

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