It was a bloodbath at ESPN on Friday, as the Disney-owned network axed roughly 20 prominent jobs during a brutal round of layoffs.
"Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead," ESPN told Fox News Digital.
"This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company," ESPN continued. "These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth."
An ESPN insider told Fox News Digital that high-paid staffers were let go in order to save rank-and-file positions.
The New York Post reporter Andrew Marchand, who is typically all over ESPN-related news, first reported the latest layoffs that have stunned the sports media industry.
"ESPN will be telling some employees with contracts that they will still be paid, but they will no longer be on-air. If an on-air person finds him or herself in this position, they will likely be able to work at another network, but will have to hash it out with ESPN’s legal department," Marchand wrote.
Jeff Van Gundy, center, joined ESPN in 2007 and became a mainstay of the network's NBA coverage before being let go this week. (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Marchand also obtained an internal memo ESPN honchos sent to staffers.
"In order to identify additional cost savings, ESPN determined it necessary to turn the cost management focus to public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead," the memo said.
"It’s important for you to know that these are difficult decisions, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company. They are based more on overall efficiency than merit, and we believe they will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth," the memo continued. "Out of respect to all involved, we don’t plan on releasing a complete list of names."
Among the biggest names to surface is Jeff Van Gundy, who joined ESPN in 2007 as an NBA analyst and has emerged as a key component of the network’s NBA Finals broadcasts alongside Mike Breen and Mark Jackson. Marchand also reported that NBA player-turned-broadcaster Jalen Rose was let go.
Fox News Digital has since confirmed that Van Gundy and Rose were let go. Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson and LaPhonso Ellis have also been laid off.
Suzy Kolber, a beloved longtime ESPN host, tweeted that she is also among those laid off. "Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off," she wrote. "Heartbreaking-but 27 years at ESPN was a good run."
ESPN's Max Kellerman, left, and Jalen Rose were among the TV personalities let go in a cost-cutting measure. (Araya Doheny/WireImage | Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)
Earlier this year, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the company would trim its payroll by some 7,000 employees. Iger said the decision is part of a major restructuring aimed at saving the company billions of dollars.
Despite the cost-cutting measures, ESPN signed host Pat McAfee to a five-year deal worth a reported $85 million earlier this year.
Fox Business’ Breck Dumas contributed to this report.