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ESPN poised for big job cuts

Changing cable subscriber landscape cited for layoffs

A sign for ESPN Monday Night Football hangs on the end zone wall during an NFL preseason football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cleveland. Buffalo won 11-10. (AP Photo/David Richard)
A sign for ESPN Monday Night Football hangs on the end zone wall during an NFL preseason football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Cleveland. Buffalo won 11-10. (AP Photo/David Richard)

ESPN is on the verge of mass layoffs.

The sports network will inform employees about the cutbacks on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the plan said.

An ESPN representative declined to comment on Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day Bloomberg News reported that up to 350 employees, or 4.3 percent of its 8,000 positions, will be affected.

The layoffs are seen as both a reaction to, and preparation for, wrenching changes in the cable television business. Cable channels like ESPN, which depend on subscriber fees, have been pinched by the small but growing number of viewers unsubscribing.

Back in August ESPN's parent company, Disney, reduced its profit growth expectations for the network, citing marketplace challenges.

Layoff rumors started not long after. The Big Lead, a sports news site, said in September that Disney had told ESPN to "trim $100 million from the 2016 budget and $250 million in 2017."

At the time, the network said in a statement that it wanted to inform employees before saying anything publicly about cutbacks.

ESPN has said farewell to several big name, high cost stars this year, including Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons. Although there were many factors at play, price was one of them.

"ESPN has historically embraced evolving technology to smartly navigate our business," the network said. "Any organizational changes will be announced directly to our employees if and when appropriate."

ESPN is in some ways a bellwether for the industry because it earns a high subscriber fee, $6 a month by some estimates.