ESPN is shutting down its ESPN Deportes radio network Sept. 8, laying off 10 full-time and 25 part-time employees. In a statement, ESPN said that Hispanic audience consumer habits “are changing rapidly. It’s no secret Hispanic fans skew heavily on digital and social, which is why we made the decision to discontinue ESPN Deportes terrestrial radio.”
Further, the network called the shuttering an “evolution,” saying that “moving forward, ESPN will continue serving Hispanic sports fans with the widest variety of sports through multiple platforms, including television, digital, social, mobile and audio podcasts.”
The radio network airs on 44 affiliates, mostly AM stations, including stations in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, Fresno, El Paso, Denver, Washington, Chicago and Miami. Entravision and Lotus Communications are the media companies with the majority of its outlets.
With Hispanics over-indexing for digital and social media consumption, a network of AM radio stations no longer made sense for ESPN’s distribution strategy. What’s more, broadcast ratings for ESPN Deportes Radio have plummeted by 71% during the past five years, according to Nielsen Audio data.
ESPN parent Disney made a similar move in 2014, when it began to sell its 23 Radio Disney stations, keeping only KDIS, Los Angeles (1110) as the flagship for its now digital-centric, national Radio Disney brand.
ESPN will keep a handful of ESPN Deportes Radio shows as on-demand podcasts, including “Jorge Ramos y Su Banda” which also airs on television. Other radio shows to survive as podcasts are “Raza Deportiva,” “Nos ponemos las pilas” and “La Locomotora.” In addition, ESPN will offer podcasts of “Futbol Picante,” “Los Capitanes,” “Cronometro,” “NFL Live,” “A Los Golpes,” “El Diario de Martin,” “ESPN Radio Formula” and “El Diario Deportivo.”
It’s unclear how the decision will affect play-by-play rights that ESPN Deportes Radio currently has.
The company will close ESPN Deportes Radio’s Coral Gables, FL base, according to multiple reports.
ESPN has described Deportes as its “multimedia, Spanish-language sports brand dedicated to providing the widest variety of sports to the U.S. Hispanic sports fan via television (ESPN Deportes), digital (ESPNDeportes.com), audio (ESPN Deportes Radio), and print (ESPN Deportes La Revista).”