ESPN adds Paul Finebaum; Lays off hundreds in unrelated move

ESPN adds Paul Finebaum; Lays off hundreds in unrelated move

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n a day when ESPN confirmed that employees were given pink slips as a part of company-wide layoffs, the “worldwide leader” has added at least one new member to its team.

finebaumPaul Finebaum, formerly the host of a controversial Birmingham, Ala.-based syndicated radio show, is moving to ESPN effective Aug. 1.

Obviously, the two events aren’t related, but there has to be some irony in there somewhere.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Finebaum will host a radio program on ESPN that will be broadcast via TV simulcast on the ESPN-owned SEC Network, and make an additional 100 appearances a year on ESPN television.

Finebaum, who will move to Charlotte, N.C., home base for the new SEC Network, has been off the air since his contract expired in January.

“What is striking is he is such a great moderator-slash-provocateur of the emotion that lives within the fan base,” said Justin Connolly, the senior vice president for programming who will oversee the SEC Network for ESPN, told the Journal. “To be able to bring him aboard onto the team here is significant.”

Finebaum’s four-hour daily show revolved around the opinions of his callers — the majority of them regulars — and was syndicated on nearly 30 stations across the South. Though it aired nationally on Sirius satellite radio, it maintained a distinctly Southern (read: Alabama) flair.

It will be interesting to see how that evolves given ESPN’s far broader reach.

“The show has become successful for a lot of reasons, but it’s always been a caller show and the audience has been able to become the star,” Finebaum said. “I don’t really see that changing in the immediate future.”

Earlier in the day, Deadspin reported that ESPN laid off “more than 400” staff members, though the exact number has not been verified.

An ESPN representative confirmed the layoffs as part of a strategy to enhance the network’s “continued growth while smartly managing costs.”

At least two sources informed Deadspin that the number is somewhere in the 300-400 range. Two sources said the network’s Denver office was shut down and all of its 20 employees let go.

One laid-off staffer told the website that he will be paid through the end of July and received a severance package of two-weeks pay for every year worked.

(Deadspin continues to update the layoffs story as details come in. Click HERE for the latest.)

Photo credit: AP

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