Five months after its founder Bill Simmons departed, ESPN has decided to shut down its sports and pop culture website, Grantland.
"Effective immediately we are suspending the publication of Grantland," ESPN said in a statement released this afternoon. "After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise."
Grantland had been facing rough times ever since Simmons and ESPN ended their 14-year relationship—Simmons is now with HBO—having seen numerous staff defections over the past few months. Despite strong traffic numbers over the summer, ESPN must have felt Grantland either couldn't survive without the writers who left or didn't want to invest in finding new ones.
ESPN said it will honor the contracts of the staffers and will have opportunities for some of them to work on sports content on other ESPN platforms. But for many of those on the pop culture side, the news today was a bit more grim:
Well that's the first time I've ever found out I was laid off via Twitter
— Michael Baumann (@MJ_Baumann) October 30, 2015
For what it's worth, next Weds was to be my last day at Grantland. Now it's today. Will forever be proud of the amazing work & friendships.
— Andy Greenwald (@andygreenwald) October 30, 2015
Simmons himself responded to the news shortly after it broke:
I loved everyone I worked with at G and loved what we built. Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) October 30, 2015
The decision to shut down Grantland comes as ESPN has been battling a shrinking subscriber base and rising programming costs. Its new TV deal with the NBA will cost ESPN three times its previous contract. Meanwhile, the Disney-owned network is seeing its first real cable competition from NBC and FOX. Last week, ESPN laid off more than 300 staffers.
An ESPN spokesperson told Adweek the company remains committed to its two other microsites: Nate Silver's political website FiveThirtyEight and the soon-to-launch The Undefeated, which is focused on the intersection of race and sports. The Undefeated, which was originally led by Jason Whitlock, recently hired Kevin Merida from The Washington Post as its editor in chief.