May 27, 2024

ESPN Is Cutting 300 to 400 Jobs

Nonetheless, the company is still growing and will continue to hire people as needed, said two people who had knowledge of its plans but were not authorized to speak publicly.

In a statement Tuesday, ESPN said, “We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs.”

ESPN is expected to cancel “Unite,” a late-night program on ESPNU that started last year.

Four years ago, during the recession, ESPN eliminated 200 positions but shifted many of them to other departments.

Last year, Robert A. Iger and James Rasulo, Disney’s chief executive and chief financial officer, ordered a companywide efficiency review.

Two results include last month’s layoff of 150 people in the studios division and the elimination of several hundred positions in its video game business.

Two weeks ago, Disney announced that its net income for the quarter that ended March 30 had risen 32 percent to $1.5 billion and that the operating income of its cable networks had increased 15 percent because of ESPN.

Still, ESPN’s higher advertising and subscriber revenue was offset by the higher cost of college sports programming.

Earlier this month, ESPN agreed to create and own a new network for the Southeastern Conference. ESPN also extended by 10 years its contract to televise SEC games for more than the $150 million a year it has been paying.

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.

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Corner Office: NeuroLeadership Institute’s Chief, on Shared Goals

Q. You’ve developed an acronym — SCARF — to better explain people’s behavior, particularly at work. Can you explain it?

A. It’s really a summary of what motivates us, the things we feel most passionately about, both positively and negatively, that are driving our behavior all the time. They’re almost like the primary colors of intrinsic motivation.

So, simply put, the brain categorizes everything into one of two categories: threat or reward. We’re driven unconsciously to stay away from threat. We’re driven unconsciously to go toward reward. This decision about threat or reward happens five times every second. It’s very subtle. We’re making this decision about everything good or bad all the time.

There’s been a ton of research in the last 10 years or so that shows that things that create the strongest threats and rewards are social. And social threats and rewards activate what’s called the brain’s primary threat-and-reward center, which is actually the pain-and-pleasure center. This was a big surprise, to see that someone feeling left out of an activity, for example, would activate the same regions as if they had put their hand on a hot plate.

So it’s not just a metaphor that these social feelings are sort of like pain. They use the same network in the brain as pain. But they also use the same network as pleasure, which is why we get so addicted to social media. It’s almost like chocolate. It’s this reward that now we’ve made easily accessible.

Q. I’ve heard a lot of C.E.O.’s say that early experiences with bad bosses created “scar tissue” for them that had a big impact on their leadership style.

A. There are a couple of quirks of social pain and pleasure. One is that social pleasure, especially, is the gift that keeps on giving. But if your boss disses you in front of a team, every time you remember that for the rest of your life, you feel the pain again. That’s scar tissue.

Q. So what does the SCARF acronym stand for?

A. It stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness.

Status is literally your perception of where you are in the pecking order around you, and it’s a feeling of being better than or worse than others. We feel uncomfortable until we work out our status with people. We are more comfortable and we’re more effective when there’s a clear status arrangement between people. When we feel a higher status, we get a slight reward. When we feel lower status, we get a strong threat. The challenge is that if somebody continuously fights for high status, all the other people around them might be getting a strong threat response.

One of the challenges with management is you’ve got very smart people who are high status, and they like to feel smart. They give lots of feedback to everyone else about what they should be doing better, and other people take that as a threat. People react to a performance review as if someone is saying your life is in danger. And the pushback is real. People will push back so intensely because they experience a strong nonconscious threat response. It’s the same mechanism that makes people argue to be right even when they know they’re wrong.

Certainty is a constant drive for the brain. We saw this with Hurricane Sandy. The feeling of uncertainty feels like pain, when you can’t predict when the lights will come back on and you’re holding multiple possible futures in your head. That turns out to be cognitively exhausting. And the more we can predict the future, the more rewarded we feel. The less we can predict the future, the more threatened we feel. As soon as any ambiguity arises in even a very simple activity, we get a threat response. So we are driven to create certainty.

This is challenging in the context of work. When the boss walks in the room, they create a status threat, but they also create a certainty threat because they often create all sorts of change, all sorts of chaos, and you don’t know what’s coming next. But many organizations are taking an open-book-management approach, making all their financials available to everyone. I think there’s a lot of power in increasing people’s sense of certainty and reducing the inherent uncertainty that can happen in an organization.

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DealBook: Lawyer for Former UBS Trader Likens His Client to Spartacus

The former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli arriving at court in London on Monday.Olivia Harris/ReutersThe former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli arriving at court in London on Monday.

LONDON – The lawyer representing Kweku M. Adoboli, a former UBS trader standing trial on fraud allegations, on Monday likened his client to Spartacus, the main character in the 1960s Hollywood movie about a Thracian slave.

In his closing remarks to the jury, Charles Sherrard said Mr. Adoboli was like Spartacus, who was portrayed by Kirk Douglas, because he stepped forward to take the blame. But unlike in the movie, where Spartacus’s fellow gladiators all claimed to be Spartacus to avoid him being singled out for punishment, Mr. Adoboli’s team members were just too happy for him to take responsibility.

“Mr. Adoboli stands up and says ‘I am Spartacus’ and the other three stand up and said ‘yes, that’s him!’, Mr. Sherrard told the jury in a London courtroom.

“Mr. Adoboli believes more in community than the self,” Mr. Sherrard said before quoting e-mail exchanges between Mr. Adoboli and colleagues, in which the former trader wrote “We are a team, we work together. One fails, we all fail. One succeeds, we all succeed.”

The prosecution previously argued that Mr. Adoboli was “arrogant” and a “gambler,” who sidestepped rules when it suited him. Mr. Adoboli, 32, is charged with six counts of fraud and false accounting in connection with a $2.3 billion trading loss at UBS. He could face more than 10 years in prison if convicted.

The defense has said that Mr. Adoboli’s activities were well known in the bank. His supervisors, according to the defense, condoned the actions because they proved to be profitable.

The jury is expected to start deliberating on Tuesday or Wednesday, after a summary of the case by the judge. A verdict is not expected before the middle of next week.

UBS is not a defendant in the case, and is not permitted to comment on criminal cases, according to British law.

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Preoccupations: Building the ‘Watson’ Team of Scientists

When I stepped up to lead the team at I.B.M. that would create this computer, called Watson, I knew the task would be formidable. The computer would have to answer an unpredictable variety of complex questions with confidence, precision and speed. And we would put it to the test in a publicly televised “human versus machine” competition against the best players of all time.

It was not easy finding people to join the Watson team in the mid-1990s. Most scientists I approached favored their own individual projects and career tracks. And who could blame them? This was an effort that, at best, would mingle the contributions of many. At its worst it would fail miserably, undermining the credibility of all involved.

Scientists, by their nature, can be solitary creatures conditioned to work and publish independently to build their reputations. While collaboration drives just about all scientific research, the idea of “publishing or perishing” under one’s own name is alive and well.

I remember asking some researchers how long they had been working in natural language processing — the field of computer science focused on getting computers to interact in ordinary human language. For many, it had been well over a decade.

I asked them if they preferred spending the next 10 years as they had the first 10, publishing isolated research results and earning modest acclaim within a niche community. Or would they like to see whether the technology that had been their life’s work could accomplish something monumental?

For the scientist in me, it was an irresistible challenge. I believed it was a rare opportunity to counter conventional wisdom and advance technology. I was willing to live with possible failure as a downside, but was the team?

A few people were extremely hesitant to join the project and later left, thinking that the whole enterprise was insane. But a majority bought in. We eventually pulled together a core group of 12 talented scientists, which over time grew to 25 members. It was a proud moment, frankly, just to have the courage as a team to move forward.

From the first, it was clear that we would have to change the culture of how scientists work. Watson was destined to be a hybrid system. It required experts in diverse disciplines: computational linguistics, natural language processing, machine learning, information retrieval and game theory, to name a few.

Likewise, the scientists would have to reject an ego-driven perspective and embrace the distributed intelligence that the project demanded. Some were still looking for that silver bullet that they might find all by themselves. But that represented the antithesis of how we would ultimately succeed. We learned to depend on a philosophy that embraced multiple tracks, each contributing relatively small increments to the success of the project.

Technical philosophy was important, but so were personal dynamics. Early on, I made the unpopular decision to bring the entire team together in a war room, to maximize communication. The shared space encouraged people with wildly different skills and opinions to exchange ideas.

The early practice rounds for “Jeopardy” were downright disappointing. Many of Watson’s answers were stupid and irrelevant, some laughably so. Each wrong answer demonstrated the profound failings of simple search-based technologies and showed how sophisticated Watson needed to become.

We had to keep the team’s collective intelligence from being overcome by egos, or dragged down by desperation. Leadership had to be steadfast and persistent but grounded in optimism. Through it all, the team developed a culture of trust that let creativity flourish.

IN the end, the hero was the team, not any individual member or algorithm. Eventually, everyone came to appreciate that. Well into the throes of the project, one researcher commented, “Compared to the way we work now, it’s like we were standing still before.”

Watson went on to win “Jeopardy” a year ago, but its work is far from over. Now we and other research and development teams at I.B.M. are busy developing ways to put Watson to work in several different areas, most notably health care.

As for the members of the original Watson team, they’d tell you that never in a million years could they have imagined what we accomplished. Just like Watson itself, we all learned that the sum is much greater than the parts.


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