The coronavirus crisis has brought a temporary halt to sports programming nationwide to the dismay of many sports enthusiasts. The pain of the programming halt extends to the Pac-12 Conference and its content-production unit, the Pac-12 Networks, which have implemented pay cuts of up to 20% for top executives as well as staff layoffs affecting about a dozen full-time employees, according to recent media reports.
Not reported to date, however, is the fact that the COVID-19 outbreak also has impacted more than 500 freelancers at the Pac-12 Networks, a recent federal WARN Act notice shows.
A total of 531 freelancers have been furloughed across the Pac-12 Networks’ dozen university locations and its San Francisco headquarters, where broadcast production work also occurs. The idled content-production crew includes 83 freelancers in Washington, home to Pac-12 Conference schools the University of Washington and Washington State University, according to sources familiar with the WARN Act filing.
The freelancers, however, have been kept on the Pac-12 Networks’ “active roster,” which will enable the sports-media company to return them to work quickly when broadcast productions for the Pac-12 Conference can once again resume, the sources indicate.
“To help lessen the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis on freelancers, Pac-12 Networks made the decision to pay all freelancers for events or shifts they were scheduled to work from March 14 through April 5, 2020,” one source said, “and has been applying a relaxed and flexible standard regarding paid sick-time usage.” The source also indicated that the freelancers were provided information on applying for unemployment benefits, which they may be eligible for now under the expanded coverage included in the recently enacted federal coronavirus-relief package.
Pac-12 Networks is a media company that includes one national and six regional TV networks as well as various other digital properties that are owned by the 12 universities in the Pac-12 Conference. Under the WARN Act, employers with 100 or more workers must provide written notice to the Washington’s Employment Security Department and the top elected official in the community when a layoff or closure is occurring.