Among cable networks, ESPN is perhaps the highest-profile victim of the cord cutting trend. The Disney property has lost around 12 million subscribers over the course of the past five years. And while ESPN reps are quick to point out that OTT is part of the company's strategy and future (ESPN is available on Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, among other streaming services), it's clear that cord cutting has, on the whole, been bad for ESPN. The consequences are as clear as the causes: ESPN must cut costs to make ends meet.To that end, ESPN is reportedly going to lay off large numbers of people in the next four months. The goal is to save millions in salaries. ESPN already shed a lot of behind-the-scenes employees back in 2015, but this latest cut will hit on-air talent.Jettisoning on-air personalities will be a pretty visible sign of ESPN's decline, but the company doesn't have much choice. A decline in subscriber numbers means a decline in revenue, and ESPN's costs have not followed suit.ESPN is particularly vulnerable to the costs of cord cutting because its content contracts are so expensive. Sports broadcast rights have skyrocketed over the past few years in what has widely been seen as a bubble. Per Deadspin, ESPN pays $3.3 billion every year to broadcast NFL and NBA games, and that doesn't even take into account the many other sports and leagues that ESPN broadcasts and covers.