ESPN Names Disney Executive James Pitaro New President

Lawrence Kim
March 6, 2018

ESPN has named Disney executive James Pitaro as its new president, reporting directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger, the company announced Monday.

A month after Skipper's departure, Jemele Hill exited as co-anchor of the 6 PM hour of ESPN's SportsCenter.

Pitaro takes over the post vacated late previous year when John Skipper stepped down, citing a substance abuse problem, after months of public relations slips by the Worldwide Leader.

Though a leader in the sports business and a top rated network, ESPN has been hurt by the decline in pay-tv subscribers because it takes in the most revenue per subscriber of any cable network. The company is trying to capture digital viewers with an upcoming streaming service called ESPN+, which will offer sports programing that is not shown on ESPN's TV channels.

Photo James Pitaro will become the next president of ESPN.

He added that Pitaro's appointment "comes at a time for great opportunity for ESPN".

"I also want to extend my utmost thanks to George Bodenheimer for serving as Acting Chair of ESPN these past few months", Iger said in the statement.

Disney shares rose 0.6 percent to $103.56 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. ESPN has lost more than 13 million subscribers from its peak of 100.13 million households in 2011, and the company has laid off more than 500 employees - both behind-the-scenes personnel and front-facing talent - since October 2015.

Before joining Disney, Pitaro served as head of Yahoo Media, where he helped build Yanoo Sports. And the planned launch of ESPN Plus, a direct-to-consumer subscription service featuring niche sports, is an incremental step, not a full-scale solution to ESPN's woes.

Pitaro had overseen Disney's vast licensing business since May 2016 and previously served as head of Disney Interactive.

But ESPN - and Disney overall - is making big moves to adapt to the digital world, and Iger thinks Pitaro is the right person to lead ESPN there.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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