BURBANK, CALIF.—The Walt Disney Co. on Monday (March 5) named James Pitaro as president of ESPN and co-chair Disney Media Networks.
Pitaro has been chair of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016.
He replaces John Skipper, who stepped down last year because of personal issues. Since Skipper left, former ESPN chair George Bodenheimer has been running the sports network as acting chairman.
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. At the same time as its distribution revenue growth has been throttled by cord-cutting, its costs for sports programming have been rising, putting pressure on profits.
ESPN is getting ready to launch a new app that will include ESPN Plus, a new subscription product that will offer live sporting events, origianl content and a library of on-demand programming.
“As a passionate and lifelong sports fan, I am honored to be joining the ESPN team during such a pivotal time in its storied history,” Pitaro said. “The appetite for quality sports content across platforms has never been greater, and I am looking forward to working with the talented ESPN team as we continue to redefine the future fan experience.”
Pitaro’s appointment is effective immediately, and new leadership for Disney’s consumer products and interactive businesses will be named at a later date.
Before joining Disney, Pitaro served as head of Yahoo Media, where he helped build Yanoo Sports.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said that Pitaro's experence makes him the right person to head ESPN.
“Jimmy is a talented and dedicated leader with the right strategic vision, relentless drive and passion for sports required to lead the stellar ESPN team at this incredibly dynamic time, Iger said. “Jimmy forged his career at the intersection of technology, sports and media, and his vast experience and keen perspective will be invaluable in taking ESPN into the future. I also want to extend my utmost thanks to George Bodenheimer for serving as Acting Chair of ESPN these past few months; he is a true industry pioneer and helped make ESPN the undisputed leader in sports.”
This story first appeared on TVT's sister publication B&C.