Walt Disney Company has announced James Pitaro as the new president of ESPN and the co-chair of Disney Media Networks.
Pitaro had been the chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016. He was formerly a vice president and head of Yahoo! Media, including leading Yahoo! Sports.
His appointment is effective immediately and will report directly to Disney CEO Bob Iger. Pitaro has led Disney’s consumer products and interactive media division since 2016.
Disney has shared the news on its official website.
Pitaro said, “As a passionate and lifelong sports fan, I am honoured to be joining the ESPN team during such a pivotal time in its storied history. 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.”
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) March 5, 2018
Pitaro, who was an early favourite for the position, has taken the charge ahead of the launch of ESPN+, the network’s direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, which debuts in the spring. ESPN+ will be part of the ESPN App, which will house all of the company’s digital offerings, including news, scores, highlights and authenticated streams of ESPN’s domestic U.S. networks.
The company’s forthcoming streaming service could pose a challenge to incumbents in the space like Netflix, bolstered by ESPN’s live sports offerings.
“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,” Disney chairman and CEO Bob 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.”
The announcement came less than three months after the resignation of John Skipper, who had been ESPN’s president for nearly six years. Skipper resigned on December 18, citing a struggle with substance addiction.
Pitaro is a graduate of Cornell University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He has a law degree from St. John’s, and he practiced law at several New York firms before going into media.
George Bodenheimer, who took over as acting chairman of ESPN after Skipper left, will turn the reins over to Pitaro.
“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. “He is a true industry pioneer and helped make ESPN the undisputed leader in sports.”