ESPN is divvying up responsibilities for content in the wake of senior executive Connor Schell’s decision to leave the sports-media giant to start his own production company.
Burke Magnus has long been the ESPN executive who makes sure the sports-media giant always has access to games from the big leagues. Now he will have the added task of ensuring ESPN has something to show when there’s no game on the air The Walt Disney-owned outlet said Magnus would take over original content development for ESPN and ESPN Plus, while Laura Gentile, senior vice president of marketing and social media, will gain oversight of the company’s social-media content and Stephanie Druley and Norby Williamson, two executives who oversee the production of games and in-studio shows, respectively, will take greater responsibility for them.
In a series of executive assignments unveiled Monday, Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content for Disney, said the company would not replace Schell directly and also noted that Jodi Markley, ESPN’s executive vice president of content operations and creative services, will leave ESPN in April to retire after a 32-year stint.
ESPN is in the midst of restructuring itself to face an era when consumers are more than likely to interact with its content via mobile devices, streaming video and social media as they are to watch programs on a traditional TV set. That latter behavior, however, has been the main source of ESPN’s revenue for decades. Last week, ESPN said it would cut 300 jobs and leave 200 positions unfilled to free up resources for new kinds of video experiences for sports fans. ESPN makes its journey as its parent company, Walt DIsney, is facing a legion of problems spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, including slumps in theme-park attendance, delayed movie roll-outs and more challenging ad sales.
Other changes are in store. Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president and editor at large, will report directly to Pitaro. Previously, he had reported to Schell. King will retain oversight of ESPN’s journalism operations, and work closely with executives who oversee ESPN Films and original content tailored for different kinds of media experiences. He will advise ESPN leadership on editorial issues.
Schell is likely to have an influence on ESPN in days to come. He will form an independent production company which will count ESPN as its first client. Schell’s company will work closely with ESPN Films and other senior executives to produce pieces for the documentary-news program “30 for 30” as well as the annual “ESPYS” awards show. Schell will continue as an executive producer on a previously announced series on the life of athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick and the nine-part miniseries “Man in the Arena,” centered on a first-hand account of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl seasons.
“As I launch this new production company, I am excited to transition back to a role where I can more directly tell stories and I couldn’t think of a better way to get started than continuing to work on ’30 for 30′ with Jimmy and ESPN,” Schell said in a statement.
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