ESPN Chief Pitaro’s Executive Shuffle Puts Burke Magnus Over Content, Rosalyn Durant Over Sports Rights

ESPN is getting in on the biggest game at corporate parent Disney: shuffling top executive ranks in the wake of the return of CEO Bob Iger.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro handed oversight of content and newsgathering to Burke Magnus, a veteran executive who has helped the sports-media giant strike sports-rights deals with most of the major sports leagues as well as set in motion new content initiatives. Magnus has been named president of content, according to a new memo from Pitaro reviewed by Variety, and will supervise studio shows, live events, newsgathering, investigative journalism, original content/ESPN Films, talent, audio, digital, and social media.

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Meanwhile, Rosalyn Durant, a Disney veteran who has been overseeing Disney facilities in its parks division, will return to ESPN as executive vice president of programming and acquisitions, the ESPN position that negotiates for the rights that keep a significant chunk of live sports on Disney’s media portfolio. Durant previously worked at ESPN as the head of its college-sports networks, and played a significant role in launching the ACC Network.

The moves are the latest at Disney since the reintroduction of Bob Iger at the company’s helm. Iger has charged Pitaro with a greater share of senior corporate responsibilities and the shuffle at ESPN will help streamline some of the executive’s direct reports. Though Disney’s decision to put ESPN in its own separate operating unit raised eyebrows, Iger recently emphasized that the sports unit is of critical importance to the overall company, Indeed, many networks like ABC and FX are making use of ESPN sports deals, as is the streaming hub Hulu. FX is showing XFL games and Hulu has been streaming NHL hockey matches.

Magnus is likely to have a hand in some sports-rights talks in the near term, Pitaro said in the memo. “There will be a period of transition for both Burke and Rosalyn. Burke will continue to be involved in certain negotiations during this transition period while Rosalyn wraps up her work” at Disney’s parks operations, he said.

Durant’s hire may signal a greater focus on looming renewal talks with the National Basketball Association, a pivotal rights deal that has been valuable for both ESPN and its rival holder, Warner Bros. Discovery. Durant played a key role in helping the NBA resume play under “bubble” conditions at ESPN’s giant facility at Walt Disney World, and has a good relationship with NBA executives.

Tina Thornton, who oversees ESPN’s content operations will expand her duties to oversee its production efforts. Laura Gentile was given oversight of all aspects of marketing around ESPN’s properties.

The four executives will report to Pitaro, as will Mark Walker, who oversees development and innovation; Rob King, ESPN’s executive editor in chief of special projects; and Chara-Lynn Aguiar, who is a senior vice president of strategy.

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