Disney Executive James Pitaro Named President of ESPN and Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced today that James Pitaro who has served as Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016 will become ESPN's 8th President. Pitaro will report directly to Bob Iger.
Before Disney, James Pitaro was vice president and head of Yahoo! Media, including leading Yahoo! Sports. “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,” Mr. 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.” James Pitaro will be the President of ESPN effective immediately. New leadership for Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media will be named at a later date.
James Pitaro comes in as President during a trying time for ESPN. The network has been blasted by Wall Street, and has often been criticized for being one of the dark spots in The Walt Disney Company in the past few years. In the past year the network has been criticized for its sports coverage and its lack of awareness when it comes to what is hot in pop culture and sports media. ESPN in the past year cancelled a show due to employees being jealous of the show. So many have thought ESPN to be a sinking ship until now.
One of Pitaro's first tasks as President of ESPN will be the launch of ESPN+, the network's direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, which debuts in the spring. ESPN+ will be hosted within the ESPN app. The streaming service comes at a time when ESPN is trying to really reinvent itself and expand their digital footprint. The service will come with over a thousands of hours of content.
"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."
James Pitaro has helped create transformative entertainment experiences through digital technology. From his early days at Yahoo Sports turning the unknown website into a industry leading service to creation of innovative interactive products and services. At Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, James Pitaro has overseen the world’s largest licensing business across toys, apparel and home goods; the world’s largest children’s publisher; the creation of branded digital and physical products, including a robust digital game slate (Disney Interactive); Disney store locations around the world; the recently launched shopDisney e-commerce platform; and the Disney Digital Network of social and digital channels that reach one of out of every three U.S. social media accounts.
James 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.
Pitaro moves from DCPI to ESPN. Meaning if he wasn't already a contender to succeed Iger he is now definitely in the running. Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger intends to retire in 2021 after the transition of assets from 21st Century Fox. Another interesting tidbit is that Bob Chapek, Chairman Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was the previous Chairman at DCPI before being moved up to his current position. Chapek is also a contender for CEO once Bob Iger retires. If Pitaro can revitalize the mothership, that creates one impressive resume for Disney's Board of Directors. Chapek has been taking the Parks and Resorts division to historic highs also.
Looks like Disney picked out an excellent executive who understands innovation and creating experiences through digital technology. It will be exciting to see what James Pitaro does at ESPN in the next few months.
ESPN+, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service will launch this spring.