James Pitaro Named New Head of ESPN

Getty Images Laura Cavanaugh
Getty Images/Laura Cavanaugh

James Pitaro has been named President of ESPN and Co-chair of Disney Media Networks, the network announced on Monday.

According to a statement from ESPN, “Pitaro had been the chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media since 2016. He is formerly a vice president and head of Yahoo! Media, including leading Yahoo! Sports. His appointment is effective immediately.”

Pitaro wrote in a news release, “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. 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 will have major initiatives to deal with immediately.

According to ESPN, “Among the first orders of business for Pitaro is the launch of ESPN+, the network’s direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, which launches 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.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger praised Pitaro’s experience and readiness for the job.

“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. 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.”

Pitaro’s appointment comes three months after former ESPN President John Skipper resigned to deal with substance abuse issues. During that time, George Bodenheimer served as Acting Chair of ESPN.

Iger praised Bodenheimer for his work during the transition.

“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.”

According to ESPN, “Pitaro is a graduate of Cornell, where he earned a bachelor of science 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.”

How Pitaro decides to deal with the political aspect of ESPN, will also be an early test. His predecessor, John Skipper, allowed all but the most egregious examples of leftist political speech to go unchecked. Not only that, Skipper promoted Jemele Hill, the ESPN personality who most famously called President Trump a “white supremacist,” by making her a SportsCenter host.

Now that Hill has been removed from SportsCenter, presumably for good, Pitaro dodges the bullet of how to deal with ESPN’s most politically outspoken leftist. However, it’s ESPN, there will be plenty of opportunities to test Pitaro when it comes to politics.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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