Nearly 3 months after the abrupt resignation of John Skipper as president of ESPN, Disney has named its consumer products chief, James Pitaro, to head up the sports media behemoth.
Pitaro, who has been chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, was also named co-chair of Disney Media Networks, a title also held by Ben Sherwood who is president of the ABC Television Group.
Pitaro will report to Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger.
“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,” Iger said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” 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.”
Pitaro’s appointment comes as ESPN is facing challenges as well as new opportunities. The company laid off 250 people in 2017 in two rounds of layoffs even as it planned to launch a subscription streaming service called ESPN+ which will launch this spring. At $4.99 per month, it will provide thousands of hours of live sports programming, the full library of ESPN films and original content, but won’t replicate any programming on the TV network.
As chairman of DCPI, Pitaro oversaw Disney’s massive licensing business; the world’s largest children’s publisher; Disney stores; an ecommerce platform; and the Disney Digital Network of social and digital channels.
Before joining Disney, Pitaro was vice president and head of Yahoo Media. Earlier in his career, Pitaro was vice president of business affairs for LAUNCH Media, Inc. and practiced law at several New York firms.
Pitaro’s appointment is effective immediately. A new head of Disney’s consumer products and interactive businesses will be named at a later date, according to the company.