After learning that ESPN’s Executive Vice President of Content Connor Schell would be exiting the company in January to start his own production company, more executive changes are taking place at the worldwide leader.
In addition to Schell, Jodi Markley will also be leaving. Markley who serves as the network’s Executive Vice President of Content Operations and Creative Services will retire in April after 32 years in Bristol.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be a part of ESPN over the past 32 years, Markley said in a press release. “I am proud of the industry-leading innovation and creativity of our team, and feel blessed to have worked alongside such incredibly talented people who love what they do. I am confident in the direction we are headed under Jimmy Pitaro and will enjoy my next chapter as a fan.”
“ESPN is an incredible place and it has been a true privilege to be a part of this team for the past 16+ years,” added Schell. “I am so thankful to Jimmy Pitaro and Bob Iger for their creative leadership and to my remarkable colleagues across ESPN whose work inspires and entertains sports fans every single day. 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.”
On Monday, ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro announced plans for a new management structure at the network. The full list can be found here. Below are some of the key names involved and the key responsibilities they’ll be assuming as part of the network’s leadership team.
Burke Magnus, will become the Executive Vice President, Programming & Original Content taking over for Schell. In addition to continuing to acquire and schedule programming, Mangus will also oversee original content creation for ESPN and ESPN+.
Kevin Merida continues as Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated. Merida will manage all aspects of the brand and partner with the Disney General Entertainment and Hulu teams to explore future growth opportunities.
Laura Gentile becomes Senior Vice President, Marketing & Social Media, handling creative marketing for the ESPN brand, including all shows, special events, and platforms. She will also assume responsibility for the network’s social media content. Ryan Spoon previously handled those duties before exiting for BetGM.
Norby Williamson will be involved as Executive Vice President and Executive Editor. Williamson will co-lead ESPN’s production area, including its flagship SportsCenter, Get Up and First Take studio shows and event production, as well as cross-platform journalism and storytelling.
Rob King will be responsible for the company’s overall journalistic direction as the network’s Senior Vice President, Editor-At-Large. King’s role includes working closely with leaders across ESPN Films and original content, digital content, social media, multi-platform journalism and storytelling and global content. He will also advise ESPN and its senior leadership team on editorial issues.
Stephanie Druley will serve as Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production, co-leading ESPN’s production area, including Monday Night Football, college football, NBA, studio and event production.
Tina Thornton will be upped to Vice President of Content Operations. She will assume many of Marklay’s duties including overseeing ESPN’s remote operations and events, Creative Works and Creative Services, ESPN Synergy, and the ESPN Next program.
“Going forward, our newly-formed senior leadership group is poised to drive future success,” Pitaro said in a press release. “The talented team is comprised of gifted and respected leaders. They are diverse thinkers who bring a collaborative spirit and a necessary focus on future strategy. I’m thrilled to have them as colleagues.”
The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket
The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.
DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?
Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.
Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.
According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.
An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.
F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights
ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.
The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.
Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.
Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.
Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.
The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.
Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.
“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”
Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.
“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”
Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.
“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”