Industry Moves: ESPN Reorg Makes John Skipper Content Czar

The total realignment at ESPN today follows the departure of programming head Mark Shapiro; responsibilities previously scattered across the Disney sports unit instead are coordinated within divisions. For instance, the revamped executive team for George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president includes:
John Skipper in the newly created role of EVP-content. Skipper shifts to that role from EVP-advertising sales & ESPN Enterprises. As EVP-content, he oversees all ESPN and ABC Sports content in every form — television, radio, Internet, publishing, wireless, broadband and Enterprises operations. His direct reports include: the new top programmers John Wildhack, SVP-programming acquisitions & strategy, and David Berson, SVP-program planning and development; Salil Mehta, EVP-ESPN Enterprises, who continues to oversee ESPN Consumer Products, ESPN New Media and Mobile ESPN; John Walsh, who continue as EVP & and Executive Editor for all media outlets.

Chuck Pagano , EVP-technology, responsible for “all technology sectors within ESPN, ensuring ESPN’s cutting-edge position in the efficient utilization and development of technology across its properties.” Paganao is an ESPN lifer, joining before the 1979 launch, and was the “key driver” behind ESPN’s highly sophisticated (and tres expensive) Digital Center.

Sean Bratches, EVP-sales & marketing, will oversee all affiliate and advertising sales, research, marketing and special events. His direct reports include Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales; Ben Pine, succeeding Bratches as president, Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing; and a player to be named later, a new SVP-marketing.

Don’t even try to make sense of the titles. EVPs report to EVPs, presidents report to EVPs, etc. What matters in this structure is who reports directly to Bodenheimer and who reports to them in turn. John Skipper, who has had a hand in nearly every major ESPN initiative beyond television (the magazine, the revamped web site, Mobile ESPN) since moving over from Disney in 1997, moves up even higher, not only at the network but in terms of industry-wide influence. Nothing will be published or broadcast by ESPN in any form without his imprint. That’s more content power than anyone at ESPN — save Bodenheimer — has had for a long time.