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.”
NBA Playoff Ratings Hit 8-Year Highs
“At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.”
More people are watching the NBA Playoffs than have done so in a long time. Through the first two rounds in 2022, the league is enjoying its best postseason ratings in eight years.
The average audience across TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA TV is 3.71 million people per game. If you take the less widely available NBA TV out of the mix, the NBA is averaging 4.08 million viewers per game.
At 3.71 million, the average audience for games this postseason is up 14% from last year. It is up 4% from 2019, the last time the playoffs started on time.
The Boston Celtics have been one of the most reliable performers this postseason. They have been involved in two of the three most-watched games. Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks is one of two games this postseason that now rank as the most-watched early round games in a decade. The other was Game 1 between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Golden State has also been a hot draw. The Warriors have been involved in four of the seven most-watched playoff games.
With both teams still alive and plenty of star power left in the playoffs, the NBA is poised to deliver one of its most-watched postseasons in years.
Domonique Foxworth: Tom Brady Contract Is About Impressing NFL
“I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”
The shake-up of NFL TV broadcast booths has been one of the top storylines in the league this offseason.
Part of the reasoning is because of the massive sums of money involved. Whether it’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman or Tom Brady, NFL broadcasters have been getting paid. And it doesn’t seem like the spending is going to slow down anytime soon.
Speaking to Bomani Jones on The Right Time, Domonique Foxworth said the NFL just wants to continue to get bigger and bigger even with its broadcast crews.
“These TV partners want to be in good with the league. And I think that’s what this Tom Brady contract comes down to,” Foxworth said. “I think that’s why the booths look the way they look. It’s because the league wants their games to feel big, and it’s worth it to them.”
Even with some feeling like Brady is uninteresting and likely won’t move the needle as an analyst, it’s the name recognition factor that will set the table for Brady in the booth.
“I do believe that if you turn on an NFL game, and Tom Brady’s talking about it, it feels bigger no matter what he’s saying,” Foxworth said.
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman Visit Bristol For First Time Since Signing With ESPN
“My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
Monday Night Football on ESPN is going to have a new sound this year with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth. The deal is reportedly worth a combined $165 million, and will officially begin on September 12 when the Denver Broncos visit the Seattle Seahawks at 8:15 p.m. EST on ESPN.
“I’m thrilled to officially welcome Joe and Troy to ESPN and Monday Night Football,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “They are elite broadcasters who have been at the forefront of our industry for more than two decades [and] are universally respected, and fans truly appreciate their candor and expertise.”
Buck and Aikman visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol for the first time today. The broadcast duo, now entering their 21st season in the booth together, are switching networks for the first time, a move that was initiated because of Aikman’s expiring contract. Throughout the season, Aikman had an inclination that it would be his last at Fox; however, he would have stayed at the network. The original thought, according to Aikman, was that he would call Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime while continuing his role in doubleheader games with Fox – but it was quickly realized that it would not be feasible.
“ESPN began conversations with me, and it was an opportunity that was just the best fit for me,” said Aikman. “I didn’t think that was going to happen until a little bit after the Super Bowl.”
Buck’s contract was not set to expire until the end of this season, but after watching his veteran partner change networks, the possibility existed that he too would depart.
“When I knew Troy was gone, I think there was a little bit more intensity in my talks with Fox about ‘Was I going to stay there?,’ or ‘Was I going to try to continue my relationship on-air with Troy?’,” Buck reflected.
After approximately a month of negotiations between Buck and Fox, the broadcaster was off to ESPN. While the negotiations moved quickly, Buck never felt like he was taken for granted by Fox after working there for 28 years.
“They tell you how much you’re worth to them every time a check arrives,” said Buck. “They prove all that stuff by letting you continue to do it, and the relationships that we had. It was very collegial and very friendship-driven, much more so than employer-employee at Fox, and I expect the same will continue here at ESPN.”
Much of the media landscape across the National Football League has been significantly altered going into next season. Whether it is Buck and Aikman going from Fox to ESPN; the new Fox booth of Kevin Burkhardt and, upon his retirement, Tom Brady; the addition of Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime with Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit; and Mike Tirico being moved into the lead Sunday Night Football role with Cris Collinsworth, the game will adopt a new sound upon the season’s opening kickoff.
ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Stephanie Druley commented that amid the new broadcast landscape, the network believes it now has the number one football broadcast booth in the country. Additionally, she revealed the addition of a second Monday Night Football booth to be announced in the coming weeks as part of the network’s new broadcast rights deal with the NFL. The secondary booth will be calling three games this year and five games next year, and an announcement with more details is forthcoming.
For Buck, being welcomed to ESPN was representative of a full-circle moment, as his father Jack called Monday Night Football on the CBS Radio Network with Hank Stram. While Buck idolized his father and strived to one day be like him, he was always attentive as to what was going on in one of the other booths in the stadium.
“I knew as a little kid something special was going on two doors down, and that was when Howard Cosell was there; Don Meredith was there; Frank Gifford was there – and it was, ‘Man, that is the peak of sports and media,’” said Buck. “My anticipation for the start of this season is literally off the charts; I’ve never been this excited.”
“This is an opportunity with ESPN that I’m really excited about,” added Aikman. “We’ve been doing it so long in one way [and] it feels like it’s 2001 again…. I have nothing but respect for the people I worked [for] at Fox, and appreciate the way I was treated for the 21 years I was there, but am excited for the next chapter.”