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.”
Bob Costas Re-Lives First Announcing Assignment For NBC
“My biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979.”
Legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas appeared on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes Thursday to discuss the death of Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. But before the conversation turned to the recently departed pitcher, the show asked Costas about what he has announced that would surprise someone. He reminisced about his first time on the air for NBC.
“My very first assignment for NBC, my biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979,” Costas recounted. “There was a program on NBC then called Sports World. It was an anthology series that was their answer to the gold standard, ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
“So they traveled the globe, like Wide World of Sports did. So they sent me, wearing a red NBC jacket, to Tokyo to cover a sumo wrestling tournament with seven-time world power-lifting champion Larry Pacifico as my color man. Now, this is all the Japanese I learned as we came on the air: ‘Minasan kon’nichwa watashinoamaeha Bob Costas’, which means ‘Hello everyone, my name is Bob Costas’. If ever there was typecasting, when they sat and looked at their roster of announcers and went ‘Who should we send to the sumo wrestling? It’s gotta be Costas, who’s entire body weight would constitute one meal for the sumo wrestling champion.”
Costas departed NBC Sports in 2019 after 40 years with the network, announcing MLB, NBA, and the Olympics, in addition to his work with the network’s sumo wrestling coverage.
Matt Leinart, Alex Smith Make Wager Over Pac-12 Championship Game
“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous. I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.”
FOX Sports analyst Matt Leinart and ESPN analyst Alex Smith have made a friendly wager over the upcoming Pac-12 Championship Game.
USC, Leinart’s alma mater, is slated to play Utah, where Smith attended, in the game Friday evening on FOX from Las Vegas.
The two agreed to don the other player’s jersey. “At least it will be 11,” Smith said, noting he and Leinart both wore the number during their playing days.
“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous,” Leinart said when presented with the offer. “I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.” Smith jokingly responded by calling USC “Free Agent University”. He added he would overnight Leinart a jersey to ensure he had one if the Utes were victorious.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.
Robert Griffin III: ESPN Provided Chances to Showcase Versatility
“ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast.”
Former Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III never really thought he would be in broadcasting at this stage in his career. However, fans would not get to hear him on Saturdays analyzing college football games or on Mondays doing Monday Night Countdown on ESPN if it weren’t for one person.
Griffin III was a guest on The Dave Pasch Podcast this week and he said that broadcasting was never really on the radar and after a few years, he finally gave in to his current agent to give it a try.
“To be honest with you, this was never on my radar whether I played 20 years or 5 years. It wasn’t something I ever thought this was going to be an avenue for me. I say this with all good intentions. I was bothered for 3 years by my current agent, Mark Lepsetler out of New York. He just saw something in me, felt like I could do this and do it at a really high level for a long time.
“After 3 years, I finally gave in. I did an audition with FOX. ESPN heard about the audition. I did an audition with ESPN and the rest is history.
“I just think you have to be yourself. Whenever you step foot on screen or in a TV booth, you got to be yourself because that is the easiest thing to replicate. Over the last year and a half, I’ve been able to do that, have fun, do it in a unique way that is unique to myself. I am beyond blessed to work with Mark Jones, Kim Belton, and Quint Kessenich on that crew because we make it fun and you kind of see that on the broadcast.”
Belton is the producer on the Saturday games that Griffin III calls with Jones and Kessenich and Griffin III mentioned that he has impressed with how he and Belton see the game the same and he credits Belton for helping him transition to being in tbe booth.
“Kim has been in the business 41 years. He’s been doing it, doing it for a long time. My agent told me when I was partnered with Kim that this was the best possible scenario. He does an amazing job of helping guys transition from going on the field into the broadcast booth. I looked at him as a teacher.
“As I’ve gone on to work with other producers in other studio shows or other aspects, there’s a defining quality about Kim. He is like the boss, but he just commands a certain level of respect that I enjoy the conversation with Kim throughout the game. When we are talking and I see something and he sees it, we see the game eerily similar. For a basketball guy to really see football the way that he does, it is extremely impressive and I enjoy that part of it.”
Griffin III told Pasch that he enjoys both calling games as an analyst and doing studio work as well as he knows the more versatile a broadcaster can be, it can only help them.
“For me, I enjoy both studio and the games. It’s extremely fun doing NFL and also being able to do college has been really fun. As you know in this business Dave, the more you can do, the more versatility you can have, the more opportunities that come your way. I’ve just been blessed enough that ESPN has put me in spots that have allowed me to showcase that and put me with the right teams to really fully maximize my own ability and add to the broadcast, whatever broadcast it might be, whether it’s studio or on the games…I’m here to entertain, add to the games, and be a storyteller.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.