Sports

ESPN names Disney’s James Pitaro its new president

FILE - This Sept. 16, 2013, file photo shows the ESPN logo prior to an NFL football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Cincinnati. ESPN says it is eliminating 150 studio and production employees as the sports broadcasting giant continues to shift its focus to a more digital future. The company says the layoffs, which were announced Wednesday morning, Nov. 29, 2017, in a memo to employees, don't include on-air talent and will have a minimal impact on the network's signature SportsCenter news program. (AP Photo/David Kohl, File)
AP/File

Walt Disney Company executive James Pitaro has been named president of ESPN, the company announced Monday.

Pitaro, the head of Disney’s consumer products and interactive media divisions since 2016, was considered a front-runner for the job since John Skipper resigned unexpectedly in December, citing substance abuse problems.

“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,” said Disney chief executive offer Robert Iger in a statement.

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“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.”

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Pitaro takes over the job immediately. Former ESPN president George Bodenheimer has been filling in while the search for Skipper’s long-term replacement was underway.

“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,” said Pitaro. “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 has previously been the president of Disney Interactive. He came to Disney from Yahoo!, where he was the vice president and head of Yahoo! Media, deeply involved in the development of its sports and music online properties.

Pitaro comes to ESPN at a pivotal time in the company’s history. ESPN’s subscriber base has been in decline as more and more television viewers find other ways besides cable to consume television.

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But ESPN is soon launching a much-anticipated subscription streaming service, ESPN+, that will include live broadcasts across a number of sports. The network owns expensive yet valuable rights deals with major professional sports leagues, including a $1.9 billion-per-year deal for “Monday Night Football” that expires in 2021.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.