The corporate structure of one of the biggest, richest companies in America has seen its most significant change since John Skipper was named as ESPN's President at the beginning of 2012. While the names of these individuals may be unknown to the wide majority of ESPN's viewers, they are ultimately the ones at the controls of the world's largest sports conglomerate.
Skipper has consolidated the programming and production departments and named John Wildhack, who was Executive Vice President of Production, as the new Executive Vice President of Programming and Production. This new role sees Wildhack in charge of production at the network as well as rights relationships and programming acquisitions. Norby Williamson, who was Executive VP of Programming & Acquisitions, now falls under Wildhack as Executive Vice President of Production, Program Scheduling, & Development. In 2012 when Skipper took over as ESPN President, he made a straight swap involving Wildhack and Williamson's roles in the company.
In addition to the changing roles for Wildhack and Williamson, Burke Magnus moves from Senior VP of College Sports Programming to SVP Programming Acquisitions and will be tasked with leading ESPN's negotiations with rights partners.
Elsewhere, it's been announced that longtime Director of News Vince Doria will retire in 2015 as his duties will shift to Craig Bengtson. Rob King, who had been leading ESPN's digital operation at ESPN.com, now will head up SportsCenter and the network's news operation. There's plenty of other chess pieces moved around the board by Skipper and you can see the entire list here.
According to the authority on all things ESPN, Jim Miller, the shifting of the executive ladder is about Skipper's vision for the present and the future of ESPN. "We are now looking at an ESPN management team constructed around who Skipper has faith in," Miller said, "who he wants surrounding him; and who he wants to give new responsibilities to for the future."
Miller lists King, Bengston, Magnus, and Rosalyn Durant, who was given a bigger role in ESPN's college sports department as the big winners in the shakeup.
Ultimately one of the major takeaways from the announcement are the new individuals leading some of ESPN's most significant operations. The news department, SportsCenter, and rights acquisitions all will have new people at the controls. While it's impossible to predict what impact these changes may have on how daily viewers consume ESPN, it'll be interesting to see how the network evolves in all facets.
Looking towards the future, Miller believes the new executive lineup also creates a wide open race for Skipper's successor and in fact, ESPN may ultimately look outside the company for the first time in a long time when it comes to their next head honcho. "When you look at this team — filled with a lot of exceptional talent — you still can't help but think that Skipper's successor may not be a current member," Miller said. "Skipper probably isn't going anywhere for at least several years, but ESPN has a great tradition of promoting from within, dating back to the early 1980's. If I'm betting on who the next president of ESPN is going to be, I'm putting money on a candidate who is not yet part of the ESPN team."