After ESPN’s promotion of Connor Schell to executive vice-president (content) this summer and changes in roles for senior vice presidents Rob King, Norby Williamson and others in September, the company is making further oversight changes and giving some key executives more to supervise. As John Ourand writes at Sports Business Journal, The Undefeated editor-in-chief Kevin Merida (seen above) and ESPN Films VP and executive producer Libby Geist are two of the figures getting larger roles:
ESPN has restructured its content group, with several execs getting much more responsibility. The moves, which were detailed in emails to employees last night, offer a snapshot into the execs who will make up the new power base under Exec VP/Content Connor Schell, Senior VP/Original Content, Newsgathering & Digital Media Rob King, Senior VP/Social Content Ryan Spoon and Senior VP/Business & Content Strategy Laura Gentile. The timing of the moves comes nearly a week after 150 ESPN staffers were laid off. Within ESPN’s content division, those layoffs only affected King’s group.
Among those gaining the most new responsibilities is The Undefeated Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida, who now will oversee all of ESPN’s enterprise and investigative coverage — which includes “OTL” and “E:60” — in addition to running The Undefeated. Merida will report to King. Another exec gaining more responsibility appears to be VP & Exec Producer for ESPN Films and “30 for 30” Libby Geist, who also will report to King. Geist, an SBJ/SBD “Game Changer” this year, will run ESPN’s Features Unit in addition to handling the the “30 for 30” franchise. The biggest move might belong to Julie Sobieski, an SBJ/SBD “Forty Under 40” honoree last year. Sobieski had been handling MLB and NBA relationships, reporting to ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus. Under the reorganization, Sobieski now reports to Gentile and will oversee content operations and strategy for her business and content strategy group.
There are further changes beyond that, including ESPN The Magazine editor-in-chief Alison Overholt now overseeing long-form content on ESPN.com in addition to her work with the magazine and ESPNw, ESPN VP (content strategy, SportsCenter & news) Mike Shiffman now leading ESPN multiplatform newsgathering teams, and VP (audience development) Nate Ravitz focusing on programming for the ESPN app and website. All three of those executives report to King. Also, senior coordinating producer for SportsCenter Digital, Now & Next-Gen Content Glenn Jacobs (who reports to Spoon) is going to be running digital video and production teams.
But the moves with Merida and Geist might be the most notable.
It’s definitely interesting that ESPN is putting Merida in charge of enterprise and investigative content (including on TV) in addition to his role with The Undefeated. Merida certainly has the background for that from his time as the managing editor of The Washington Post, the role he was in before heading to ESPN in October 2015, and it seems to make some sense to involve him more in other areas of ESPN beyond The Undefeated. It’s also notable that Geist is getting more responsibility with ESPN’s features unit; she’s just the latest 30 for 30 figure (including Schell) to pick up other areas, which makes sense considering how well that series has done for ESPN.
We’re now starting to see what the content group structure under Schell will look like; now, it will be interesting to watch and see what content changes come about as a result of these moves.