If you believe Scott Van Pelt, this isn’t a bad time to work at ESPN.
After a year of layoffs, personnel changes, seemingly endless political scandals and a presidential resignation, things have settled down in Bristol this year, and Van Pelt told Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead that morale is up, thanks in part to new president Jimmy Pitaro.
I think that there is a prevailing optimism, particularly as people meet Jimmy [Pitaro], and get a sense of what his vision is for this place. When they get to know him, you can’t help but be impressed with him as a person.
In life they say you can be in charge of very few things. You can be in charge your attitude. You can choose to be optimistic or pessimistic. I have a sense that after difficult days that people are choosing to be optimistic. I’m in a room with these folks [referring to a staff meeting of a couple dozen for midnight SportsCenter] every day.
Maybe it’s just that I’m on an island and we’re removed from things but we have an overwhelmingly positive outlook and energy in our room with people that show up every day fired up for what we get to do. I feel like our room reflects that, and I’m choosing to be positive just based on what I see on a daily basis.
Some of those comments could be Van Pelt toeing the company line, but that’s not exactly his style, and his words sound pretty sincere, at least on paper.
Plus, there does seem to be some cause for optimism at ESPN. Pitaro took over in March, ending a period of uncertainty that came with John Skipper’s abrupt resignation in December (which followed an extortion attempt by a man who sold him cocaine). And after 2017 at ESPN was defined by cuts, 2018 has thus far been defined by new projects, from Get Up to High Noon to, most of all ESPN+. Sure, those projects haven’t been universally successful (cough, Get Up), but poor viewership on a new show isn’t quite as devastating to morale as, say, 100 employees packing their things and heading for the door.
Plus, from Van Pelt’s perspective it probably helps that his show continues to draw big ratings thanks to lead-ins from hugely watched NBA playoff games.
Can the good vibes last? We’ll see. But if every day when ESPN isn’t consumed by some sort of scandal or controversy counts as a good one, there have certainly been more good days in Bristol this year than there were last.