Jimmy Pitaro in 2018 Jul 18, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro arrives for the 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theatre. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For better or worse, ESPN has made it increasingly clear where the future of the company is headed, or what it entails.

The network has elected to make some curious business moves at the same time that they’ve implemented cost-cutting measures elsewhere. So, the timing of ESPN’s deal with Pat McAfee came as a bit of a surprise. And you’ve had a handful of former or current employees bemoan the decision, whether it’s come privately or publicly.

For the first time since The Worldwide Leader signed McAfee to an eight-figure deal, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro weighed in on bringing over The Pat McAfee Show from FanDuel amidst the company’s current climate.

Pitaro recently spoke with The Big Lead and conveyed confidence in the deal and how much McAfee can contribute to the network in the future.

“When we talk about our priorities at ESPN, one of the things we always mention is audience expansion,” Pitaro explained. “That means a lot of things, but it especially means attracting a younger audience. We feel like Pat really helps us in that regard.”

“I have a son and a daughter, both of whom not just know who Pat is but they like him, and I have a father who also happens to really like Pat. That’ll tell you a lot about his appeal. We’ve been in business with Pat for some time by now. He’s done a fantastic job for us on College GameDay, he’s done some alternate broadcasts that have really resonated with our audience, so we feel like his show is a natural extension of what we’re already doing.”

McAfee has faced a lot of criticism since announcing his deal with ESPN, and much to his surprise.

The network anticipates that a bump in ratings will make McAfee’s massive contract pay off, but that remains to be seen. While Pitaro has expressed a lot of confidence in McAfee, he also needs this move to pay off immensely. It’s a huge gamble, but ESPN is betting on The Pat McAfee Show’s success to translate and that McAfee can be the same host on ESPN that he is off it.

[The Big Lead]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.