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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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ESPN Makes History With New Programming Chief

  • Executive to play a key role in crucial NBA rights negotiations.
  • Durant is one of the most powerful Black women in sports.
Rosalyn Durant of ESPN
Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Rosalyn Durant is emerging as one of the most powerful Black women in sports after a sweeping reorganization of the executive ranks at Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.

Under the plan announced this week, Durant was named ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and acquisitions.

In a memo sent to ESPN staff, chairman Jimmy Pitaro said Durant would be in charge of programming, media rights deals, the ESPN+ streaming platform, ESPN International, Andscape, and espnW.

“Rosalyn’s leadership skills and strategic deal-making experience will benefit ESPN, especially as the market for live sports rights remains extremely competitive,” Pitaro wrote. “She will relocate to Bristol and split her time between Bristol and Charlotte.”

A 24-year Disney veteran, Durant returns to ESPN after a stint as a senior vice president at Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products (DPEP).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped restart the delayed 2019-2020 NBA season in the ‘Bubble’ at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

She was also a key player in helping to negotiate a previous NBA rights deal in 2006, according to Andscape. Durant called it a “highlight” of her career.

Durant previously served as senior vice president of College Networks, overseeing ESPNU, SEC Network, and Longhorn Network, and was part of the team that launched the ACC Network.

Meanwhile, Burke Magnus will take on a significant new role as president, content.

The 28-year veteran will oversee everything from studio shows, live events, and newsgathering to investigative journalism, ESPN Films, the Talent Office, audio, digital and social media.

Top ESPN executives Stephanie Druley, David Roberts, Norby Williamson, Brian Lockhart, and Kaitee Daley will all report to Magnus, who previously served as president of programming and original content.

The move positions Magnus as Pitaro’s possible successor at ESPN if Pitaro returns to Disney.

There will be a transition period as the executives adapt to their new roles, according to ESPN.

Returning Disney chairman Bob Iger recently shot down calls from activist investors that the Mouse House should spin off ESPN.

Instead, the $82 billion entertainment giant recently made ESPN one of three global pillars of the company, along with Disney Entertainment and Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products.

“ESPN is a differentiator for this company,” Iger told analysts on an earnings call. “We just have to figure out how to monetize it.”

Starting with the 2025-2026 season, the NBA’s expected to seek a combined $50 billion to $75 billion for its next long-term, combined rights package.

The NBA will tip off negotiations for its next cycle of rights deals with incumbents ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports’ TNT this year.

Suppose the NBA can’t agree with its incumbents during an exclusive negotiating period. In that case, it could open the bidding to competitive linear networks like NBC Sports, Fox Sports and tech giants like Amazon and Apple.

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