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Volume 27 No. 5
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ESPN Closing Content Development, Moving Duties To Wildhack, Williamson

ESPN is closing its Content Development department, which will lead to the loss of around 20-25 jobs. Company officials say it was not a cost-cutting move; many of those employees will find other positions in the company. The department, which was headed by Senior VP/Content Development & Enterprise Keith Clinkscales, was based in Bristol, L.A. and N.Y. The department's responsibilities will be taken over by the Bristol-based programming and studio and event production groups led by ESPN Exec VP/Programming and Acquisitions John Wildhack and ESPN Exec Senior VP/Studio & Event Production Norby Williamson. "This is a more efficient and better model," said ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper. "We're eliminating specific jobs. But we're not going to have a smaller workforce."

It is hard to pin down exactly how many jobs are being cut since some of employees will have the opportunity to find other jobs at the company. Skipper told THE DAILY that he had been considering making this move for six-eight weeks, finally deciding to pull the trigger with the recent launch of studio shows like "NFL 32," "Numbers Never Lie" and "Dan LeBatard Is Highly Questionable." "That was the event that got me over the hump," Skipper said.

The highest profile exec to leave ESPN as a result of this move is Clinkscales, who launched the group in '07. He is leaving to become an independent producer; ESPN will be his first client. He plans to develop documentaries and Web-based shows for ESPN. His group developed shows like "SportsNation," "E:60" and Rick Reilly's "Homecoming." It also developed ESPN's acclaimed "30 for 30" documentary series, which will now be part of ESPN Films. Skipper said ESPN Films will not be affected by the moves.

Clinkscales said he understood the move. He said, "What's best for the company is to consolidate and run this through Bristol. Norby's group has been able to develop shows, so the need for our group has changed." During his time overseeing the content development group, Clinkscales said he is most proud of being involved in the creation of ESPN Films, as well as developing event programming like the New Year's Eve shows and "The Decision." "It was interesting to see something like 'The Decision' come together," he said. "To see the whole world stop as an athlete makes a choice and watching it move across all our platforms was unique."