Russell Wolff Taking ESPN+ Reins; International Role Not Being Filled
In a sign of the importance ESPN and Disney are placing on the seven-month-old ESPN+ streaming service, they have put well-respected, longtime international exec RUSSELL WOLFF in charge of it. A 23-year ESPN employee, Wolff had been ESPN Int'l Exec VP & Managing Dir, where he reported to President JIMMY PITARO. He now becomes ESPN+ Exec VP & GM, reporting to Disney Streaming Services President MICHAEL PAULL. In his new role, Wolff also will collaborate on the management and commercialization of ESPN’s digital products. Wolff’s role overseeing ESPN+ is an important one, as Pitaro has identified ESPN’s direct-to-consumer service as a major area of focus, and Disney Chair & CEO BOB IGER has been aggressive in growing his company’s direct-to-consumer services. ESPN recently said that ESPN+ eclipsed the one-million subscriber mark. Sources told THE DAILY that about 300,000 of those subs were former ESPN Insider accounts that were merged into ESPN+. An accomplished exec who has been with ESPN since ’97, Wolff will also continue to be the ESPN exec handling the company’s relationship with the Special Olympics.
FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Wolff’s role overseeing ESPN Int'l will not be filled. In an internal memo announcing Wolff’s move, Pitaro and Disney Direct-to-Consumer & Intl Groups Chair KEVIN MAYER wrote: “Moving forward, the regional general managers of the ESPN Int'l businesses will report directly into DTCI’s regional leadership outside of the U.S. ESPN Int'l content, programming and production leaders will continue to report directly into ESPN.” That means that ESPN Senior VP/Int'l Programming, Production & Marketing TIM BUNNELL and VP/ESPN Deportes FREDDY ROLON will report into ESPN Exec VP/Programming BURKE MAGNUS. ESPN Senior VP & GM/Spanish-Speaking Latin America GUILLERMO TABANERA and GM/ESPN Brazil GERMAN HARTENSTEIN will report to President of Disney Latin America DIEGO LERNER; VP and GM/ESPN Europe, Middle East & Africa CHARLY CLASSEN will report to President of Disney Europe, Middle East & Africa Rebecca REBECCA CAMPBELL.