ESPN's Pitaro Discusses Network Tweaks, League Rights For ESPN+
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has "made a series of subtle tweaks" since taking over the network in '18, designed to "reassure both ESPN’s core audience and the leagues that sell ESPN its most valuable programming," according to Peter Kafka of RECODE. Pitaro’s job is to "prepare ESPN" for the future, while "maintaining the sports programmer’s current status as one of TV’s most valuable properties." One tweak was condensing "Get Up" from 3 hours to 2, which Pitaro said is "just one very specific example of a change that we made that I think has really helped us in terms of serving the core sports fan." He added, "If you were to look at our research, I think you would see that we are doing quite well with the core sports fan." On the trend of subscriber bases declining, Pitaro said, "People have many more options right now than they did five, 10 years ago. And by the way, the options aren’t just on the sports and entertainment video side." Pitaro said when ESPN is acquiring rights, "we are not always first and foremost looking through the traditional television lens and I think the UFC is a great example." He noted Top Rank Boxing as another example, saying these are "major media rights that we’ve acquired really with a focus on advancing the subscriber base for ESPN+."
LEAGUE TALK: On acquiring NFL and NBA rights for ESPN+, Pitaro said, "All of those major sports rights, we are 100 percent focused on acquiring rights also for the ESPN+." Meanwhile, Pitaro said the odds "are low" that a league like the NFL or NBA would take premier live rights and sell them to outlets like Google or Facebook. Pitaro: "[The leagues'] job, like our job, is to expand their audience. They want to attract as many people, they want to grow awareness, they want to grow affinity for their respective leagues. And again, no different than our focus for ESPN. Will they do something exclusive? I don’t see that." Pitaro also addressed ESPN's effort to cut back on political talk, saying, "What we don’t want is people to tune into ESPN, or people to tune into an ESPN feed on a social platform and get pure political commentary." He added, "We don’t believe that that’s who we are. We don’t believe that that’s why people tune into ESPN" (VOX.com, 5/30).