ESPN’s Schell quits to launch production company; new leadership team named
Conner Schell, ESPN’s executive vice-president of content, is stepping down from his role at the Disney-owned sports broadcaster in January to form his own independent production company.
ESPN announced that Schell, co-creator of the broadcaster’s acclaimed '30 for 30’ documentary series and executive producer of this year’s NBA and Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, will leave the company on 8 January.
While Schell has not announced details of his new venture, it is understood he will still work with ESPN Films, the film production arm of ESPN, and on the ’30 for 30’ series, as well as the ESPYS, the award ceremony which recognises individual and team athletic achievement during a calendar year.
He will also continue to serve as executive producer of ESPN’s Colin Kaepernick docuseries and a nine-part Tom Brady docuseries ‘Man in the Arena’.
Schell said: “ESPN is an incredible place and it has been a true privilege to be part of this team for the past 16+ years.
“As I launch this new production company, I am excited to transition back to a role where I can more directly tell stories and I couldn’t think of a better way to get started than continuing to work on 30 for 30 with Jimmy [Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and Sports Content] and ESPN.”
Separately, Jodi Markley, ESPN’s executive vice-president, content operations and creative services, announced she is retiring after 32 years with the company and will step down from her role on 2 April.
Markley has been with the company since 1989, serving in may leadership positions, primarily within the operations and international areas.
Today, on the back of the announcements, ESPN unveiled a new senior leadership team, which it said has been partly informed by ‘how fans are consuming sports content’.
The restructure follows the news last week that it will be laying off 300 employees and not filling 200 vacancies, accounting for 10 per cent of the company’s workforce.
The senior team now includes Burke Magnus, the company’s executive vice-president of programming and original content, who will oversee programming acquisition and scheduling. He will also be responsible for ESPN and ESPN+ original content development and scheduling.
Norby Williamson, who is executive vice-president and executive editor, will co-lead ESPN’s production area, including its flagship SportsCenter, Get Up and First Take studio shows. He will also oversee event production, as well as cross-platform journalism and storytelling.
Meanwhile, Stephanie Druley, the executive vice-president of event and studio production, will co-lead ESPN’s production area, including for Monday Night Football, college football and the National Basketball Association, as well as studio and event production.
Thomas Hennessy, senior vice-president of finance, will manage ESPN’s financial matters and budgets, in collaboration with colleagues at The Walt Disney Company, and Tina Thornton, the senior vice-president of content operations, will lead ESPN’s remote operations and events, as well as creative works and services, ESPN Synergy and the ESPN Next programme.
Chara-Lynn Aguiar, vice-president of strategy and office of the chairman, will continue to focus on ESPN’s strategic development while advising Pitaro.
Commenting on the new leadership team, Pitaro said: “Going forward, our newly-formed senior leadership group is poised to drive future success. The talented new team is comprised of gifted and respected leaders. They are diverse thinkers who bring a collaborative spirit and necessary focus on future strategy.”
Elsewhere, ESPN Brasil has sealed a deal to show matches from the remainder of the season in the Campeonato Brasilerio Feminino, the top Brazilian women’s soccer league, in its home market.
The network will offer coverage of both semi-finals and the final, with the first legs having taken place on Sunday.
The first live game on ESPN will be the second leg of the semi-final between Avai/Kindermann and Sao Paulo on Saturday, with the home team 3-1 up from the first leg. Corinthians and Palmeiras are tied at 0-0 after the first leg of the other semi-final.
While the initial deal only runs to the end of the campaign, the broadcaster is interested in discussing a longer commitment, according to the UOL Esporte website.
Rights to the women’s league are already held by commercial broadcaster Bandeirantes and social media network Twitter.