ESPN President; Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks
James Pitaro was named ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks, on March 5, 2018, after serving eight years as a top Disney executive. In making the announcement, Bob Iger, The Walt Disney Company chairman and chief executive officer, said, “Jimmy’s appointment was the result of more than 20 years spent at the intersection of technology, sports and media.”
Pitaro’s record of success leading businesses focused on consumer products, digital initiatives and sports made him the quintessential selection for ESPN at a pivotal point in its then 38-year history: a time of unprecedented technological advancements and rapidly changing consumer habits.
A visionary leader, Pitaro has identified and consistently communicated internally and externally four business priorities — Innovation, Storytelling and Programming, Audience Expansion and Direct to Consumer — to keep ESPN poised for future success.
In Pitaro’s short time as President, his collaborative leadership style has led to impressive results, including reaching creative new rights agreements with the NFL and UFC encompassing Disney-wide assets; ratings successes with a variety of shows and series, including ESPN’s signature show, SportsCenter; and the April launch and consistent growth of ESPN+, the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN.
Since February 2016, Pitaro had served as chairman of Disney’s consumer products and interactive media division, the world’s largest licenser of consumer products. Among his many responsibilities, he oversaw the creation of branded digital and physical products, including a robust digital game slate. He and his team brought to life the characters and stories of four iconic brands – Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel – across toys, apparel, home goods, the world’s largest children’s publisher, hundreds of Disney store locations worldwide, the e-commerce destination ShopDisney, and the Disney Digital Network of social and digital channels that reach one out of every three U.S. social media accounts.
Pitaro originally joined The Walt Disney Company in 2010 as co-president, Disney Interactive, where he successfully led the turnaround of the digital media and gaming division.
Pitaro came to Disney from Yahoo, where he rose to head of media. He was in charge of, and set strategy and executed growth-driving initiatives for, Yahoo’s media properties, including Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Music. In 2009, he was named to Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40” annual list of top achievers in sports for his dynamic leadership and “breathless flurry of market-moving pacts” with major sports rightsholders and media companies. Pitaro was also honored as 2018’s Multichannel News Sports Executive of the Year.
He serves on a variety of industry and charitable boards, including the NCTA, the Paley Center for Media, The V Foundation, Pacer and CoachArt. Pitaro also serves as Co-Committee Chair of the March of Dimes.
Pitaro earned a bachelor of science degree in economics in 1991 from Cornell University. He earned his Juris Doctor from St. John’s Law School in 1994. After practicing law in New York for five years, he was named head of business affairs for Launch.com in 1999 before joining Yahoo.
A native of Westchester County, N.Y., Pitaro, 49, is ESPN’s eighth president.