Vice President, Programming & Acquisitions
John Papa serves as vice president, programming & acquisitions at ESPN, overseeing the cross-platform business strategies and partnerships for numerous sport categories, including the NBA, tennis (including the Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open and the ATP), golf (including the Masters), motorsports (including IndyCar, the Indianapolis 500 and Formula One), boxing (including Top Rank) and the Special Olympics. Papa was appointed to his current role in April 2017. In addition, Papa has oversight of the of the content rights management (since 2013) and formatting teams for ESPN (since 2007).
Prior to his current role, Papa served as vice president, programming, content strategy & scheduling at ESPN from June 2007- April 2017, overseeing the team responsible for maximizing and scheduling programming across all TV platforms – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic and ESPN on ABC. He also had oversight of the on-air management function for the programming department from 2010-2017.
Papa has been part of the team’s responsible for securing several major rights deals for ESPN. Papa played a key role in ESPN securing the landmark agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis Club for exclusive Wimbledon rights through 2023. Papa’s team successfully acquired the exclusive rights to the entire US Open, extending ESPN’s partnership with the United States Tennis Association through 2025. He was part of the team that landed ESPN’s renewal of Major League Baseball through 2021. Most recently, he was part of the team that brought the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles to ESPN in 2015, and in 2016 extended ESPN’s relationship with Special Olympics International for an additional three years through 2019.
Papa headed the programming department’s digital efforts across ESPN3 and WatchESPN from 2007-2014, ESPN’s tennis properties, which included all four major grand slams, from 2010-2014 and ESPN’s golf properties from 2013-2014.
Papa joined ESPN in June 1996 as a researcher for ESPN International. In July 1999 he joined ESPN International’s programming department as an acquisitions program planner. In July 2000, he was promoted to manager, programming acquisitions, responsible for the scheduling, budgets and contracts for motorsports, tennis, cycling and horse racing. In May 2003, he was promoted to senior manager and to senior director in January 2004.
In November 2005, Papa was promoted to senior director, programming for ESPN International, overseeing day-to-day operations of the department. He negotiated programming agreements for ESPN’s international networks and ventures and implementing programming and scheduling for ESPN’s networks in Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Israel.
Papa joined ESPN’s programming department in May 2006 as vice president, programming & acquisitions for ESPN Classic and ESPNEWS. He oversaw program acquisitions and programming strategy for ESPN Classic and was also responsible for developing new initiatives with affiliate sales and marketing, ad sales and marketing for both networks.
Papa was named to Sports Business Journal’s list of “Forty Under 40” in sports in 2013. In 2016, he was named to the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Connecticut.
A native of Rhode Island, Papa earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Hartford and a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Connecticut.
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