ESPN veteran Russell Wolff has been named executive vice president and general manager of ESPN+, it was announced today by Michael Paull, president, Disney Streaming Services, to whom Wolff will report.
In his new role — working closely with leaders at DTCI and ESPN — Wolff will be responsible for managing ESPN+, the premium multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment in collaboration with ESPN, which launched in April 2018. Additionally, he will collaborate on the overall management and commercialization of ESPN-branded digital products.
“ESPN+ is off to a fantastic start as the fastest growing consumer sports streaming service in the market and Russell’s deep understanding of the ESPN brand and experience across all aspects of the media landscape will bring even more velocity to the service,” said Paull. “His strong business acumen and exceptional leadership qualities make him the perfect leader to advance the growth of ESPN+ as we continue to evolve the service.”
“I am deeply honored to take on this role and look forward to working and collaborating with the extraordinary people across DTCI’s Disney Streaming Services and ESPN to realize the enormous promise ahead of us,” said Wolff. “ESPN+ is in the first inning of a very long game. There is a tremendous opportunity to grow the service and expand our position as the leading streaming service and provider of digital products for sports fans.”
Most recently, Wolff served as executive vice president and managing director, ESPN International, where he was responsible for all of ESPN’s international businesses, which grew to reach multiple countries and territories across all seven continents.
Moving forward, the regional general managers of the ESPN International businesses will report directly into DTCI’s regional leadership outside of the U.S. ESPN International’s content, programming and production leaders will continue to report directly into ESPN.
As part of his previous role, Wolff guided ESPN’s digital expansion around the world, including the launch of mobile, online and streaming platforms, helping it establish a position as the number one digital sports brand globally. He led ESPN’s digital media teams to grow their global digital media portfolio, which included more than a dozen localized editions of ESPN.com and the ESPN app, ESPNFC (global football vertical), ESPNCricinfo (global cricket vertical), ESPN’s streaming platforms (including WatchESPN) and multiple other digital initiatives.
He also was a key driver of ESPN’s continued growth and leadership in Latin America. Under his direction, ESPN’s offerings grew into a multimedia business that includes 13 television networks, the most diverse portfolio of programming and sports events, and the operation of production facilities and offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
Wolff first joined ESPN International in 1997 as vice president, managing the company’s business interests in the Pacific Rim. In 1998, he joined ESPN Star Sports, as vice president of programming and event management and was later promoted to senior vice president. Wolff returned to ESPN in 2000 as senior vice president, overseeing programming, marketing, and the company’s businesses in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Wolff began his career at the Leo Burnett Company in Chicago. Shortly afterwards, he returned to Dartmouth and received his M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration. He will continue to lead ESPN’s involvement with the Special Olympics.
ESPN+, which surpassed one million paying subscribers in just five months, offers fans thousands of additional live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.
Programming on ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB and NHL, thousands of college sports events (including football, basketball and multiple other sports), domestic and international soccer (Serie A, MLS, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more), exclusive Top Rank boxing, UFC (beginning in 2019), Grand Slam tennis, international and domestic rugby and cricket, new and exclusive documentary films and series, acclaimed studio shows and the full library of ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 films. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and cancel at any time.
ESPN+ is an integrated part of the ESPN App, the leading sports app and the premier all-in-one digital sports platform for fans. The ESPN App is a showcase of the company’s culture of innovation, delivering a rich, personalized experience that curates all of ESPN’s content around each fan’s individual tastes. ESPN+ is also be available through ESPN.com.