John Skipper has agreed to a contract extension with Disney to remain president of ESPN through 2021, The Big Lead has learned from a person with knowledge of the news. Unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, the person requested anonymity. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment.
Skipper has been ESPN’s president since New Year’s Day of 2012, and been with the company since 1997 when he started at ESPN the Magazine as VP and general manager. In 2015, Skipper signed a contract extension through 2018.
After two-plus decades of astounding prosperity, ESPN has had a tumultuous last couple years. Some developments have been largely out of the company’s control. Live rights for sports have skyrocketed, and ESPN has lost over 13 million subscribers since its peak of over 100 million. That is not dramatically more subscriber losses than other standard-bearers in the cable industry, but it affects ESPN’s business model disproportionately because of its comparatively high monthly fees in large part due to enormous college and professional rights. There have also been some self-inflicted wounds.
ESPN had one round of about 300 behind-the-scenes layoffs in 2015, a round of about 100 front-facing layoffs earlier this year, and reportedly has another round of about 100 employee layoffs coming before the end of 2017.
Nevertheless, parent company Disney is sending a signal that it stands behind Skipper as the leader to navigate ESPN through these turbulent times.