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Disney names longtime executive James Pitaro as new ESPN president

The company is trying to figure out how to stay relevant and profitable in a digital world.
/ Source: Reuters
2017 Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Unveiling And Light Show
James Pitaro speaks at the 2017 Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Window Unveiling And Light Show at Saks Fifth Avenue on Nov. 20, 2017 in New York.Monica Schipper / Getty Images file

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Walt Disney Co. on Monday named longtime executive James Pitaro as the new president of its ESPN sports network, which is trying to navigate a rapid consumer shift from traditional television to online viewing.

Pitaro joined Disney in 2010 and has run the consumer products and interactive group for the past two years. He replaces John Skipper, who resigned in December, citing substance addiction.

ESPN, Disney's most important cable network, has been losing subscribers on pay television. The company is trying to capture digital viewers with an upcoming streaming service called ESPN+, which will offer sports programming that is not shown on ESPN's TV channels.

"Jimmy forged his career at the intersection of technology, sports and media, and his vast experience and keen perspective will be invaluable in taking ESPN into the future," Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said in a statement.

He added that Pitaro's appointment "comes at a time for great opportunity for ESPN."

Pitaro also will serve as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and will report directly to Iger.

"The appetite for quality sports content across platforms has never been greater, and I am looking forward to working with the talented ESPN team as we continue to redefine the future fan experience," Pitaro said.

Disney shares rose 0.6 percent to $103.56 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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