In 2016 and 2017, Fox Sports, MTV, Mashable, Mic, Vice, BuzzFeed, and more pivoted to video; the belief that consumers no longer valued written content drove the movement. Some of those outlets, having seen early returns on their investment, are already abandoning the strategy.
Changes to the media climate impacted the biggest parties in American sports. The NFL, for example, is facing a nuanced ratings dilemma, and ESPN has gone through three rounds of lay-offs in the last two years. As consumption habits shift toward online streaming, hundreds of ESPN employees—including well-known figures like John Clayton, Marc Stein, and Jane McManus—have lost their jobs.
Compounding the turmoil, John Skipper, the network’s president for five years, stepped down suddenly in December, citing a substance addiction. His permanent replacement has not yet been named.
Whoever takes the job will step into it knowing this is an imperative moment for the network. How ESPN handles the coming years could dictate whether it retains the dominant status it has owned in the sports media landscape for nearly 40 years.
There are plenty of competitors lurking. Bleacher Report, Fox Sports 1, and Barstool Sports are among the obvious threats, but don’t count out a challenge from world-beating tech juggernauts like Facebook and Amazon, which have flirted with acquiring the rights to live sporting events.
While confusion and a constantly growing list of buzzwords—cord-cutting, virtual reality, Alexa, over the top—saturate the industry, the most readily apparent solution for ESPN is to implement an old sports adage: get good players on the roster and they’ll figure it out.
How are Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant going to play together? It doesn’t really matter. They’re two of the best guys in the league. Get them on the same squad and you’re going to like the product on the court.
We’ve tackled some of the ESPN HR manager’s work and identified rising stars the media giant should target. ESPN prides itself as a one-stop shop, an aim that necessitates a diverse team: anchors, bloggers, analysts, sideline reporters, social media savants, feature writers, executives, and more. Accordingly, you’ll see a wide spectrum of skillsets on this list.
Here are 25 rising media stars ESPN needs to hire.