ESPN Promotes Veteran Exec Burke Magnus To Top Programming Role

Burke Magnus, who first joined ESPN in 1995, has been promoted to president of programming and original content.

He will continue to report to Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content. Before being upped, Magnus was EVP of programming and original content.

“Burke is a talented leader and collaborative colleague who has been instrumental in guiding ESPN through what has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging and critical periods in our history,” Pitaro said. “He is an industry-leading programming strategist who continues to take on new challenges with his signature combination of relationship building and creativity.”

The move comes several months after ESPN laid off roughly 10% of its workforce. Connor Schell, who had headed content, exited last November. The Disney-owned sports powerhouse took a big hit from the coronavirus pandemic. While it remains highly profitable, its traditional subscriber base is continuing to erode as pay-TV customers cut the cord. Like the rest of the parent company, ESPN is focused on streaming, though its most significant programming remains rooted in linear TV. A major NFL rights renewal announced in March will keep games on ESPN through the early 2030s, though a significant emphasis will be put on simulcasts on ABC and ESPN+.

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Magnus oversees all programming and rights acquisition and scheduling. After Schell departed to set up a production venture with Chernin Entertainment, Magnus added oversight of ESPN and ESPN+ original content development and scheduling. Among the properties he now shepherds are ESPN Films and the 30 for 30 franchise. He will steer rightsholder relationships, content strategy and cross-platform programming rights acquisition/scheduling on a global basis.

In addition to the NFL, ESPN and Disney have been active of late on the sports rights front, signing deals or extensions with Major Leage Baseball, the NHL, the SEC and LaLiga, among others. During the onset of Covid-19, Magnus led a complicated effort by the network’s programming team to coordinate with various league, conference and event partners. They navigated through more than a year of postponements, cancellations and rescheduling of thousands of events across ESPN platforms.

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After initially joining ESPN as a program associate, Magnus has held various programming department positions in the more than two decades since.

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