The executive who helped buttress Walt Disney’s ESPN cable-sports juggernaut from an onslaught of recent launches of sports outlets by rival media concerns is stepping down from the company.
ESPN said Monday that Sean Bratches, its executive vice president of sales and marketing, would leave the Disney unit by the end of this year and would serve in a consulting capacity until that time. Bratches supervised advertising sales, research, marketing, consumer products and special events, and reports directly to John Skipper, ESPN president and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks.
Bratches’ “contributions to ESPN’s success cannot be overstated,” Skipper said in a prepared statement. “We have all greatly appreciated his energy, integrity and service to ESPN, our employees and our industry. ”
A key responsibilities for Bratches and the people he supervised was to ensure ESPN-owned networks gained the broadest possible distribution via cable and satellite. Bratches had to secure placement for at-the-time new services like ESPN’s high-definition broadcasts and, more recently, the company’s ESPN3 online-streaming service, WatchESPN broadband app and SEC Network. ESPN said Monday that Bratches had “successfully concluded the negotiation of wide-ranging agreements with virtually every distributor” while also helping to gain traction for new lines of business. His efforts came as rivals including 21st Century Fox and NBCUniversal have placed more emphasis on sports programming in recent years with, respectively, the launch of Fox Sports 1 and the rebranding of sports outlet Versus into NBCSN.
Bratches joined ESPN in 1988 as an account executive in affiliate marketing. “The time just felt right to pursue my next adventure,” he said in a prepared statement.
ESPN did not offer a timeline for a replacement to be named.