Lockhart will oversee strategy and development for all ESPN+ original programming initiatives, including new projects as well as existing shows such as “Detail,” “More Than an Athlete,” “The Board Room,” “Earn Everything,” “Quest for the Stanley Cup” and “Draft Academy.” He reports to Libby Geist, VP and executive producer, ESPN Films and Original Content. Adam Neuhaus, director of development for ESPN Films and Original Content, along with his team will report directly to Lockhart.
Most recently, Lockhart was VP of NFL Media’s original content group, developing original content by leveraging league initiatives like Youth Football, Legends Community, My Cause, and Breast Cancer Awareness. Over a nearly 12-year tenure with NFL Media, he also served as VP of content development and programming and before that was a coordinating producer for features. Prior to the NFL, Lockhart worked at HBO Sports, first as a senior features producer and then creative director. Earlier in his career, Lockhart held production positions at ABC Sports and ESPN.
“Brian is an award-winning content creator who brings an incredibly creative mind and a vast array of experience in series development and sports media to this newly-created position,” Geist said in announcing Lockhart’s hire.
Disney is touting momentum for ESPN+, which topped 1 million subscribers last September (after migrating ESPN Insider subs to the service) and according to the company signed up over 568,000 new paying subscribers last Friday and Saturday, with the debut of “UFC Fight Night” on Jan. 19. (ESPN isn’t saying what the current subscriber count is.) In addition, the UFC broadcast on ESPN logged a metered market rating of 1.4, the largest for a UFC preliminary fight card on cable since 2013.
ESPN+, priced at $4.99 monthly or $49.99 annually, offers thousands of live and on-demand events not carried on TV as well as exclusive series and other original programming. “Our first ‘UFC Fight Night on ESPN+’ was a thrilling evening of action and a great success, with a record-setting night that continued the momentum for ESPN+, delivered strong ratings on ESPN and marks a great start to our new agreement with the UFC,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s Direct-To-Consumer and International group, said in a statement.
In his new role, Lockhart will work with executives across both ESPN and DTCI’s Disney Streaming Services group, including Russell Wolff, executive VP and GM of ESPN+, and Craig Lazarus, VP of ESPN original content and features, who will continue to oversee production on ESPN+ original series.
Lockhart will relocate from L.A. to New York with his wife of 15 years, Vicki, and their two children.