ESPN plans to explore a new business plan for The Undefeated, its site devoted to exploring sports, culture and race that will expand the outlet to other parts of the sports-media outlet’s parent company. Walt Disney.
The Undefeated, which was launched in 2016 under the auspices of John Skipper, previous president of ESPN, was envisioned as a digital hub for stories that examined some of the hottest topics in sports. The site was expected to combine long-form and short-form storytelling, original reporting and provocative commentary aimed at African-American consumers as well as sports fans seeking a deeper understanding of black athletes, culture and related issues.
Now the company intends to try to expand its coverage to fashion, music, arts and technology, said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN’s president, in a memo to staffers Tuesday. Citing such efforts as a season long series in 2019 looking at African-American quarterbacks and a Caldecott Medal awarded for a book based on a poem published on the site, Pitaro said the company had a “goal of sharing that content with a broader audience.”
Kevin Merida will continue in his role at senior vice president and editor in chief of The Undefeated, and report directly to Pitaro, while Raina Kelley, managing editor, will continue in that post. ESPN intends to hire “a business leader under Kevin with a focus on driving growth and monetization,” Pitaro said.
Critics have been studying ESPN’s content moves in recent months as the sports-media giant places more of a spotlight on more traditional coverage of sports while seeking alternatives for programs and content that rely more heavily on investigative, analytical and enterprise reporting. In October, ESPN revamped its long-running “Outside The Lines,” cancelling its weekday version in favor of a once-a-week hour-long edition on Saturdays. ESPN last month canceled “High Noon,” a daily sports show led by Pablo Torre and Bonami Jones, that was praised for its intelligent commentary while under scrutiny for low ratings.
Separately, ESPN elevated two of its top content executives on Tuesday. Rob King, senior vice president of original content, was named senior vice president and editor-at-large of ESPN Content, a a role that provides leadership across various storytelling efforts across the company. The position was previously held by John Walsh, an iconic ESPN executive who retired in 2015. Alison Overholt was promoted to senior vice president of multiplatform storytelling and journalism, which gives her oversight of espnW, E:60, ESPN’s digital storytelling group and other assets.