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ESPN commentators gather for summit in Bristol

BRISTOL, Conn. – In a wide-ranging, two-hour meeting with over 450 of the company’s forward-facing talent, ESPN President John Skipper emphasized that ESPN is poised for continued success in an evolving media landscape.

“At the end of this meeting I want you to be confident about the future of ESPN,” Skipper said. “I want you to feel proud about working here and I want you to feel that your best efforts are needed for that future and to feel that pride.”

With SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt moderating, Skipper then described several strategies including: maintaining and growing ESPN’s live rights portfolio; driving maximum distribution of ESPN’s content through traditional distributors and aggressive licensing of OTT distributors; launching the direct-to-consumer service ESPN+ in 2018 through Disney’s deal with BAMTech; and continuing the company’s focus on the breadth and depth of storytelling and strong journalism.

“I want to lead an ESPN that strives purposely and confidently into a new world which is not scary but exciting,” Skipper said.

Connor Schell shared ESPN’s 2017 content by the numbers as part of his presentation.

Skipper then invited Executive Vice President, Content, Connor Schell to the stage to discuss ESPN’s robust content offerings.

“Everyone should understand how staggering what we all create is in terms of scope and scale and the fact that we do it at the quality that we do. You should take immense pride in that,” Schell said. “Between live studio content and live events we are producing seven and a half hours of live programming for every hour in a day.”

Vice President Original Content and Brand Intelligence Barry Blyn and Senior Director Marketing Strategy Samira Zebian then presented their group’s latest findings on ESPN’s brand health, ratings trends and millennial audience data. That was followed by Senior Vice President & Editor in Chief of The UndefeatedKevin Merida, reviewing the company’s updated social media guidelines.

Merida, who cited several examples of ESPN talents’ endorsements of the revised policy, emphasized the need to be smart on social outlets.

“ESPN is a journalistic organization – not a political organization. We should do nothing to undermine that position,” he said. “ESPN’s focus is sports. By-and-large we are not experts on politics, healthcare policies, terrorism, commerce – that’s not what we do.

“Our audience is not looking for our opinions on the general news of the day,” he added. “And believe me, I get it. It can sometimes be difficult to control impulses or ignore trolls, but that’s what we’re called to do for each other.”

The presentations concluded with SportsCenter’s Sage Steele asking questions of President Global Sales & Marketing Ed Erhardt, who touted ESPN’s strong position in the marketplace.

“All of you make such a difference and are a large part of why advertisers want to be with us,” Erhardt said.

Prior to opening up for questions, Skipper reiterated ESPN’s commitment to an inclusive and welcoming workplace.

Skipper said: “We will take swift and decisive action on things that do not conform with our values.”

A brief Q&A session followed the presentations and the afternoon culminated with a social hour for colleagues to mingle with one another.

All Photos: Credit Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images