Veteran ESPN executive Russell Wolff has been named EVP and general manager of ESPN+, where he’ll oversee Disney’s direct-to-consumer sports streaming service and collaborate on managing and commercializing ESPN-branded digital products.
Wolff will report to Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services.
“Russell’s deep understanding of the ESPN brand and experience across all aspects of the media landscape will bring even more velocity to the service,” Paull said in a statement.
ESPN+, which launched this spring and features more than 10,000 live sporting events and exclusive studio programming, is part of Disney’s strategy to capitalize on the growing popularity of streaming services. It’s also an investment in the future, as cable and satellite TV providers continue to shed subscribers.
Wolff said he was honored to lead ESPN+, which has attracted a million subscribers in its first five months.
“ESPN+ is in the first inning of a very long game,” Wolff said in a statement. “There is a tremendous opportunity to grow the service and expand our position as the leading streaming service and provider of digital products for sports fans.”
Most recently, Wolff served as executive vice president and managing director, ESPN International, where he was responsible for all of ESPN’s international businesses, which grew to reach multiple countries and territories across all seven continents.
Moving forward, the regional general managers of the ESPN International businesses will report directly into DTCI’s regional leadership outside of the U.S. ESPN International’s content, programming and production leaders will continue to report directly into ESPN.
As part of his previous role, Wolff guided ESPN’s digital expansion around the world, including the launch of mobile, online and streaming platforms. He helped grow the global digital media portfolio, which included more than a dozen localized editions of ESPN.com and the ESPN app.
Wolff also was a key driver of ESPN’s growth in Latin America, which now includes 13 television networks, the most diverse portfolio of programming and sports events, and the operation of production facilities and offices in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
Wolff first joined ESPN International in 1997 as vice president, managing the company’s business interests in the Pacific Rim. In 1998, he joined ESPN Star Sports, as vice president of programming and event management and was later promoted to senior vice president. Wolff returned to ESPN in 2000 as senior vice president, overseeing programming, marketing, and the company’s businesses in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
After graduating from Dartmouth College, Wolff began his career at the Leo Burnett Company in Chicago. Shortly afterwards, he returned to Dartmouth and received his M.B.A. from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration. He will continue to lead ESPN’s involvement with the Special Olympics.