Amid concerns over the changing future of ESPN, John Skipper has resigned suddenly as president of ESPN and co-chairman of the Disney Media Networks on Monday, due to problems with substance addiction.
George Bodenheimer, former president and executive chairman of ESPN, will take over as acting chairman for 90 days as ESPN searches for a new successor. Bodenheimer was executive chairman from 2011 until May 2014 and president of ESPN from 1998 to 2011.
"I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction,” Skipper stated. “I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.”
Skipper has been president since January 2012. He joined ESPN in 1997 as senior vice president/general manager of ESPN The Magazine.
Since 2011, the primary ESPN network lost nearly 13 million subscribers -- to around 87.2 million in the most recent estimates from Nielsen, from 100.1 million in 2011.
For Nielsen's December “Universe Estimates,” by way of analysis from Pivotal Research Group, ESPN and ESPN2 were each down by 3.3%, close to the overall cable TV network industry average. Recently, ESPN laid off more than 100 staff after Thanksgiving. In 2015, ESPN laid off around 300 employees.
The recent massive $52 billion Walt Disney-21st Century Fox deal for various media assets includes Fox's regional sports channels, which will be incorporated into ESPN.
Walt Disney -- parent of ESPN -- is planning to start a dedicated live streaming app for the network in spring 2018, called ESPN Plus.