Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN, picked up the Frank Stanton Award for Excellence in Communication in New York October 3. The Center For Communication gives out the annual award at a dinner event.
Before Pitaro was honored, David Barrett, former chairman and CEO, Hearst TV, shared that he is shifting from chairman of the Center’s board to chairman emeritus, with Shane Peros, Google managing director, global partnerships, broadcast, entertainment and telecommunications, the new chair. Stepping onstage at 583 Park Avenue, Peros said of Barrett, “you’ve been a wonderful role model to me,” and said the Center’s mission is “near and dear to my heart.”
Molly Qerim and Stephen A. Smith, hosts on the ESPN morning show First Take, were the evening’s emcees. The pair lamented the state of New York’s sports teams and poked fun at Smith throwing out the first pitch, which he bounced, at Yankee Stadium recently.
Qerim called Pitaro “an incredible collaborator, champion and friend,” adding, “you don’t just care about the product. You care about the person.”
A video montage saw a range of media and sports standouts, including Disney CEO Bob Iger, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Derek Jeter, and members of Pitaro’s family, salute the recipient. Dwayne Johnson called Pitaro “a phenomenal business partner to me, and a good friend.”
Rita Ferro, Disney ad sales president, singled Pitaro out as “a tremendous leader and innovator, and an incredible human being who leads with empathy, humor and straight talk. For Jimmy, it’s all about passion.”
Stepping onstage, Pitaro nodded to Ferro, who won the Stanton Award in 2019, and said he was “truly humbled to join her, and all the other recipients.”
The award, he said, “is not about me. It’s about we, and we are just getting started.”
Summing up the mission of the Center, Pitaro closed by saying, “It’s imperative to our success that our workforce reflects the audience we are trying to reach.”
Past Stanton Award winners include Jo Ann Ross, chairman, Paramount Advertising, in 2022; Tina Perry, OWN president, in 2021; Soledad O’Brien, CEO, Soledad O’Brien Productions, in 2020; Ferro in 2019 and David Nevins, former chief creative officer, CBS Corp., and chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks, in 2018.
Pitaro was named ESPN chairman in February 2023. Previously, he was chairman, ESPN and Sports Content, since October 2020. He was named ESPN president and co-chair, Disney Media Networks, in 2018.
Before the event, the Center For Communication said, “Jimmy is a forward-thinking leader and is always focused on innovation, which has kept ESPN at the top of its game,” Barrett said. “He is also deeply committed to creating an ESPN where everyone feels they belong, making diversity, equity and inclusion a core business priority. We are thrilled to honor Jimmy for his success and his shared passion for opening doors in the media industry for young people who have been traditionally under-represented.”
Frank Stanton was CBS president from 1946 to 1971.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.