Venu Sports

Senior Management Team Comes Together for Venu Sports

Venu Sports, the joint sports venture between Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox Corp., has begun to put together its senior management team. This comes after the announcement of the venture’s name last month. Venu Sports will be a streaming service that combines ESPN+ with linear TV networks that carry sports programming: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNews, Fox, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS and truTV. 

As of Tuesday, Venu Sports said that there are over 150 engineers and executives working toward the launch of the service. It is expected that it will be launching in the fall of 2024. Senior management positions were also announced for the venture. This included chief business officer Tim Connolly (formerly with Apple TV+ and Hulu), CTO Skarpi Hedinsson (previously with the L.A. Rams and Disney/ABC Television Group) and CMO Brian Borkowski (former FanDuel and Hulu exec).

“Getting the chance to assemble the starting lineup for the management team responsible for building the Venu organization, creating the culture, setting the pace of innovation, and ultimately, fueling the growth behind our forthcoming service has been an incredible opportunity,” Distad said in a statement. “We searched for people with an entrepreneurial spirit who could bring diverse perspectives to Venu Sports with experience launching beloved consumer products and growing high-performing teams, and brought together a group of all-stars in their respective fields.”

The launching of Venu Sports is conditional on government regulatory approval along with the “finalization of definitive agreements amongst the parties.” There is also a lawsuit seeking to stop the venture by Fubu, a sports-centric streaming company. It argues that the joint venture violates antitrust law.

The leadership teams for Venu Sports is based in New York and Los Angeles. Peter Distad is the CEO of the venture. Variety shared that the following leaders will be reporting to him:

  • Brian Borkowski, chief marketing officer, responsible for marketing, branding and growth strategies to launch and grow Venu Sports. He previously led marketing for online gambling company FanDuel and prior to that held multiple roles at Hulu, including VP of media and acquisition and head of subscriber acquisition. Prior to that, he was CMO of predictive analytics startup Verikai and also held various marketing leadership roles at Neilson Financial Services and Farmers Insurance.
  • Tim Connolly, chief business officer, responsible for steering strategic initiatives for the sports streaming platform, including content rights and licensing, distribution and strategic partnerships, business development, subscriber growth, and retention strategies. Prior to joining Venu, Connolly led subscriber growth for Apple TV+ and MLS Season Pass at Apple, and also held senior leadership positions at Hulu and Disney.
  • Skarpi Hedinsson, chief technology officer, responsible for the technology strategy and execution for the sports streaming service, including building out a world-class team of technologists. Prior to joining Venu, Hedinsson was the CTO of the Los Angeles Rams and led the team responsible for the vision, design and implementation of technology throughout Hollywood Park, which includes SoFi Stadium, one of the country’s most technologically advanced stadiums. Prior to joining the Rams, Hedinsson served as the CTO, Disney/ABC Television Group during a critical period of innovation, which included the launch of the Watch ABC and Watch Disney services.
  • Amit Dudakia, senior VP and head of product, responsible for all facets of product management and design, along with programming and editorial for the service. Dudakia previously held various product leadership roles across Fox Corp. and its portfolio of leading entertainment brands, most recently serving as SVP of product management for Fox Technology & Digital, where he led the product and design organization for Fox Sports. His tenure with Fox Corp. began with FX Networks, where was a key member of the launch team behind FX Now, Simpsons World and FX+.
  • Jessica Casano-Antonellis, senior VP and head of communications, leads all communications facets for Venu Sports. She previously led communications at SiriusXM and prior to that served as VP of communications for Disney+ (including for its 2019 launch) and Hulu.
  • David Hillman, chief legal officer, who previously was a key member of the corporate legal executive management team at Paramount Global, where he most recently served as EVP and general counsel for CBS Sports, CBS News and Stations and Broadcast Operations. As part of his remit, Hillman oversaw negotiations of key strategic content agreements with programming partners, sports leagues and talent. Before joining CBS, he served as EVP and general counsel at both Simon & Schuster and Westwood One.
  • Gautam Ranji, chief financial officer, who previously served as CFO and treasurer for Sphere Entertainment, where he led all finance functions and was part of the management team which launched the Sphere in Las Vegas. Previously, Ranji held senior leadership positions at CBS, where he oversaw strategic planning and business development, and co-led the merger integration following the combination of Viacom and CBS (now Paramount Global). He has also held senior posts at the Hearst and Viacom.
  • Judy Schwab, senior VP and head of people, overseeing all aspects of Venu Sports’ HR strategy and operations, including workforce planning, organizational effectiveness, talent acquisition, talent management and development, and total rewards, as well as the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. Prior to joining Venu, she served as an HR leader within Apple’s Services division and before that led human resources for Disney’s direct-to-consumer businesses, including ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu, and was a key member of the executive leadership team that launched Disney+ and integrated Hulu.

What do you think of what you are seeing of Venu Sports? Are you excited about this new sports streaming service? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!