ESPN’s Shapiro Enters Red Zone

NEW YORK Mark Shapiro, ESPN’s executive vp of programming and production, will leave the company on Oct. 1 to become CEO of Red Zone, a private investment company controlled by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

Shapiro enjoyed a meteoric rise at the Disney-owned sports media giant. He joined ESPN in 1993 as a production assistant, became a coordinating producer from 1997-99 and from there joined management. In 2001, Shapiro was named senior vp, general manager of programming and was bumped to his current position in 2002.

He’s responsible for incorporating original drama series on the network, including the controversial Play Makers, about the dirty goings-on in a fictional football league. The series was cancelled after one season, leading many to believe the National Football League pressured the network to cut it (ESPN is an NFL rights holder).

It was not clear whether Shapiro would be replaced at Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN.

The ESPN statement on Shapiro’s departure did not say what he will do for Red Zone. But Red Zone has recently upped its stake in amusement park chain Six Flags to 11 percent, and Snyder has been pressuring management to improve the company’s performance.

—Mediaweek staff report