Following the radical shakeup at ESPN, where on-air, print, and digital media personalities were let go by the Worldwide Leader in Sports, reports have now surfaced that news breaker extraordinaire Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and The Vertical will be joining ESPN after the upcoming NBA Draft.
I’m told the network also intends to bring aboard some of the staff of The Vertical, the NBA site Wojnarowski launched for Yahoo 2016
If you’re not familiar with the set up and structure of The Vertical, the most likely contributors they could be speaking of here are Shams Charania, the heir to Wojnarowski’s news breaking throne, and Bobby Marks the front office insider with over 20 years working in NBA team offices.
This can most definitely be seen as a change in direction for ESPN’s content. With layoffs of writers and personalities like Marc Stein, Henry Abbott, Chad Ford, and the indefinite hiatus of TrueHoop, it appears ESPN is trying to corner the market on news breaking and immediacy of social media eyeballs at the expense of long-form narratives and story telling. If this report is indeed true, ESPN now has the two biggest news breakers in the two biggest sports, Adam Schefter of the NFL and Wojnarowski covering the NBA.
While Yahoo and ESPN are certainly monsters of media, it’s worth noting that another mega-firm is actually acquiring Yahoo, Verizon, in June. Kafka highlights that Yahoo made Verizon aware months ago that Wojnarowski might leave.
Last year, Wojnarowski started The Vertical as part of a four-year deal reportedly worth millions. His departure means that Verizon, which is scheduled to acquire Yahoo for $4.5 billion in June, won’t get one of Yahoo’s highest-profile talents as part of the deal.
People familiar with both companies say Yahoo told Verizon that Wojnarowski might leave last fall; Deadspin reported on his possible departure in February.
As for where that leaves The Vertical and Yahoo Sport’s basketball coverage going forward, Kafka reached out to both ESPN and The Vertical for followup. ESPN declined to comment while the response from Yahoo was mostly vague.
Wojnarowski tweeted this out after I published this story; Yahoo’s PR department also forwarded the tweet in response to my request for comment.
As this story evolves and more is confirmed, we’ll be sure to update you.