VICE PRESIDENT, espnW, Growth Initiatives
Leah LaPlaca was named vice president, espnW, growth initiatives, in May 2016, developing the espnW business through internal and external collaborations, in addition to working with ESPN's satellite offices on international expansion.
Just prior to joining the espnW team, she served as vice president, talent planning and negotiation in ESPN’s Talent Office, managing on-air talent contract negotiations, strategic reporting and planning, in a role she assumed in December 2014.
LaPlaca joined ESPN in 2002. She has also held positions in both the programming and affiliate sales and marketing departments. She served as vice president, digital video distribution for Disney and ESPN Media Networks where she led the assessment of and potential participation with content distribution to digital multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), the distribution of ESPN's syndicated short-form digital content and the assessment of other new business opportunities for the affiliate sales and marketing group.
Prior to her role in affiliate sales and marketing, LaPlaca was an important contributor and leader in the programming department for more than 10 years. As vice president, programming and acquisitions, she managed the NFL, NBA, and championship golf categories, as well as ESPN’s content rights management group. LaPlaca played a significant role in ESPN’s Monday Night Football – the most-watched series in cable television history – since its launch in 2006. She was instrumental in the eight-year rights agreement reached in September 2011 that keeps the NFL with ESPN through the 2021 season. From 2010 to 2013, LaPlaca also oversaw ESPN’s NBA programming. Throughout her decade in programming, LaPlaca managed ESPN’s golf programming and its championship golf strategy which included The Masters, U.S. Open, The Open Championship and Ryder Cup. She managed the roll-out of ESPN’s inaugural coverage of the Masters Par 3 Contest and first- and second-rounds in 2008, and played a key role in the company’s extension with The R&A which brought all four rounds of The Open Championship to ESPN in 2010. She had previously overseen ESPN’s soccer, figure skating, and arena football programming. In 2005, she was an integral player in ESPN’s successful bid for the rights to FIFA World Cup and FIFA Women’s World Cup events thru 2014.
Earlier in her career, LaPlaca spent time as a consultant working with The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she also earned her MBA. She has held positions with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (1997-1999) and was also an intern with Comcast (2000) while in business school.
Before joining the corporate ranks, LaPlaca was a researcher focusing on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees. From 1995-1997 she served as a graduate researcher at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and spent the summer of 1994 at the Kibale Forest National Park in western Uganda.
LaPlaca graduated summa cum laude in 1995 from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in primatology and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. The recipient of a National Science Foundation fellowship, LaPlaca earned a master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 and an MBA in strategic management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001. LaPlaca was named to Sports Business Journal’s ‘Forty under 40’ and Multichannel News ‘40 under 40’ in 2011; CableFAX's Most Powerful Women in Cable list in both 2010 and 2011; “The Young Influentials” in AdWeek in 2012, an annual list of 20 top under 40 executives across various industries; and Ad Age’s ‘Forty Under 40’ for both 2012 and 2013. She is also a current member of Women in Cable & Telecommunications (WICT) and serves on the alumni advisory board of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative.
LaPlaca lives in Connecticut with her husband and two daughters.