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Tony Petitti named new Big Ten Commissioner: Reactions, Analysis

The TV exec has recently served as CEO of Major League Baseball and president of Activision Blizzard, two companies that are notably doing Just Fine, no further questions!

MLB London Series Announcement
One of these is Tony Petitti. But can you guess which one?
Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos

Hey, the Big Ten has a new commissioner to replace the outgoing Kevin Warren:

The Big Ten Conference has hired former MLB and television executive Tony Petitti as its next commissioner, a source confirmed to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger. ESPN’s Pete Thamel was the first to report the news.

Petitti steps into the position after former commissioner Kevin Warren—who began his tenure in the summer of 2019—announced he would depart to become CEO and president of the NFL’s Bears in January. Petitti joins the Big Ten after spending more than a decade working for Major League Baseball. Previously, he served as an executive at ABC, CBS and NBC.

Petitti directed the launch of MLB Network and became the CEO of MLB when Rob Manfred was named MLB commissioner in 2015. Most recently, Petitti served as the president of sports and entertainment at Activision Blizzard Inc., a leading video game and esports company.

Amid the Warren-directed acquisitions of USC and UCLA and the super-mega-bucks media rights package that cuts ESPN out of the B1G equation, some of our writers had thoughts on Petitti as the new leader of the Big Ten.

BuffKomodo: Is this good? Is this bad? Will I do any research to figure out the answers to those two questions?

No. I will not. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I feel like most people applying for or being pursued to be commish of a conference/league probably have qualities that make them dicks and out of touch with reality. So I’m going to call this a lateral move until someone (probably Kind of) does the research for me and tells me what to think.

Hopefully he fixes big ten basketball…and big ten refereeing.

RU in VA: This is... a unique pick. While I think the B1G Commissioner is a penultimate job for most, I’m reasonably sure that Tony has access to the Activision/Blizzard and Microsoft purchase specifics and will be removed/demoted from his role - resulting this in being a completely new venture for him. MSFT has an extensive e-sports presence and is going in a VERY different direction than AV/B has with the franchise-type arrangement for their Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues (fucking $20M buy in for teams!).

He is a good hire for us (mostly millenials) as he’s digitally native and savvy on the technology front. Too often I see these TV deals get BOLOed because they don’t understand that streaming services are murdering traditional Cable like they’re in a burn pit in Manitowoc County.

This pretty much completes the cycle. College sports commissioners are being hired to maximize digital revenue and bring in new schools. We pretended they cared about the actual athletics - put a fork in it; that thought process is done.

I also didn’t put anything about his relevance to his former boss Bobby Kotick stopping reporting, enabling, and looking the other way about an avalanche of sexual harassment/assault/rape within Activision/Blizzard — because that wouldn’t be fair since there’s no data specifically on Tony.

But, he will have that baggage.

MaximumSam: When we think or forward thinking organizations, hard to top Major League Baseball for their continued growth and excitement. Also, I immediately thought PeeTitty and I cannot see or pronounce his name any other way. Apologies to the proud PeeTitty’s everywhere.

BoilerUp89: His experience with running TV networks will likely be a plus and I would think he is someone who would try to fix BTN+ to the point where people might actually fork over some money to pay for it since MLB did that while he was there.

Kind of...: BuffKomodo has far too much faith in me. And RU in VA provides the reason why. I’m not a millennial so am mostly confused by reading the press release. Further, he used the term BOLOed, which in my experience from watching cop shows (non-streaming, of course) means Be On LookOut, but that doesn’t seem to be what he means.

Further, my first thought in terms of a meme to communicate my confusion was a Saturday Night Live clip from the late 80’s. So, if anything is clear, it is that I should not be B1G commissioner.

If any of you could point me in the direction of my group home, I think there is still time for me to make it before they activate the security system at dusk and my family is alerted as to my late return.Thank you.

BoilerUp89: Thing I don’t like is that he is unlikely to care about B1G traditions/rivalries and is likely pro-expansion. Maintaining the things we like isn’t as high as increasing the $ stream

RU in VA: I’m sorry, BOLO is military slang for “fucked up” - originated in the Philippine-American war when the most expendable Philippine solder was given a small sword (or bolo) and told to charge. They were nicknamed “bolos” by the US.

ZuzuRU: “Tony Petitti is the former president of sports and entertainment of Activision Blizzard.”

misdreavus79: I mean they need someone with TV money experience for all this tv money they’re about to make.

87townie: Will this guy let Penn State open its B1G Football season at home for a change?

MNW: As long as he doesn’t do that, I’m fine with it.

Look, if the next stage of Big Ten Commissionerhood is managing the Warren Windfall and welcoming USC and UCLA into the conference, Petitti likely would be a fine manager of what appears to matter now—TV money, TV money, TV money. I second the optimism that he’ll professionalize B1G+ beyond the Rice OwlVision-level experience of the early 2010s, and he certainly has experience dealing with a lot of different voices in the room—from 30 MLB owners to 16 Big Ten presidents.

The lack of college experience is a concern, and it seems like this is a signal of the continued march away from amateurism in whatever veneer it still existed: let the presidents deal with their domestic concerns, and let Petitti keep showering us with the big bucks.


Grade the Petitti hire:

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