The Walt Disney Co. has made management changes to its sports cable network ESPN that will take affect on Jan. 1.

John Skipper will become ESPN president and assume day-to-day operating responsibilities. He replaces George Bodenheimer who becomes executive chairman of the network and will provide strategic direction.

Burbank-based Disney made the changes to ensure strategic continuity and succession planning, the company said.

“With George’s continued presence, John’s experience and vision and an executive management team and workforce that are unparalleled in the sports media business, ESPN is extremely well positioned for continued success,” Disney President and CEO Robert Iger said in a prepared statement.

Bodenheimer has been with ESPN for 31 years, the last 13 as its president. Skipper joined the network in 1997 when he helped launch the ESPN branded magazine. As executive vice president, content Skipper supervised the creation of content for distribution through television and online methods.

ESPN is headquartered in Bristol, Conn., and is made up of eight US television networks, five HD services, a 3D TV network, 48 international networks, 13 international editions of SportsCenter, 18 web sites, and 750 radio affiliates.