B&C's Women in the GameAs sports expands its influence in the media landscape, these are the women who are driving activity in the space 5/27/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
With sports occupying increasingly prime real estate in the
world of television, it is worth not just noting but celebrating the fact that
women have been instrumental to that spectacular growth story. From Molly
Solomon leveraging her London Olympics producing stint to keep Golf Channel
climbing, to Melinda Witmer negotiating Time Warner Cable's game-changing Los
Angeles Dodgers TV rights deal, women wield greater influence than ever. For
this year's annual "Women in the Game" special report, we acknowledge Solomon,
Witmer and other previous honorees (see
below), but we shine the brightest spotlight on an all-new roster of key
players helping shape the sports media business. From talent agents to league
and team executives, legal eagles to digital gurus, this group of women has
already left a distinctive mark. And there is, as sportscasters like to say,
plenty of game left to be played. And now, here is your starting lineup.
|Jeanie Buss||Kimberly A. Carver||Rebecca Chatman||Christine Driessen||Patty Hirsch||Carol Langley|
Buss, the late Lakers owner, Jeanie Buss has been in her post since 1999; prior
to that she was president of the Great Western Forum and the owner of the Los
Angeles Blades of the onetime Roller Hockey International inline hockey league.
VARSITY STATUS: Buss has been
courtside for much of her life. Now, having overseen the Los Angeles Lakers'
business operations for 14 seasons, she is at the forefront of one of the
country's most profitable sports franchises. Two years ago, the Lakers, which
had been one of the last teams to offer games over the air, struck an
unprecedented 20-year deal, valued at a reported $4 billion, with Time Warner
Cable to create a pair of HD regional sports networks (RSNs), including the
country's first Spanish-language RSN. The deal sent shock waves throughout the
industry (including some dropped jaws at its reported value), but other sports
franchises are following suit to create their own RSNs.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Seen as one of
the unstoppable forces in the NBA, the Lakers have been at the top of the game
for many years. Now, boasting distribution with MSOs DirecTV, Charter, Verizon,
and Bright House, among others, the Lakers are bringing TV Everywhere
capabilities to the RSNs to compete with the live-streaming efforts of many
other professional sports teams. In addition, programming related to the Lakers
like Backstage Lakers, Lakers All Access and Making of the Laker Girls expand the
possibilities of pre- and postgame programming for the RSNs. Also up in the air
last year was whether or not Buss' longtime fiance, former Lakers coach Phil
Jackson, would return to the team, which he did not.
IN HER WORDS: "[The deal with Time
Warner Cable] was a difficult decision, but again, we weighed the desires of
our fans for a competitive team and more programming. The over-the-air model
didn't allow for the kind of in-depth ancillary programming our fans wanted,
and we can provide them with that with Time Warner Cable SportsNet." --Lindsay Rubino
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Altitude Sports and Entertainment in November 2011. The Denver area native
began her career in 1984 as a teenager working for her dad's company, JPI
Productions, a live sports production company that produced high school,
college and professional sports programming throughout Colorado's Front Range
area. After graduating from the University of Denver in 1991, Carver embarked
on an international career that would take her to Hong Kong, Australia and
Singapore before she returned to the U.S. in 2008 to help create and launch The
Mtn.-a TV network dedicated to the MountainWest Conference- in a swift six
VARSITY STATUS: Carver has held
management positions with some of the industry's most prestigious and
innovative companies, including Star Television in China, Foxtel and ESPN. Her
experience with international sports such as rugby, table tennis and cricket,
coupled with her local-girl status and understanding of the Colorado market,
made her very valuable to Altitude. She calls her lack of ego one of her
strongest attributes. "I didn't get into this business to become the president
of a company," she says. "I love the minutia of putting TV together. I love the
puzzle pieces of TV."
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Among all her
other responsibilities, Carver has been running the World Fishing Network on an
interim basis since president Mark Rubenstein stepped down late last year.
Altitude finalized its acquisition of Outdoor Channel on May 17, beating out
InterMedia Partners, which had initially tried to buy the company earlier this
year. It's still unclear how World Fishing, Altitude TV and Outdoor Channel
will work together but it's a good bet that Carver will have a major role to
play in overseeing all three networks.
IN HER WORDS: "I think being a woman
has helped me in my career," Carver says. "Some people have underestimated me,
but I've never been intimidated by the good old boy network. I would tell
someone who is interested in getting into this business to work hard, not be
afraid of picking up the phone, surround yourself with smart people and let
them do their job. And never limit your options. I reworked a customer guide at
one job. I had never done anything like that before. It didn't come with a
promotion and it meant no more money. But I learned a lot and I wouldn't have
had that opportunity if I had said, 'It's not in my job description.'"--K.C. Neel
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Vancouver, Chatman produced the late-night show hosted by Mary Carillo, and in
London she coproduced the afternoon show on the network. "I watched the
Olympics my whole life," says Chatman, whose life as an avid sports fan begins
with her beloved Washington Redskins. "In the 1984 Olympics, I was 12 years
old; watching [gold-medal gymnast] Mary Lou [Retton] get that perfect score was
a seminal moment for me," she says. Chatman started at NBC as an intern and got
to attend the 1996 Olympics, a thrill in and of itself. "So when NBC started
its Olympic unit in 1998, I immediately applied," she says.
VARSITY STATUS: Chatman has worked on everything from the Kentucky Derby to
the Ryder Cup to Notre Dame football to Wimbledon to the Westminster Kennel
Club Dog Show. She was a sideline producer for the inaugural season of NBC's Sunday Night Football and a sound
package producer for the Football Night
in America studio show from 2007-12. "I'm a quick study, so I love the
diversity of my job," says Chatman, who is also doing some production work at
the French Open over the next two weeks. Part of the fun in the Olympics
coverage comes from the dual challenge of not only telling the athletes'
stories, but reintroducing viewers to sports they may only watch every four
years. Curling has become a real favorite. "I remember being in the control
room cheering during the curling event," Chatman says. "You get so drawn in."
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: For the 2014 Sochi Games, Chatman will serve as coordinating
producer for NBC's coverage. She will serve as producer on the primetime show
hosted by Bob Costas. "There's so much that goes into planning for the
Olympics," she says. "Every city is different, and we have to capture the
atmosphere of each. We also have to bring a thousand people to a foreign
IN HER WORDS: "My passion for the Olympics is what drives me. There are so
many things to do in the Olympic unit, and I am hands-on in all aspects of
production." -- Stuart Miller
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public accounting firm of Peat, Marwick and Mitchell as a controller before
joining ESPN way back in 1985. She became VP, finance and planning in 1990; in
1994, she became senior VP and chief financial officer, rising to her current
role in 1998.
VARSITY STATUS: Driessen has an
enormous portfolio, with responsibility for all of ESPN's financial operations
worldwide; she also advises on planning for all new business ventures,
acquisitions and programming initiatives. And she has worked closely with John
Skipper since he ascended to the president's spot. Name a rights deal, any
rights deal-Major League Baseball, Monday Night Football, the new college
football playoffs -- and Driessen's input was crucial. You can play the same
name game with carriage deals, whether with Time Warner, Comcast or Cox
Communications. She was also a major player behind the launch of each new
network in the company, including ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU and ESPN Deportes.
"It's hard to single any one out," she says of trying to pick the most vital
responsibility in her purview, adding that the rights deals in particular "came
in such rapid fire in the past year to 18 months, and all are important." On a
personal level, as an avid college football fan, Driessen did enjoy being in on
the conversations about the realignments and changes to the playoff and
championship system. She is especially proud of two other projects. ESPN was an
inaugural partner with the State Department on the Global Sports Mentoring
Program started by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. ESPN hosted two women
from Africa who came to learn about the business and bring their skills and
information back home. "It's an important initiative and very fulfilling," says
Driessen, who delivered the keynote speech at the project's wrap-up
celebration. (ESPN has signed up for another year with the program.) "I'm also
proud of our continued investment in [online streaming service] espnW," she
says. Driessen says she's "passionate" about giving back and paving the way for
other women and is especially excited about this year's Nine for IX project, which features woman producers and directors
creating films about female athletes and journalists.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Driessen says she
and the network will continue looking for more rights deals, but the focus for
the next year will be about revamping SportsCenter
and building a new studio to take advantage of the latest technology for the
program that is at the heart of ESPN.
IN HER WORDS: "In 28 years, I have
never had a week or a day where I felt I was unable to have an impact here.
That gives me the satisfaction that keeps me motivated." --Stuart Miller
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KEY STATS: Before coming to CBS in 2007, Hirsch was VP, digital media
services at Muze (now Rovi) for a year; VP, client services at Synacor; and
before that she was director, broadband products at Charter Communications.
VARSITY STATUS: Overseeing the production, management and monetization of
websites, streaming products, mobile services and ecommerce, Hirsch has been at
the top of her game at CBS. Last year, when CBS was the home to the most social
sporting event of the year -- the Super Bowl -- the network set a record for
the most live-streaming viewers at about 3 million, though it wasn't even the
first time the NFL championship game had been available online. Not only did
CBS make the Super Bowl viewable on the go, its second-screen features,
including alternative camera angles and access to the popular commercials as they
were broadcast, boosted social media activity as well as the time spent on CBS'
online properties. Even with so high-profile an event, the Super Bowl is still
only a slice of CBSiAM's sports pie, which boasts a 75% market share in college
athletics across the now-eight conferences, producing more than 150 official
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: As the digital experience constantly evolves and users
become hungrier for better, faster and more interactive content, CBSiAM has
responded with revamping existing features to keep up with sports fans' needs.
It is currently overhauling a product that tracks scores interactively, with a
planned rollout for the new version in the fall. Most importantly, Hirsch says,
is expanding CBSiAM users' video experience and finding second-screen features
that they actually want to spend more time with beyond the big-name events like
the Super Bowl. And now, with new clients such as the PGA Tour and internal
units CBSSports. com and CBS.com, there are even more portals through which
CBSiAM can connect with viewers -- and which Hirsch can help mold and evolve.
IN HER WORDS: "The great thing about sports is that, especially when it
comes to live streaming, it has really led the way. I think sports changed the
face of what we see out there. It's expanding so rapidly in the digital world."
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Langley produced college basketball games on ESPN from 1996-2002 and Cleveland
Indians games and Cleveland Cavaliers pregame shows while serving from 1990-96
as an associate director at ESPN on an array of different sports productions.
Langley entered the field while still at Bowling Green State University,
working as a production assistant at Cox Cable during summer, winter and spring
breaks and as a runner -- an entry-level general assistant job -- on the
Cleveland Grand Prix and the World Championship of Women's Golf coverage.
VARSITY STATUS: In 1996, Langley
became the first woman to produce a network baseball game. She has not only
produced regular-season games-she also oversees Fox's "Sounds of the Game" for
the All-Star Game and the postseason, finding the audio nuggets of players,
coaches and umpires who wear mics. It's a delicate task, finding something
revealing for the fans without violating the trust of the mic-wearers. Langley
describes herself as "really conservative" in what she chooses to air, relying
on her work ethic to dig deep enough to find something worthwhile. She brings
that same approach to producing the games. "I work as hard as any producer out
there. You always have to prove yourself worthy, especially on a network," she
says, adding that she delves into her research and watches extra games to
prepare. ("MLB.TV is the best thing that ever happened," she adds.)
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: With two
children, Langley-whose husband is a freelance cameraman-has, for years, headed
home during baseball's off-season, enabling her to volunteer inside the
classroom and help coach local baseball and softball teams. Now her kids are
teenagers, and last winter she started itching for more work. "I'm hoping,
especially with [the start of new network] Fox Sports 1, there will be more
personal opportunities for me when baseball is not in season."
IN HER WORDS: Langley has always
approached her job as a producer, not as a woman producer. "I think if more
women just approach the job as a job, it will lead to more success," she says.
That said, she acknowledges that being a woman provides her with a different
skill set. "I might be a little more sensitive to other people's issues," she
says, emphasizing that she doesn't believe all male producers are ogres. "If
[someone on her team] makes a mistake that shows up on-screen, I give them the
benefit of the doubt," she says. "There is no one feeling worse than that
person so I don't berate them, which some people have the tendency to do. I'll
speak to them quietly afterward." -Stuart
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KEY STATS: Perry's professional journey began when she graduated from UCLA
with a bachelor's degree in communications. She served as an assistant to the
VP of news at the William Morris Agency. Moving on from WMA, Perry started up
new agency Ken Lindner and Associates, where she was president of programming.
She then moved to head up the broadcasting division at ICM.
VARSITY STATUS: Last year, Perry helped negotiate Erin Andrews' big move
from ESPN to Fox Sports, where Andrews now hosts the network's college football
studio program, Fox College Football,
and is expected to have a presence on new cable network Fox Sports 1. In
addition, Perry helped Andrews nab a guest-hosting stint on Live! With Kelly and Michael. She has
also often helped former athletes and coaches find their footing in
broadcasting. Among that list: former NFL cornerback Eric Davis, who calls
games for the San Francisco 49ers on San Francisco's KNBR radio, got the gig as
one of the cohosts of NFL Network's NFL
AM morning program with Perry's help. She also helped former WNBA great
Lisa Leslie and onetime college football coach Rich Neuheisel transition into
life behind the mic.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Perry is currently developing a movie about John Wooden,
working with the estate of the late UCLA coaching legend. Perry's favorite
client, her husband Ron Pitts (they met in college where he was playing
football before his five-season pro career), works as a play-by-play
broadcaster for Fox's NFL coverage, and he's set to host a syndicated show for OK! Magazine. Perry also recently added
former NFL safety Rod Woodson to her growing roster.
IN HER WORDS: "My passion for people and wanting to help people in their
career is what motivates me. I really enjoy the trust factor....I have really
enjoyed taking someone from the beginning of their career and working through
the process of helping them continue with [it] and keeping them employed. I
enjoy that process. Most of my clients who came to me were unemployed when I
got them." --Tim Baysinger
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KEY STATS: Richie was senior VP and CMO for Girl Scouts of the USA; account
executive at Ogilvy & Mather, working on campaigns for American Express,
Pepperidge Farm, Pond's, Huggies and Kotex as well as for pro bono clients such
as the Museum for African Art, the Hospital for Special Surgery and the New
York City Commission on Human Rights. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College.
VARSITY STATUS: Richie is relatively new to sports. But since she took over
the WNBA's leadership in 2011, she has undertaken ambitious goals, including a
rebranding of the league. "We needed a brand refresh," she says. "And given my
background in marketing and that this is where my passion is, it seemed like
the right project." That started with a new logo. The original WNBA logo, based
on computer-generated images, was an echo of the NBA's famed Jerry West
silhouette and seemed static and old-fashioned. "We wanted something that would
reflect the athleticism and diversity of the game today," says Richie, who
played the role of project leader. The new "logowoman" was taken from photos of
real WNBA players and the player is leaping skyward, making it a more dynamic
symbol. The league also reached a TV deal extension with ESPN, one that added
more coverage including the WNBA draft, which this year was loaded with
high-profile talent such as Brittney Griner. While Richie left the actual
negotiations to others, she worked diligently to enhance the league's
relationship with the all-powerful sports brand by implementing regular
sit-downs to discuss possible editorial content and to help provide access to
the games and the players across all the platforms. After all, that is her
signature on every official Spalding WNBA game ball.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: WNBA game attendance dipped last year, something Richie
attributes to myriad factors including the Olympics airing during a chunk of
the season. But she now points to growth in group sales and renewals as
positive signs-not to mention the addition of potential superstar Griner. "This
is a significant year in our history and evolution," Richie says. "The ESPN
deal was a critical validation." A new partnership with State Farm and the
possible return of Procter & Gamble ("we're in early discussions") are also
proof that "the interest and energy are back," Richie says.
IN HER WORDS: "When I started, there were very few women and especially
women of color in my field. So while I'm always humbled and flattered by
recognition, this is particularly exciting for me. Because for a lot of my
career, my passion has been about creating opportunities for women and young
girls. Being a role model is really important." And regarding the WNBA, "We
will look back at this season 20 years from now and say it was a good year."
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TV agent, CAA
as an intern at IMG in the company's speakers division. She passed the bar
exam, but entered William Morris Agency's agent trainee program, opting to turn
down an opportunity to join a law firm and stick with agent life. She then
joined WMA's TV-Alternative Department, working with a range of on-air
broadcasting talent such as newscasters, hosts, and sportscasters. Sendrow made
the move to CAA in 2010.
VARSITY STATUS: Sendrow reps some of
the top players in sports broadcasting including Michelle Beadle, Rich Eisen,
Joe Buck, Kenny Smith and Linda Cohn. She helped negotiate Beadle's move from
ESPN to NBCUniversal, which expanded her role to entertainment. Sendrow also was
able to secure SNY's Kevin Burkhardt, who is seen as a rising star in the
broadcasting industry, an additional season of play-by- play work as the
national radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys for Compass Media. Sendrow has also
been instrumental in creating opportunities for her clients, many of whom are
former athletes, in avenues beyond the playing field. To name just a few, she
made the deal for NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp to serve as a judge on TLC's BBQ Pitmasters; got former pitcher Rob
Dibble his hosting duties on the Hulu original Web series Raising the Bar (for CAA's client Diageo); and helped Eisen, an NFL
Network anchor, secure the hosting job on the TNT competition show The Great Escape.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Sendrow prefers
to remain mum on specifics regarding current work with her clients. But a big
part of the charter remains expanding her clients' reach that includes looking
for ways to expand a TV broadcaster's role to radio or digital, and vice-versa.
She is also active in helping clients set up and philanthropic efforts.
IN HER WORDS: "I was [always] going
to be working very hard. But did I want to be doing something that I loved and
was passionate about personally and that I always dreamed of doing, or did I
want to take the easy [way], make a lot of money up front [and] pay off my law
school debts? For me, it was a lot more important to be interested in what I
was going to be doing." --Tim Baysinger
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KEY STATS: Before joining Turner Sports as assistant general counsel, Shah
interned at the company while studying for her J.D. at Emory School of Law.
After working as an associate at large firm Alston & Bird, she returned to
Turner, where she has now worked for 12 years. The longtime sports fan has
surprised even herself with her career destination. "There's nothing more
exciting than getting to practice something that you're naturally a fan of,"
Shah says. "To be a fan and to work in the industry -- what a great marriage."
VARSITY STATUS: Shah has been a major player in the expansion of Turner's
sports footprint. She's had a hand in extending the company's contract with
Major League Baseball through 2021; securing the digital and television rights
to the NCAA; and getting digital and television rights for golf's PGA
Championship under a 10-year agreement. She also earned a big win for Turner
when she helped land Shaquille O'Neal as an analyst for TNT's Inside the NBA. Most recently, Shah
played a pivotal role in the acquisition of prominent blog Bleacher Report in August
2012. When she's not making big plays in the sports arena, Shah dedicates time
and energy to helping underrepresented groups in the legal field, helping steer
Turner Women Today (which cultivates a support network for female executives)
and Turner's diversity committee. Teaming with Street-Law's Pipeline Program,
the committee exposes high school students to different areas of the law and
stages mock negotiations at the Turner offices.
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Shah continues to work with the executive team to grow
Turner's sports properties. One ongoing project is the evolution of TV
Everywhere, via an expanded app (announced this month during Turner's upfront
presentation) to allow live streaming of Turner content on tablets and
smartphones. In 2014, MLB broadcasts will be a key element in that offering.
IN HER WORDS: "I'm sure everyone would agree that [sports business] is more
dominated by men. But the primary focus for me and for the people that I work
with is: What value are you bringing to the table? Are you intelligent? Are you
a team player? Are you creative? I think I'm in an environment where people
just care about being surrounded by the best people." --Alicia Barber
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grow into, but now she's having a ball. "I work in a business that I love," she
says. "And I never would have known as a [first-year law student] that you
could have this kind of career." After earning her J.D. from New York
University, Teran worked at the law firm Sidley and Austin before stepping into
the role of senior VP, business and legal affairs, for Fox Cable Networks.
VARSITY STATUS: The second-highest-ranking legal executive in the business
and legal affairs branch of Fox Networks Group, Teran led the charge to secure
Fox's rights to broadcast the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022, in addition to
all FIFA events between 2015 and 2022. She has also been instrumental in
getting the rights to other major league sports events. With Fox International
Channels, Teran was at the helm of Fox's expansion into Latin America,
overseeing the acquisition of ESPN/STAR sports and the launch of Fox Sports
NEAR-TERM OUTLOOK: Next for Teran is the debut of Fox Sports 1,a national
sports network featuring live coverage of college sports, NASCAR, soccer and
UFC, which is set to premiere Aug. 17. The channel will also develop original
programming, including the talk show Rush
Hour, hosted by Regis Philbin. Beginning in 2014, Fox Sports 1 will also
host regular and postseason MLB games. Now, Teran and her team will take on
sports TV's kingpin ESPN by continuing to work toward launching other sports
networks around the globe.
IN HER WORDS: "I have noticed a dramatic increase in women who are coming
up the ranks. A lot more women who are not just interested in sports, but who
are really well-prepared. Women who are trying to get into this universe who
are really knowledgeable. And I think they have a huge future ahead of them."
Teran identifies digital media as an area where lawyers who are new to the
industry can set themselves apart. "An up-and-coming woman trying to get into
this business would benefit from learning everything they can about new media."
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This year's edition of our annual special report features something of an all-star Women in the Game rookie team, with no names you might recognize from lists of past honorees. There are plenty of highly qualified new candidates out there, with the numbers growing every year. This, however, offers a perfect excuse to check back in with some of the amazing folks from our past lists. Here are a number of recent standouts from our Women in the Game alumni rolls, along with what they've been up to lately.
April Carty-Sipp (2011) The former Comcast executive learned the company's Philadelphia HQ environs well enough to take a position in October 2012 as VP and director of programming for WPVI, the ABC affiliate in Philly.
Christina Miller (2012) It's always playoff time for Miller in her dual exec role at Turner Broadcasting as senior VP and general manager of NBA Digital. Miller made headlines earlier this month for a partnership between Twitter and the league that will see video replays of key game moments come to the social network.
Molly Solomon (2012) The Golf Channel's executive producer, the first woman to hold that title for any network, continues to leverage her links know-how, signing long-ago colleague Ahmad Rashad as host of the network's Morning Drive show and steering a 10th anniversary documentary looking back at when Annika Sorenstam played on the men's tour.
Melinda Witmer (2011, 2012) The executive VP and chief video and content officer for Time Warner Cable is playing an increasingly central role in the future of sports broadcasting. Her latest feat- or risky bet, depending on one's point of view-was steering the negotiations that resulted in an $8 billion deal for Los Angeles Dodgers games.