Retirement has been anything but quiet
for Paula Madison, who one year ago departed
her post as executive VP of diversity at
Today, more than half of the veteran broadcaster’s
time is spent running the WNBA’s Los
Angeles Sparks, of which she is co-owner and
CEO. She spends another third of her time
working on the Africa Channel, which she
and her husband co-own with her brother.
And an increasing number of hours each week
are spent on philanthropic work, for causes
such as the United Way, the California Science
Center Foundation, the Los Angeles Public Library
Commission and more.
At NBCU, Madison led the charge for diversity.
One of her final assignments was to
forge a diversity agreement between Comcast,
NBCU, the government and minority groups
pressing for initiatives to be attached to Comcast’s
acquisition. She was instrumental in
steering Comcast and NBCU through myriad
In her short time running the Sparks, Madison
has already managed to secure the WNBA’s first paid distribution deal, with Time Warner’s
regional sports network.
“I walked in wanting to do that,” says
Madison. “Most of the other teams that are
televised don’t actually get paid for their programming,
and some of them actually have to
pay a production fee.”
Madison’ current goal is to expand the
Sparks’ fan base. To bring in more of the faithful,
Madison is “developing ways to connect
to our audience, ways that have added value,”
she says. Among those are hosting postgame
concerts at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, where
the Sparks play.
“Staples holds just about 19,000 people for
any given game, and we have about 10,000
ticket-holders. The goal for us is to fill the rest
of those seats,” she says.
One of the ways Madison is trying to do
that is by offering ticket-holders concerts,
along with exciting basketball games, including
“Gospel Night” (which was very successful
last season) and “Faith and Family Night.”
Says Laurel Richie, president of the WNBA:
“Paula is doing a terrific job of marrying the
potential fan base in Los Angeles with programming,
content and events that are tailormade
for a wonderfully diverse organization.”
Madison also has confidence in her product:
“Once you get people in to watch a
WNBA game, they almost always come back
for more,” she says.