IN A WORLD OF EVOLVING BUNDLES, sports continues to throw enormous weight around the TV landscape, no matter how that content is delivered. This fall, the 10 most-watched programs through mid-November were all NFL games, and 21 of the top 25. Last February’s Super Bowl, decided on the final play, set another ratings record with 114.4 million viewers. College football is also booming, as is the NBA and niche sports such as golf, hockey and tennis. Baseball, while objectively no longer the national pastime, is rebounding. This was also the year when the distressed sport of boxing showed its might when an epic matchup got the added rocket fuel of social media with Floyd Mayweather’s win over Manny Pacquiao.
Our selections for Sports Executive of the Year, Company of Distinction and Show of the Year were anything but automatic. At times like this, the B&C newsroom has a lot in common with the draft-day war rooms of pro sports—many deserving players on the board and not enough spots on the roster. But CBS Sports chief Sean McManus, Turner Sports under Lenny Daniels and ESPN’s College Football Playoff all rose to the top in this turbulent but generally prosperous year. As over-the-top offerings multiply and media obsess over digital darlings such as Bill Simmons and Deadspin, these are the beacons of optimism for the part of TV once viewed as window dressing and now an engine of economic necessity. In the following pages, our choices offer their view of the extra-inning, buzzer-beating action that lies ahead.