40 Under 40: Behind the Scenes in Sports Media

40 Under 40: Behind the Scenes in Sports Media

Media

40 Under 40: Behind the Scenes in Sports Media

Last month, we ran a list of 40 sports media talents under 40. As with that list, there are actually more than 40 people on here by virtue of some of the spots being pairings, but we wanted to shine a light on people behind the scenes whose names you might not know who have a major hand in the sports content that you read, watch, and/or listen to. In alphabetical order by last name:

Whit Albohm (36; Fox Sports) 

Albohm joined Fox last year from ESPN, where he had worked alongside now-former FS1 head Jamie Horowitz on several shows, including First Take, His & Hers, and SportsNation. At FS1, Albohm is a VP of Daily Studio Production and oversees the daily slate including The Herd and Undisputed. In disclosure, The Big Lead’s editor-in-chief Jason McIntyre is an on-air personality on FS1’s Speak for Yourself.

Ben Baker (34; NASCAR) 

Baker is the Senior Director of Broadcasting for NASCAR, which means he’s the focal person for navigating strategic scheduling decisions between NASCAR, broadcast partners, and the tracks. There are a lot of challenges with the planning given how many races there are and how long they are, and Baker has to be nimble at taking everyone’s concerns into account both for long-term planning and when obstacles like rain delays arise.

Bess Barnes, (36) & Jodi Logsdon (35); CBS Sports 

Barnes, who is VP, College Sports Programming, manages relationships with the NCAA, conferences, universities, and bowl partners, which includes the scheduling and selection of both college football and college basketball games. Logsdon, whose title is News Director and Coordinating Producer, directs the News and Research teams for all CBS Sports broadcasts and CBSSN productions. This includes how news is reported and challenging topics are discussed by the announcers during game broadcasts.

Ilan Ben-Hanan (39; ESPN)

Ben-Hanan has been with ESPN since 2002. Earlier this year, he became VP of Programming and Scheduling. This means he’s tasked with taking a big picture look at the schedules of all of ESPN’s sports and shows across the various networks, and making sure they are maximizing viewership and revenue. While individual sport category programming leaders will have primary input on how their sports or programs are scheduled, Ben-Hanan has to put the broader puzzle together.

Kristin Bredes LaFemina (36; Playbook)

Kristin previously worked in the talent departments at CBS Sports Network and Pac-12 Network. She plays a lead role in managing the careers of Playbook’s client roster. Recent developments for Kristin and Playbook include landing Steve Smith at NFL Network and Jesse Palmer as Host of Daily Mail TV to accompany his ESPN college football studio work.

Rory Brown (34) & Dave Finocchio (34); Bleacher Report

Finocchio was one of the four co-founders of Bleacher Report in 2008. After stepping back from day-to-day operations to take a sabbatical to travel in 2015, he returned as CEO in 2016. Brown joined the company in 2008 as an editor and rose through the ranks to be named President last year. Bleacher Report’s external reputation has risen in the years since Turner acquired the site in 2012. They are a social media behemoth and the app sends a firehose of web traffic any which way it’s directed.

Danielle Cadet (29; ESPN’s Undefeated) 

Cadet, who is an OG member of The Undefeated and a senior editor for the publication, is the ultimate “glue person”. She oversees twice-daily editorial meetings, ensures all content that’s coming in is up to the standards of The Undefeated, plans the editorial calendar, and also jumps in individual stories and offers suggestions and edits. She oversees curation of the home page, as well as the copy desk and fact checking department. She also communicates with the sales and marketing department to work to get strategic sponsorships on stories.

Maverick Carter (36; Uninterrupted & SpringHill Entertainment) 

Maverick is the CEO of both Uninterupted and SpringHill Entertainment, companies he launched with LeBron James. At Uninterrupted, he is the driving force behind the content and partnerships — direct athlete videos, documentaries long and short form, and podcasts (from athletes like Gronk, Odell Beckham, Lindsey Vonn, JJ Redick, and more).

SpringHill produces content for TV, film, and digital, and Maverick serves as executive producer of most projects. They made The Wall on NBC, and have had the rights picked up internationally, and Maverick is also an executive producer on Survivor’s Remorse on Starz. They are developing a new comedy series about a sneaker store for HBO.

Matt Casey (36; NBC Sports) 

Casey produces Pro Football Talk on NBCSN and is also involved with NBC’s Football Night in America. “Matt Casey has great instincts, a tireless work ethic, and the ability to always remain calm during times of high stress,” Mike Florio writes in an email. “The nuttier things get, the more focused he becomes. He always knows the storylines that fans will be interested in, and he can get along with a wide and diverse variety of personalities, striking the right tone at the right moment to keep everyone moving in the right direction. As to one specific personality he deals with on a regular basis (mine), a refrain of ‘poor you’ in Livia Soprano’s voice always does the trick.”

Gideon Cohen (38; The Montag Group/IF Management) 

Cohen is the senior VP of Sports Broadcasting at The Montag Group, which merged with IF Management this year. Together, the group has over 200 broadcasting clients. Cohen’s clientele includes Seth Greenberg, Brian Anderson, Adam Zucker, Dave Flemming, Greg Amsinger, Liam McHugh, Jason Benetti, Holly Rowe, and Carter Blackburn.

Sean Conboy (31; Players Tribune)

Conboy, whose title executive editor, has been with Players Tribune since it started three years ago. He oversees the editorial staff there. “I’m basically a professional listener whose job is to let our athlete community talk onto the page,” he told Mashable earlier this year. Conboy guided the process for this palpable video with Lamar Odom:

Chris Corcoran (39; Cadence13) 

Corcoran is the Chief Content Officer at Cadence 13, which was formerly DGital Media until a recent rebrand following a 45% acquisition of the company by the radio conglomerate Entercom. Podcast hosts under their umbrella include Adrian Wojnarowski, Tony Kornheiser, and Jim Miller. The company also runs the podcasts from Sports Illustrated and the Players Tribune, as well as UFC Unfiltered.

Derek Crocker (33; Fox Sports) 

Crocker’s work at Fox comes into big focus this Fall as the network begins its partnership with the Big Ten. He helped put together the scheduling model for Fox’s telecasts with the conference, and really helps drive both coverage and broadcasts for college sports.

Spandan “Spoon” Daftary (36; Fox Sports) 

Daftary joined Fox Sports in 2013 from NFL Network. He produces Fox’s pre-pregame show that includes Charissa Thompson and Colin Cowherd, which saw a bump in the ratings while most other NFL pregame shows were flat or down last season, and also the network’s soccer studio coverage.

Cristina Daglas (33; ESPN) 

Daglas, a senior editor for the web site, oversees all NBA digital content. This means everything from breaking news from reporters like Adrian Wojnarowski to feature content to plans around the NBA draft to what they do with sneakers. Don’t be astonished if you see her name associated with elevated positions in press releases in the next few years.

Morgan Dewan (34; Turner Sports) 

Social media management is a job that may not have existed at networks even a decade ago, but are of utmost importance now. Dewan, VP of Social Media, has a lot of platforms under her control in the network’s sports portfolio, including the NBA on TNT, NCAA Tournament, and the MLB on TBS.

Evan Dick (37; CAA)

Evan Dick has a lot of clients whom ESPN is heavily invested in for the future, including Michael Smith, Jemele Hill, Pablo Torre, Cassidy Hubbarth Chauncey Billups, Jeff Darlington, and Molly Qerim. He also does representation in packaging sports media talent into appearing on unscripted television.

Sean Fennessey (35) & Geoff Chow (39); The Ringer

Fennessey, who reportedly turned down the opportunity to be editor-in-chief of Grantland before joining Bill Simmons for the launch of The Ringer, has all of the content for the site fall under his purview as editor-in-chief. Chow, as COO, wears many hats, and is involved with strategy, business development, and content distribution (for text, audio and video), as well as Finance and HR.

Zac Fields (39; Fox Sports) 

Fields, SVP Graphic Technology and Innovation, is responsible for some of the on-screen innovations at Fox Sports. He works for Gary Hartley, who is head of graphics and creative director for the network. Fields is in charge for moving the ball forward advancing the screen with technology, e.g. how to automate things, and how to lever that automation to save costs or improve viewers’ experience on the screen.

Libby Geist (37) & Kevin Wildes (39); ESPN 

The pair of ESPN executives married in 2011. Wildes, who longtime sports media observers may remember for his “half-baked ideas” on Bill Simmons’ podcast, was involved with the launch of SportsNation and The Jump, and oversees ESPN’s NBA studio programming. Geist oversees ESPN Films; she has been instrumental in the development of 30 for 30, including the Oscar-winning O.J.: Made in America documentary.

Amanda Gifford (35; ESPN) 

Gifford is now Senior Director, Talent Negotiations and Recruitment at ESPN. She started as an intern out of college, and then produced Colin Cowherd’s radio show before moving up the ranks at ESPN Radio from Program Director to Senior Director of Daytime Radio Shows.

Sonia Gomez (37; ESPN) 

Gomez is a Senior Director of Programming Acquisitions at ESPN. She is very influential in the network’s soccer coverage, where she navigates multi-platform content strategy. “Working on Euro 2016 has been one of the best collaborative projects I’ve been a part of in my career,” she said last year. “Between Production, SportsCenter, ESPN FC, ESPNFC.com, Sales, Marketing, Legal, and numerous other groups within ESPN, from the start of the planning process, the goal was to bring our viewers and soccer fans as much great content as possible.”

Amanda Herald (30; NFL) 

Herald joined the league offices in 2009 in their junior rotational program. She has since risen to VP of Media Strategy & Business Development. She focuses on live video distribution across TV and digital platforms, including NFL.com, NFL Network, and NFL Mobile. An NFL Media rep says, “Her portfolio includes Thursday Night Football strategy, NFL Network and NFL RedZone linear distribution, mobile and connected TV partnerships with companies such as Verizon, and the cross-League initiative to enhance the presentation of live games.”

Amy Hudson (30) & Rob Shaw (35); Facebook Sports 

They both work in the department, which Shaw oversees, in strategic partnership development for sports media content. They deal with all of the major sports networks. For example, they’ll meet with network executives and try to get their personalities and/or social media managers to best engage on the platform.

Michael Hughes (38; DLP Media)

Hughes, a former producer at Fox Sports, has won many Emmy awards as an executive producer and media executive. He produced the acclaimed documentary Pony Excess, about scandal at SMU, for ESPN’s 30 for 30. He founded DLP Media Group for film production and brand management services.

Dave Jacoby (39) & Adam Neuhaus (36); ESPN

Neuhaus has been involved a lot in development of original content within the ESPN Films / 30 for 30 realm, including the launch of the 30 for 30 podcast. Jacoby, who most people are aware of from his role on Jalen and Jacoby, recently assumed a role at ESPN digital that can be loosely described as the podcast czar. He is intimately involved in what new podcasts are going to look like — for example, this weekly lineup for the upcoming NFL season — and how to be creative and thoughtful in that space.

Daniela Jeffries (38; Fox Sports)

Jeffries, VP Programming and Scheduling, is really influential in how Fox presents soccer, both internationally and domestically. She is a key programming executive, who works carefully in scheduling, and has been with Fox Sports for nearly 15 years.

Michael Klein (36; Maxx Sports & Entertainment)

Klein represents a lot of up-and-coming talents, including Bomani Jones, Kate Fagan, Domonique Foxworth, Mina Kimes, Clinton Yates, Tom Haberstroh, Big Cat, and PFT Commenter. He also co-represents Jon “Stugotz” Weiner and Nate Burleson with his partner, Mark Lepselter.

Matt Kramer (34; CAA) 

Kramer represents a lot of big NBA media talents, including Adrian Wojnarowski, Kristen Ledlow, Grant Hill, Doris Burke, and Chris Mannix. He also reps Marty Smith, Joy Taylor, Gary Parrish, Ray Lewis, and Mark DeRosa. In disclosure, Kramer also represents The Big Lead’s editor-in-chief Jason McIntyre.

Henry Lockwood (24) & Matt Milmore (30); Barstool Sports 
Hank produces the Pardon My Take podcast, and also runs the show’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. He is constantly on the road with the program’s hosts, Big Cat and PFT Commenter, and plays a key role in the audio and video presentations. Milmore creates graphics, GIF’s, videos, and Photoshops across all Barstool social media accounts. He also makes the weekly Barstool Shorts cartoon series, which satirizes the inner workings of Barstool.

Charlie Neiman (28; Amazon)

Charlie joined Amazon, where he works in rights acquisitions, from YouTube last year. He played a major role in the deal that brought NFL Thursday Night Football streaming to Amazon Prime, and is on the team that did the ATP deal in the UK.

Peter Nelson (36; HBO Sports) 

Nelson joined HBO Sports in 2011 and has risen up the ranks where he’s now EVP. He recently negotiated an extension with the NFL to keep airing Hard Knocks, was heavily involved in putting together the GGG-Canelo boxing match that is happening next month, and continues to steward Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Look out for the much-anticipated Andre the Giant documentary, executive-produced by Bill Simmons, in 2018.

Matt Olson (31) & Josh Santry (34); CAA

Santry and Olson are the up-and-coming agents at CAA. Santry, who joined from IF Management this year, represents Clay Travis, Nick Wright, Jessica Mendoza, Joe Davis, and Field Yates. Olson represents Sarah Spain, Pedro Martinez, Bill Barnwell, Ariel Helwani, Laura Rutledge, Elle Duncan, Buster Olney, and Jon Sciambi.

Josh Pyatt (39; WME-IMG) 

Pyatt represents Michael Strahan, A-Rod, Brandon Marshall, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Burkhardt. He also works with LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Entertainment firm, and Kobe Bryant on film and TV work, including his ESPN deal last year.

Mallory Rubin (30) & Chris Ryan (39); The Ringer 

Both were editors who Bill Simmons brought over from Grantland to help launch The Ringer, and both are talents on the site’s popular Game of Thrones postgame show, Talk the Thrones, which broadcasts live on Twitter. Ryan has his hand in everything in sports and culture for the site as a sort of creative director. Rubin oversees mostly sports. She previously worked at Sports Illustrated before Grantland.

Mike Ryan (31; ESPN)

Mike Ryan leads a production staff on the Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz that also includes Chris Cote, Roy Bellamy, Allyson Turner, and Billy Gil (and Lorenzo Rodriguez on the TV side). “I believe Mike and his team give us a support staff unlike any in the business,” Dan Le Batard says in an email. “Our show is unplanned, but he can’t be that in a job that requires a lot of skills, juggling and creativity. Understanding sensibilities, comedic timing, judgment, journalism, protecting us, keeping management off of us and managing a lot of different personalities, it’s a challenging job for someone of any age and experience. And we know we are in very good hands. The biggest compliment I can give him is that we trust him implicitly, and it is a trust that has been very much earned.”

Scott Shapiro (37; Fox Sports Radio) 

Fox Sports Radio, which is licensed through Premiere Networks / iHeartMedia, can be heard on over 400 affiliates nationwide as well as on SiriusXM. Shapiro, as VP of programming, oversees a lineup that includes Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, and Clay Travis. As a disclosure, The Big Lead’s editor-in-chief Jason McIntyre has a weekend radio show on Fox Sports Radio.

Ryan Spoon (36; ESPN)

Spoon, whose profile is rapidly rising at ESPN, oversees all of the network’s digital product development. For example: How the app and web site function, and how users interact with them. He is heavily involved with ESPN’s OTT streaming service, which is launching in 2018.

Logan Swaim (33; NFL Network) 

Swaim is the showrunner for Good Morning Football, the NFL Network morning program. He is energetic, and his responsibilities entail overseeing day-to-day tapings, developing long-term strategy for overarching storylines throughout the NFL season, booking guests, and bouncing ideas off of the show’s hosts and analysts.

Jen Zudonyi (31; MLB) 

As Senior Manager of Advertising & Marketing for MLB, Zudonyi’s role is to identify trends and cultural insights to drive marketing strategy, negotiate marketing partnerships with the aim of extending MLB’s branding while also growing the fan base, and lead contract negotiations with these partners. She manages special projects throughout the year and packages for big events.

[Display image by Michael Shamburger]

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