Sports Entertainment Impact Report 2012: Honorees

WEB ONLY: Sport Entertainment Impact Report honorees share their thoughts on sports and media

photos/_specials-art2/SPORTS_Beckham,-David.jpg” vspace=”5″ hspace=”5″ align=”left”>DAVID BECKHAM
Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder
Though Beckham is a soccer player first and foremost, there is no doubt that between his charisma, high-profile marriage to Victoria Beckham, well-known fragrance and underwear lines and charitable works with UNICEF, he has developed a brand that will thrive after his days on the pitch are over. He’s done commercials, comedy sketches and various film cameos (remember “Bend It Like Beckham”) and has more on tap. “I enjoy the creative process so that may develop into other areas in the future,” Beckham says. “I’m keeping all options open.”
– Josh Chetwynd

PETER BERG
Film and TV producer-director
No TV show has ever meshed sports with human interest as effectively as “Friday Night Lights,” perhaps because Peter Berg, creator of the acclaimed drama that ended its five-season run in 2011, was obsessed with authenticity. To that end, Berg spent a year embedded with a Texas high school football team and insisted on filming on location there. “I wanted to not only get the actual playing of the football right, but the community and all of the aspects of the sport that don’t actually make it onto the field,” says Berg, who also exec produced nonfiction series “On Freddie Roach” for HBO. “Drugs and sex and racism, the importance of education and the complexities of parenting, were all issues we were able to deal with that made it more than just a football show.”
– Eric Enders

WERNER BRELL
Red Bull Media House North America managing director
Red Bull isn’t just an energy drink, nor is it merely a big-time sponsor. The Santa Monica-based media house, led by Brell, has aggressively pursued projects in film, TV and digital and print media, positioning Red Bull as the premier action-sports brand in the world. “If you look at the history of Red Bull, building content was always the philosophy in creating the brand,” Brell says. Red Bull’s snowboarding docu “The Art of Flight” is a perfect example: Developed for an unprecedented $2 million, it went on to sell out theaters and become the bestselling film on iTunes for seven straight days. That, he says, is just the beginning.
– Eddie Kim

MARK CUBAN
Dallas Mavericks owner
There are very few owners who make sports more entertaining than Cuban. Whether he’s flirting with purchasing a Major League Baseball team or is going on ESPN’s show “First Take” to throw barbs at commentator Skip Bayless, Cuban — who is also the co-founder of HDNet as well as the owner of Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures — always expresses his opinion with a sizeable helping of flair. Not surprisingly, when it comes to presenting his basketball games, he wants it to be a spectacle. “From a fan perspective, sports are entertainment,” he says. “When you leave a Mavs game, I want you to feel more like you have been more to an amazingly fun, crazy wedding than to a sporting event.” That said winning helps too as his Mavericks did capture the NBA title in 2011.
– Josh Chetwynd

ED CUNNINGHAM
Documentary producer
Documentary producer may seem like a surprising career path for someone who was a college football center and played in the NFL before becoming an ESPN analyst. But for Ed Cunningham, it’s not the leap it appears. “Producing is blue-collar work,” Cunningham says. “Roll up your sleeves, negotiate hard, push the ball, with everything.” He was brought to documentary through sports, starting off with a labor-of-love video on his Washington Huskies championship season that he sold door to door after college.Through a fruitful partnership with filmmaker-producer Seth Gordon, Cunningham produced the acclaimed “New York Doll” and “King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters,” before sharing an Oscar for last year’s documentary about a high school football team, “Undefeated.” “There’s a misnomer in the marketplace about sports content that you hear all the time that if you take it off the field, and make it about heart, about family and more relatable things for people who’ve never played football or Donkey Kong, it will reach a broader audience,” Cunningham says. “But that sells the sports audience short. They are huge and passionate, and also want good storytelling.”
– Craig Phillips

JAMES L. DOLAN
MSG exec chairman
Dolan has long been a key figure in the evolving convergence of sports and entertainment. Dolan serves as CEO of telecommunications giant Cablevision and oversees MSG’s sports teams (including the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers) as well as its namesake arena complex and other historic venues like Radio City Music Hall. Technology drives today’s changing landscape, Dolan says, but sports’ competitive appeal remains a constant. “Fans are driven by the immediacy of sports, which today has made sports programming more valuable than even the best entertainment,” he says.
— Glenn Whipp

CARL EDWARDS
NASCAR racer/television personality
Edwards, the 2011 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Champion, has one of the most diverse and exciting work histories in his field. On top of more than 10 years of racing experience, Edwards has appeared on TV shows including “24” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” plus co-hosted “Live With Kelly.” He says his racing experience has allowed him to overcome the performance anxiety that may haunt actors. “Every weekend, we go racing in front of millions of people who are watching, and it took me a long time to get used to that,” he says. “Now, these chances to go live, they still make me nervous, but I am more used to it.”
– Sammi Wong

STEPHEN ESPINOZA
Showtime Sports exec vice president/general manager
As much as he loves sports, Espinoza is thankful for scripted entertainment. He had been quite content handling A-list clients at a Los Angeles-based entertainment law firm before Showtime called last fall to lead the cabler’s sports and event programming. Now he oversees a robust slate that includes boxing, MMA, sports documentaries and more. It’s Showtime’s reputation in other areas that has made his transition easier. “Showtime on the scripted side has completely repositioned the brand over the last five years,” Espinoza says. “On the sports side … live events like boxing and MMA (are) so critical because of the immediacy and enthusiasm of the fan. I think you’re seeing it overall in sports license fees.”
– Michael Ventre

PETER GUBER
Mandalay Entertainment CEO/chairman
Guber has long had a finger in every conceivable piece of the entertainment pie, from Sony Pictures to Mandalay Entertainment to the Golden State Warriors, the NBA team he co-owns. Now Guber faces perhaps the toughest task of his career — helping revitalize the Los Angeles Dodgers, the storied baseball franchise his partnership group rescued from bankruptcy in May. As the new ownership’s marketing guru, Guber’s first task is repairing the team’s relationship with its disillusioned fans. “These guests have to come back,” he says, “and they have to be our viral advocates.” Guber hopes the team’s new emphasis on technology and social media will attract fans to Dodger Stadium for repeat visits. “What makes a sporting event so valuable,” he says, “is that it provides certainty of experience but variety of outcome.”
– Eric Enders

BRYANT GUMBEL
“Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” host
Gumbel is living proof that broadcasters can successfully make hard-hitting news interesting rather than falling into the trap of trying to make superficially titillating stories news. Premiering in 1995, his HBO show “Real Sports” has stood out on the sports television landscape, capturing the Emmy for outstanding sports journalism 15 times. A newsman whose diverse broadcasting career includes everything from hosting the “Today” show to anchoring NBC’s 1988 Summer Olympics coverage, Gumbel attributes his ability to connect with audiences to the way he approaches his work. “Maybe I’m naive,” he says, “but I’ve always felt that if you show viewers respect by approaching a subject with a degree of intelligence and sensitivity, they’ll reward that effort by responding in kind.”
– Josh Chetwynd

TONY HAWK
Entrepreneur
Hawk has become more than an athlete or entrepreneur — he’s a brand. In the ’80s and ’90s, he transformed skateboarding from a rebellious Southern Californian dry swimming pool hobby to internationally respected activity, winning nearly every competition he entered and becoming the face of the sport. In addition to being an X Games commentator for years, Hawk has spread his name into a bestselling video game series (the updated Pro Skater HD is out this month), a clothing brand, an extreme sports tour and even a rollercoaster, while generously helping fund public skate parks in low-income areas through his foundation — which he says was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s philanthropic impact. This skateboarding kid from San Diego now presides over an empire, but remains popular with teens and tweens. “Around 1997, when I saw that skateboarding was starting to resonate with youth culture more than traditional team sports,” Hawk says, “I decided to start a youth-oriented clothing line and work on a videogame based around skateboarding. These types of opportunities weren’t possible before that because there was almost no interest in skateboarding from the general public.”
– Craig Phillips

KEN HERSHMAN
HBO Sports prexy
As cable nets go, HBO has always packed a powerful punch, and not just for its acclaimed boxing coverage. With shows like “Hard Knocks,” “Real Sports” and others, it represents an entire sports culture, but with premium channel cachet. That makes the challenge all the more enticing for HBO Sports topper Hershman. “We have a host of superb franchises that will continue to drive our initiatives, but we will also be opportunistic and poised to take advantage of new innovations and ensure that the remarkable advances in technology are applied to HBO Sports for the benefit of our subscribers,” Hershman says. “We also will strive to build rewarding partnerships inside the Time Warner family, which has a rich collection of top-flight brands.”
– Michael Ventre

DAVID HILL
Fox Sports Media Group chairman/CEO
Playing off a quote from Alexander Graham Bell, Hill likes to say one of his goals in sports TV is to “sugarcoat the information pill.” He’s certainly created a winning formula combining athletic excellence with basic fun. “My attitude is sports are entertainment,” he says. Hill was essential in bringing that ethos to Fox’s NFL pregame coverage on “Fox NFL Sunday.” The jocular approach from the likes of Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw has earned the telecast the consistent title as America’s most-watched pregame show. Last season, the telecast averaged 5.1 million viewers a week. That said, Hill doesn’t disregard information: He innovated the graphic, known as the “Fox Box,” which displays the score and time remaining on the screen at all times.
— Josh Chetwynd

DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON
Actor-wrestler
Johnson recast himself during the past decade from an over-oiled caricature to an endearing PG and action film star. After landing a bit part in 2001’s “The Mummy Returns,” Johnson connected with family auds in 2007’s surprise B.O. success “The Game Plan.” Other family-oriented roles followed, but Johnson never abandoned his full-throttle roots, appearing in actioners including “Fast Five” and the forthcoming “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” In April, he made his WWE comeback during Wrestlemania XXVII, defeating John Cena with his trademark “Rock bottom” side slam. “He has done amazing things in films, but there is nothing like seeing him perform in a WWE ring in front of a live audience,” says WWE exec veep of talent and live events Paul Levesque. “It’s something truly special to witness.”
– Dan Doperalski

EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON
Magic Johnson Enterprises chairman/CEO
He is best known for leading the Showtime Lakers to five championships in the 1980s. But he didn’t stop leading after he stopped dribbling. Johnson also made a name for himself with Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company with interests in real estate, movie theaters and fast-food franchises. February brought the news that he would be chairman of newly launching cable network Aspire, and in March he pulled off another Magic trick by fronting the group that purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.15 billion. “Magic is an amazing person,” says Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who bought the team in 1979, the same year Magic was drafted No. 1 overall out of Michigan State. “His enthusiasm and vitality is only overshadowed by his intelligence and intuition.”
– Michael Ventre

MARK LAZARUS
NBC Sports Group chairman
Lazarus thinks sports fans want to go big. “The Internet and mobile are a big part of getting the audience involved with a sports broadcast, but people will always gravitate toward the largest screen they can find to watch an event they’re excited about,” Lazarus says. “And having an entertainment event like a halftime show at the Super Bowl leads to big benefits for both the entertainer and the sporting event.” Lazarus has been a big player in NBCUniversal’s acquisition of media rights for Olympic Games in 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020. He also oversaw the production of Super Bowl XLVI, the most watched program in U.S. history.
– Karen Idelson

MICHAEL LEVINE & HOWARD NUCHOW
CAA Sports co-heads
At CAA Sports, Levine and Nuchow lead a company that represents 700-plus athletes who have inked more than $4.25 billion worth of current playing contracts. Off the court, field, ice and pitch, those clients have a range of business, entertainment and nonprofit pursuits. “The strength of this company is we’re able to tap into the resources of this entire building,” says Nuchow, referring to CAA Sports’ parent, Creative Artists Agency. For someone like Dwayne Wade, a star for the NBA champion Miami Heat with non-sports passions that include publishing and fashion, it’s a one-stop shop. “Dwayne has been able to lean on us as an agency and tap into a variety of areas that all started with the work that our sports and basketball departments were doing for him as a player,” Levine says.
– Jerry Rice

DAVID LEVY
Turner sales, distribution & sports prexy
“Though people now watch what they want where they want, sports will always be different because the immediacy expires when the game is over,” says Levy. To that end, Levy moved Turner into the digital space while maintaining the network’s strong ties to sports broadcasting. Levy oversaw a major expansion of digital rights and properties like NBA Digital, NASCAR.com, NCAA Digital and PGATour.com. Levy also struck a deal that partnered Turner with CBS, for the TV, Internet, wireless and corporate sponsorship rights to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball championship (aka March Madness) through 2024.
– Karen Idelson

MICHAEL LEWIS
Author
The former point guard for the London School of Economics basketball team is a teller of true-life tales, adept at immersing himself in the lives of the people behind the scenes in the athletic and financial worlds. He provided the source material for two of the biggest sports movies in ages — “The Blind Side” and “Moneyball” — as well as for the forthcoming adaptation of “Liar’s Poker,” which shrewdly recounted his experiences as a bond salesman on Wall Street in the late ’80s. Lewis isn’t especially worried about being pigeonholed, although, he says, “after ‘Moneyball,’ a large number of people in professional sports thought I was put on earth to tell their life story, but that moment has passed.” He does add, “I’m working on a sports story right now so I’m still interested — but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”
– Craig Phillips

MICHAEL LUISI
WWE Studios prexy
Though WWE Studios has struggled in the past to turn a significant profit, division prexy Luisi is drawing on his 12 years of experience as exec veep of worldwide operations at Miramax to turn that around. His big plans come, ironically, in the form of smaller investments in better co-productions, which will help manage financial risk as the WWE looks for a breakthrough in the world of mainstream film. “The primary goal has less to do with the dollars invested but rather the quality of the productions and our partners,” Luisi says. “It’s about redefining ourselves in terms of genre.”
– Eddie Kim

SEAN MCMANUS
CBS Sports chairman
When McManus thinks about the way sports have become big entertainment, he recalls how his dad, Jim McKay’s old boss Roone Arledge transformed the Olympics for viewers. “Roone made the Olympics so attractive because he realized people love the personalities and the storylines, the whole philosophy of up-close-and-personal,” McManus says. Having recently secured host Jim Rome for CBS Sports Network and Showtime, McManus accepts that the allure of controversy plays a part in securing not just hardcore sports fans, but viewers intrigued by a story. “He gets people fired up and talking,” McManus says. “He’s a personality and a star, and if you can get someone like that for your network, you do that.”
– Robert Abele

DANNY MEISELES
NBA Entertainment exec veep and exec producer production, programming and broadcasting
It’s a new Showtime era in the NBA, and Meiseles is its ringmaster. When the likes of Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown perform during All-Star Game weekend or LMFAO joins the Miami Heat’s DJ Irie for “I’m Sexy and I Know It” during an NBA Finals timeout, or even a dance team of fat guys strut their stuff for Dallas Mavericks fans,, the entertainment is all about energizing each arena before, during and after every contest. “We know what it takes for a family to go to a game and while our product on the court is special, we also feel it’s important for all 30 of our teams to give something extra to the fans,” Meiseles says.
– Jerry Rice

TRACY PERLMAN & LAWRENCE RANDALL
NFL entertainment marketing and promotions veep / NFL director of programming and acquisitions
For this pair, NFL’s entertainment reach goes beyond securing a great act for the Super Bowl halftime. With Perlman’s savvy booking football stars on reality shows, sitcoms and movies and getting the NFL into areas like Broadway (the play “Lombardi”), plus Randall’s success launching the NFL’s own awards show last year (“NFL Honors”), there seems to be little crossover ingenuity they can’t tackle. “I think we can go anywhere,” says Perlman, who adds that whenever there’s an event like a celebrity flag football game, “it’s hysterical to see how badly the entertainers want to be athletes, and the athletes want to be entertainers.”
– Robert Abele

JIM ROME
Radio & TV personality
Never shy when it comes to sharing his opinion about sports, Rome is serving them up to fans in more places than ever. After signing off the long-running “Rome Is Burning” in January, the veteran broadcaster launched daily three-hour “The Jim Rome Show” with Premiere Radio Networks, and CBS signed him for a half-hour Monday-Friday cable series (“Rome”) as well as appearances on its NFL and NCAA basketball coverage. Plus, there are regular Facebook and Twitter updates. “You’ve got to feed the beast,” Rome says. This fall, he will debut a weekly sports series on Showtime. “I want to be competitive and relevant,” Rome adds. “I want to give people a reason to listen every single day.”
– Jerry Rice

DAVID RONE
Time Warner Cable Sports prexy
When Rone joined Time Warner Cable last year, it was in the newly created position of president of sports. Rone’s mission: Draw on his experience — co-head of CAA Sports, exec veep of Fox Sports and, most recently, with boutique investment banking firm Evolution Media Capital — to continue building TWC’s presence in sports programming. “We want to give sports fans the ability to get content how they want it, when they want it and where they want it,” Rone says. TWC takes a major step in October, launching two Southern California regional sports networks: Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Spanish-language Time Warner Cable Desportes.
– Glenn Whipp

LARRY SCOTT
Pacific 12 Conference commissioner
After you’ve negotiated a 12-year, $2.7 billion TV contract that thrusts the Pacific 12 Conference into instant national prominence, you could probably relax. But that isn’t Scott. If he didn’t chill after negotiating record sponsorship and rights deals as head of the Women’s Tennis Assn., he isn’t about to start now. “There’s no secret. I just love sports,” says Scott, conference commish since 2009. “I love figuring out how to reposition brands and sporting properties, how to market and to unlock value.” Next up? Media content company Pac-12 Enterprises, launching seven TV networks with 850 live events.
– Michael Ventre

VIN SCULLY
L.A. Dodgers broadcaster
Twelve years after being named Sportscaster of the Century by his peers, Scully is still going strong describing baseball games to Dodger fans — many of whom make a living entertaining others themselves. With the product on the field inconsistent, his voice is a veritable ratings driver. “He is simply the best broadcaster that has ever lived,” says director and longtime fan Rob Reiner of Scully, who has been doing Dodger games since 1950. “It isn’t even arguable. In other sports, there is a lot of action and as long as you can describe it and talk fast you can do the job. But baseball there is so much downtime you really have to make it entertaining. Nobody even comes close to his ability.”
– Josh Chetwynd

RYAN SHECKLER
Pro skateboarder
Having taken the skateboarding world by storm at the early age of 13, Ryan Sheckler was the star of his own MTV show “Life of Ryan” before he was even legally of age. Now 22 and with more than a handful of X Games medals, Sheckler has used his exploding skateboarding career and fame in order to bring attention to his charity foundation: the Sheckler Foundation. “Ryan is the first legitimate teenage heartthrob in our industry,” pro skateboarder Andy Macdonald told ESPN the Magazine. “People who watch him aren’t skateboarding fans, they’re Ryan Sheckler fans.”
– Sammi Wong

BILL SIMMONS
Grantland.com editor-in-chief
Arguably the most popular sportswriter in America, Bill Simmons parlayed his off-the-cuff AOL blog “Boston Sports Guy” into a fulltime gig at ESPN by exalting fandom. His weekly podcast and ESPN Page 2 blog shot Simmons to the fore of the sports hack pack, before he founded ESPN’s Grantland.com — an online magazine that fuses sports and pop culture. In addition, Simmons pitched and exec produced the ESPN docuseries “30 for 30″ and wrote two bestselling books. Says Simmons: “My theory all along was that most of the people I know who like sports also like pop culture. They are not mutually exclusive. Most people will have an opinion on if the Heat should trade Dwayne Wade and whether they like ‘The Newsroom.’ ”
– Dan Doperalski

JOHN SKIPPER
ESPN prexy, Disney Media Networks co-chairman
Who better to man the controls of any sizeable entity than someone named Skipper? The issue for the ESPN prexy is that the vessel is so enormous, with so many platforms, that the task involves a lot more than just steering straight ahead. “We don’t want to be complacent,” says Skipper, elevated to the post in November. “We are clearly in the leadership position, and we need to continue to act as the challenger, not the incumbent, by being nimble and innovative. And of course, we need to continue to stay ahead of the increasingly rapid technological evolution. It’s always been an ESPN hallmark to become early adopters of technology to fulfill our mission of serving fans.”
– Michael Ventre

JILL SMOLLER
WME agent
“At the end of the day, being smart and working hard wins, and that’s what I try to live by,” says Smoller. It’s a philosophy that helped the vet agent and the company recently land two high-profile signings: N.Y. Jets quarterback Tim Tebow and Orlando Magic All-Star Dwight Howard. Smoller develops strategies to help all her clients expand and diversify their careers through endorsements, movies, TV and other opportunities. “The nature of the sports business has changed, and athletes are looking for creative thinking in their deals,” she says. “We are focusing on building multiplatform businesses, so as they are playing … we’re planting the seeds and building a strategic plan for them as they go forward and want to move into other fields.”
– Jerry Rice

CASEY WASSERMAN
Wasserman Media Group chairman/CEO
Wasserman has traveled the path from being the grandson of showbiz titan Lew Wasserman to becoming a media mogul in his own right as head of Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent management company. Therefore, he is uniquely qualified to assess the starring role that sports has assumed in the overall entertainment picture. “Sports is the biggest economic part of the entertainment business,” he says. “There’s not a lot of debate out there about that. The most valuable cable network in the world is a sports network. The 10 biggest television shows in history are all sporting events. … As the world gets more complicated and more scattered, I think sports as a constant becomes even more important.”
– Michael Ventre

DANA WHITE
UFC prexy
In an overpopulatedsporting landscape, White has done the near impossible, building the UFC into a top-shelf property. In 2000, before White and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta took it over, the UFC was on the brink of bankruptcy; in 2011, Fox signed a seven-year TV deal reportedly worth in the range of $100 million per year to broadcast the mixed martial arts sport. On the entertainment side, the UFC also has the popular reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” on FX. “The thing I love is we are real like boxing, but we have all the entertainment value of World Wrestling Entertainment,” White says.
– Josh Chetwynd

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