Majority owner, chairman/CEO Monumental Sports & Entertainment
Exec VP, programming & production, ESPN
President, Turner Broadcasting System
The NBA’s $24 billion nine-year basketball deal with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting was crafted for more than big money. Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards and an NBA negotiator, says the agreement also pushes basketball internationally and in digital media, while being careful to protect the local media deals of teams, such as regional sports networks. In a digital component, ESPN will develop over-the-top NBA video to reach fans not connected to subscription TV, and so the pact “optimizes for today but also future-proofs … by creating this OTT agreement,” Leonsis says. Across the negotiating table, ESPN’s Wildhack says that there were no hidden agendas because both sides knew what the other wanted, including ESPN angling for multiplatform digital. “The leagues understand … and see that this can benefit them,” Wildhack says. Leonsis, who is also chairman of NBA’s media committee, leads Monumental, which owns the Washington Capitals (NHL), Mystics (WNBA) and Verizon Center arena, in addition to the Wizards. Leonsis is also vice chairman of Washington, D.C.’s, effort to host the 2024 Olympics; founder and largest shareholder in SnagFilms/Indiewire; and documentary producer of Sundance entries “Nanking” and “Kicking It.” From 1994 to 2006, he worked in marketing at AOL. At ESPN since 1997, Skipper, who is also co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, recently orchestrated long-term deals for baseball, college football and U.S. Open Tennis. Wildhack joined ESPN in 1980 soon after the cable network was launched. He started in production and moved up the ranks. Switching to Turner Broadcasting in 1986, Levy oversees Turner Sports, TBS, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, truTV, Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Adult Swim.