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Genius Sports Taps ESPN, NFL Vet Steve Bornstein to Run U.S. Business

GENIUS SPORTS STEVE BORNSTEIN
Variety / Adobe

Data firm Genius Sports has hired longtime sports media executive Steve Bornstein to lead its North American business, the second former NFL executive to join the company in the past few weeks. Variety‘s sister site Sportico first broke the news.

As Genius Sports’ first president of North America, Bornstein will be responsible for the group’s commercial operations in the U.S. and Canada, including its core data business, its streaming endeavors and its growing marketing efforts. He’ll also help identify potential acquisition targets, and manage the company’s partnerships with U.S. leagues, like the NFL, NASCAR and the NBA.

Bornstein spent more than a decade at the NFL from 2002 to 2014, crafting the media strategy that made the NFL the richest sports league in the world. He managed internal assets like NFL Network and the league’s relationships with national broadcast partners, like CBS, NBC and FOX. Prior to that he spent two decades at ESPN and ABC, including a stretch as president and CEO of ESPN during the network’s explosive mid-1990s growth. Bornstein was also a board member at Second Spectrum, which Genius acquired earlier this year in a $200 million deal.

“Steve is an accomplished, forward-thinking executive, who brings more than 30 years of sports media experience,” Genius CEO Mark Locke said in a statement. “As we continue to execute on our growth strategy in North America, we look forward to benefiting from a visionary like Steve, who played a major role in shaping the growth and success of iconic brands like ESPN and the NFL.”

Bornstein joins Genius Sports as the data firm, which went public earlier this year, begins thinking increasingly about its opportunities in content and media. The large bulk of Genius’ revenue comes from its sports betting partners, to whom it provides both data and technology, but media and marketing are a growing part of the business. That will likely continue as lines continue to blur between sports betting and sports media.

To that point, many of the company’s new hires and board appointments have deep backgrounds in media. In March, the company named former Turner president David Levy its chairman. A few weeks ago, it appointed Kim Bradley-Williams, a former NFL CFO and COO of NFL Network, to the board. (In April, Genius and the NFL signed an exclusive data deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and equity).

Those moves help Genius in other ways, too. Not only do executives like Levy and Bornstein understand media, they have contacts at leagues, teams and advertisers who could be useful across Genius’ business. Both Levy and Bornstein are also senior advisers at the Raine Group, a boutique investment bank that works extensively in sports.