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Jodi Markley wanted to break into the film world after college, so she moved from her native Miami to…Connecticut. It wasn’t Hollywood or New York, but it did get her working on some documentaries and on the B unit of a picture “so awful it was never released,” she recalls.
Still, Markley’s choice of home was fortuitous, because Connecticut in the late 1980s was home to a rapidly growing network named ESPN. ESPN needed freelancers for occasional work on its mobile unit for events at the Hartford Civic Center. Markley jumped at the offer and soon was working every night. In 1989, she landed a full-time job.
Before long, she moved well beyond Connecticut, becoming production coordinator for ESPN International in 1990. Within five years, she was director and by 1997 she was VP overseeing all international operations. In that role, Markley has launched some 35 different networks for ESPN International.
Markley then served as senior VP/international production for ESPN Classic and ESPNEWS. Finally, after 18 years on the international side, in 2007 she was named senior VP of operations for ESPN.
Markley says she is glad to see how many more women there are now in sports TV leadership roles and on the operations side than when she started. (She cites ESPN chief financial officer Christine Driessen as one of her mentors, and says she tries mentoring young women today to give back.)
One of Markley’s biggest projects has been launching ESPN in 3D. “We’re not the first or the only network, but we’ve taken a leadership role,” she says. After some initial progress, she’s hoping to learn how to make things work smarter and more efficiently. “We are in there working with the vendors on developing the new equipment. It’s exciting being in at the beginning because you can help shape everything.”
Her plate is not only always full, but her challenges are diverse. Beyond developing 3D further and new shows originating from Los Angeles and Miami, she is overseeing the launch of ESPN’s Longhorn Network, in partnership with the University of Texas.
“We’re installing a facility, hiring staff, working out new programming,” she says. While doing all this in Texas presents fewer obstacles than she faced in her international days, “nothing is ever easy. There may be fewer challenges, but it is still challenging.”
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