Skip to main content

The NFL’s Distribution Quarterback: Adam Shaw

Maybe it’s the football player in him, but Adam Shaw doesn’t shy away from tackling projects.

“I gave Adam and his affiliate team very aggressive targets in terms of distribution,” says NFL Network president and CEO Steve Bornstein, in speaking of Shaw, who is the channel’s senior vice president of distribution. “What I expected was Adam to plead his case on why my numbers were too lofty. Instead, he met the challenge head on and delivered the goods. He has been a major contributor to the success of NFL Network thus far.”

Success has meant carriage contracts with 14 of the nation’s top 30 carriers, including Comcast Corp., DirecTV Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. Shaw, 33, joined NFL Network in June 2003, five months before its kickoff, and his team secured 25 million subscribers by the end of 2004, placing the service at or near the top of the list for rookie rollout laurels. Not bad for a network that at present doesn’t carry any regular-season games.

But Shaw, who played cornerback at Yale University for two seasons, knows much blocking and tackling remains to be done. Asked to assess NFL Network’s affiliate progress, Shaw says the team probably began on “its own 5-yard line, and we’ve now crossed midfield. But it’s going to take a lot of work to get to the goal line.”

Right now, Shaw is looking to fill some major holes in the football network’s lineup: Time Warner Cable, EchoStar Communications Inc.’s Dish Network and Cablevision Systems Corp.

With negotiations continuing, Shaw is confident that NFL Network will lift the service’s subscriber count to 30 million before the start of the 2005-06 season this fall.

Shaw and NFL Network have other milestones in mind: a move to measurement by Nielsen Media Research when the service reaches around 40 million subscribers, and a broader programming lineup somewhat later on.

Others don’t doubt Shaw and NFL Network will get there. “Adam was always very intuitive, looking to do what senior executives asked of him,” says Jeff Shell, currently president of Comcast Programming, and the man who hired Shaw to work at Fox Cable Networks Group back in 1994. “He was one of those junior executives with an MBA and working in development strategy who decided to roll up his sleeves and get into operations. He says he liked cable and stepped into affiliate sales.”

In addition to Shell, Shaw worked for Peter Liguori, then head of FX Networks and now the chief at Fox Broadcasting, as well as Fox Cable affiliate guru Lindsay Gardner. “I had strong coaching; I learned a lot about network affiliate relationships,” says Shaw, noting that working on a number of Fox services prepared him for his current role.

“Here, we bleed NFL Network, but I’m involved in other aspects as well, from new media to the big picture in terms of rights deals and relationships with the other networks. That’s exciting,” he says.