Champions of the Fall

The fall season is a busy one for the TV sports business, as all four major sports leagues are in play, while college football dominates Saturday afternoons and college basketball prepares to tip off a new campaign. October and early November in particular have been very active months for a special group of executives recognized by B&C: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred; Turner president David Levy and Turner Sports president Lenny Daniels; and Showtime Sports and Events executive VP and general manager Stephen Espinoza and UFC president Dana White.

They stand out in a fast-paced and memorable year in sports that — as recent events have shown — continues to deliver big events and moments.
• The recently completed seven-game World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros surpassed 2016’s historic Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Indians matchup in terms of providing suspense and produced a ratings grand slam for Fox that followed a great playoff run for baseball in which media partners FS1 and TBS generated year-to-year ratings gains.
• The NBA had an active offseason, with marquee players changing team addresses as franchises looked to better position themselves to take a run at the league champion Golden State Warriors. Turner’s TNT — under the watchful eyes of Levy and Daniels — launched its 27th year of coverage by delivering 5.6 million viewers for the opening-night game between LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, the new team of James’ former teammate Kyrie Irving. It continued the network’s ratings momentum from last year’s playoffs.
• This past Saturday, the UFC came to New York to stage one of its biggest pay-per-view events of the year at Madison Square Garden. A borough away in Brooklyn, Showtime presented a heavyweight championship boxing rematch between champ Deontay Wilder and Bermane Stiverne. Both events arguably drew on momentum continuing to flow from the historic Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor pay-per-view event, promoted and distributed by UFC’s White and Showtime’s Espinoza. The fight — the first time marquee fighters from the sports of boxing and mixed martial arts faced off in the ring — broke all PPV revenue records and energized the combat sports genre.

Learn more about each executive’s winning strategies in the profiles that follow.

Manfred’s Small Ball Pays Dividends

Megafight Matchmakers Delivered a Knockout

Primetime Players

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.