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SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40
Published February 28, 2005
DAVID STERNBERG, FOX CABLE NETWORK GROUP
BY ANDY BERNSTEIN
If you just looked in David Sternberg’s mailbox, it might be hard to figure out what he does for a living. There’d be a copy of Skateboarder magazine tucked under 442, a British soccer periodical. There’d also be a few things in Spanish.
|• Age: 36|
|• Title: Executive vice president of emerging networks|
|• Company: Fox Cable Networks Group|
|• Education: B.A., comparative literature, Prince-ton, 1990; MBA, UCLA, 1996|
|• Family: Wife, Julie; daughters Sarah Anne, 5, and Nicole, born Feb. 15; son, Brian, 3|
|• Career: Joined Fox Sports International as director of business development in 1998, after a stint as a management consultant in PricewaterhouseCoopers' Entertainment, Media and Communications Strategy Group in Los Angeles; also worked for World Cup USA 1994 and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum|
|• Last vacation: Hawaii|
|• Last book read: "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth|
|• Last movie seen: "Sideways"|
|• Greatest disappointment: Not meeting my wife five years earlier|
|• Fantasy job: Head coach of the San Francisco 49ers|
|• Executive most admired: Would it be too much brown-nosing to say David Hill?|
|• Business advice: Be fair.|
They include Fuel, Fox’s 2-year-old action sports network; Fox Sports en Español; and the recently rebranded Fox Soccer Channel, formerly known as Fox Sports World.
Sternberg has to be as well-versed in the latest moves on a half pipe as he is on who’s dominating the English Premier League.
He’s also done a pretty good job of convincing cable operators of the merits of each network, as they rank as the most successful in the digital sports space. Fox Soccer is highly profitable and reaches about 20 million homes.
Fuel already reaches 12 million homes, tops among the latest wave of niche sports networks that are primarily distributed via optional sports tiers. Fox Sports en Español is in about 3 million Spanish-speaking cable homes, close to half of the total market.
As Sternberg’s title indicates, all of the networks are on a growth track, evolving from narrowly focused specialty channels into ones that eventually hope to attract a broad audience.
“The way I look at these networks is they started off as niche channels addressing a very specific segment of the viewing population,” Sternberg said, “but with the idea that that niche was on the verge of exploding and had the potential to become part of the mainstream in a very short time.”
It all comes down to simple demographics and consumer trends.
“If you look at the Hispanic market, no one would dispute that,” he said. “And the same applies to action sports or soccer. You’ve got more people now skateboarding than doing any other sport other than soccer in this country, and soccer, of course, is growing at a fast rate.”
With larger audiences come larger budgets.
Sternberg renewed Fox’s U.S. deal with the English Premier League last year, just about doubling the annual rights fee to the $10 million range.
Fuel just became title sponsor of Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom HuckJam arena tour. The deal will include a few programming elements but is primarily a marketing agreement, an aggressive move to put the Fuel name in front of the teenage male audience.
Sternberg’s role within Fox Sports has changed somewhat in the last year, as he no longer is involved in Fox’s overseas networks on a day-to-day basis. There was a time when the international side of the business was a large part of his responsibilities.
But now these digital networks are considered of paramount strategic importance to Fox, and Sternberg is able to focus on them almost exclusively.
“I think he represents the future of the television business, someone born out of the digital cable world as opposed to the broadcast world,” said Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber. MLS games are shown on both Fox Soccer and en Español. “He understands the value of the niche digital cable platform. He’s from the world of the channels in the hundreds, and as such I think is very tuned in to where the broadcast business is going, as opposed to where it’s been.”