SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2005/Forty Under 40

Molly Solomon



Molly Solomon’s dad was a military officer, thus she grew up seeing the world. Solomon later attended prestigious Georgetown University in the distinctly international climate of Washington, D.C.

Molly Solomon
Age: 36
• Titles: Managing director and coordinating producer, NBC Olympics Cable
Company: NBC Universal
• Education: B.S., foreign service, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 1990
• Family: Husband, Geoff Russell; triplets Madeleine, Jonathan and Alexandra, 1
• Career: Started at NBC in 1990; hired as an Olympic researcher for the 1992 Olympics; started as a production associate for NBC Sports in fall 1992; hired in 1996 as the coordinating producer of the Olympics on cable
• Last vacation: After the Athens Olympics, a week of golf at Kiawah Island, S.C.
• Last books read: "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards"; "Father Joe" by Tony Hendra
• Last movie seen: "Sideways"
• Greatest achievement: Producing triplets and 450 hours of Olympic coverage, all in 13 months
• Greatest disappointment: My golf handicap has never been lower than 22.
• Fantasy job: Supermodel
• Executive most admired: Dick Ebersol
• Business advice: If you prepare, you'll never fail.
She was, in other words, a fairly savvy 22-year-old when she went to work in New York City for NBC Sports. Solomon had not dwelled much on living in the Big Apple until …

“I was mugged on my first day on the job, in a subway [station],” said Solomon, today a 15-year veteran of the Peacock Network. “This was 1990, before [Mayor Rudy] Giuliani had cleaned up the place. I was in the subway, carrying my purse, like any silly 22-year-old.”

Purse stolen and ego bruised, Solomon managed to get to work on time, determined to be the picture of composure.

She didn’t tell her bosses about the subway mugging, but Solomon has been telling dramatic stories to a vast audience since declining an entry-level production post at ESPN to join NBC as a researcher in its Olympics unit. By 1992 she was the research guru for Bob Costas, who made his debut as NBC’s prime-time Olympic studio host that year in Barcelona. Leading to Athens 2004, she was the executive in charge of cable Olympic programming.

Solomon’s brief but fast-tracked career has coincided with a significant evolution. NBC’s broadcast rights fee for last summer’s Athens Games was $793 million, nearly double the $409 million fee in 1992. An even starker contrast: U.S. cable access to Games coverage in ’92 was by pay-per-view (NBC’s experimental Triplecast); last year, cable viewers of NBC’s networks, including CNBC and MSNBC, were greeted by more than 415 hours of mostly live programming from Athens.

NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol hatched the mega-hours plan in Athens two years ahead of the Games, and Solomon was shocked.

“He said, ‘We need to show every sport in the Olympic Games [from Athens],’” Solomon said. “Then he looked at me and said, ‘Molly, they are all going to be on the cable networks of NBC. Go make it happen.’”

Athens was a home run for NBC Universal, which cleared a profit in excess of $60 million and enjoyed a broad platform for its many cable holdings such as Bravo, Telemundo and USA Network.

Ebersol, recovering from injuries sustained in a November plane crash, said in e-mailed remarks that Solomon is “one of those rare human beings who’s respected and admired by everyone.”

Add to Solomon’s admirers moms with careers. She jokes with colleagues that giving birth to triplets 19 months ago was the ultimate team player thing to do, as she has no plans to require any future maternity leave.

Steve Woodward is a writer in Illinois.

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