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SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/Forty Under 40
Published March 20, 2006
By Andy Bernstein
• Age: 37
• Title: Executive vice president, media
• League: NHL
• Education: B.A., political science, Duke University, 1990; J.D., University of Virginia, 1993
• Family: Wife, Lisa; sons Taylor, 4; Carson, 2; and Chase, 11 months
• Career: Began career as an associate at Proskauer Rose from 1993-1995; joined the NHL as associate counsel, and has held the titles of senior counsel, legal and business affairs, NHL Enterprises, and vice president, business affairs; became group vice president, television and media ventures, in 2000; promoted to his current position in the fall.
• Last vacation: The Breakers Hotel in Florida with my wife
• Last book read: "By My Brother's Side," a children's book by Tiki and Ronde Barber
• Last movie seen: "Walk the Line"
• Pet peeve: People who are often wrong but never in doubt
• Greatest achievement: My family
• Greatest disappointment: Three Final Fours while at Duke with no national championship (I was a fan, not a player)
• Fantasy job: Author
• Executive most admired: Mark McCormack
• Business advice: It's a small world and a long life, so treat people the way you would like to be treated.
When the NHL lockout was settled last summer, teams went on a monthlong signing spree to fill up their rosters. The biggest deals made in NHL circles were not brokered by any general managers, though. Instead, it was a pair of media rights agreements where Doug Perlman was on the front lines.
The league's top media executive after the departure of COO Jon Litner during the lockout, Perlman spent the months following the lockout in a full sprint.
He joined Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly as the lead negotiators on the NHL's two-year, $135 million agreement with OLN. Then, he was the lead on a subsequent 10-year, $100 million pact with XM Satellite Radio.
During the OLN negotiations, Perlman sequestered himself in a New York hotel for several nights, at one point coming home to Connecticut to attend his 4-year-old son's birthday party and then getting right back on the train to New York.
"It hearkened back to my days as a first-year associate," said Perlman, who was an attorney at the law firm of Proskauer Rose before joining the NHL in 1995. "I was basically living in the conference room."
Daly commented at one point that the deal was as complex as the league's collective-bargaining agreement. Not only did it include U.S. television rights, but also streaming video, international television and groundbreaking elements that call for the league to be paid extra money based on changes in OLN's distribution.
This sort of deal-making for the new millennium is familiar territory for Perlman, who has overseen the league's new media arm since 2000.
Under his direction, the NHL got into the network ownership business, launching the NHL Network in Canada in 2001. It also took the NHL Web business in-house and signed out-of-market television deals with satellite and cable distributors in both the United States and Canada.
Additionally, Perlman is responsible for all the legal and contractual dealings with the league's television outlets. Phil King, the president of Canada's TSN Network, said that Perlman is one of the few American executives he's ever met with a firm grasp of Canadian regulatory rules.
Now, Perlman's job description has expanded following a promotion in the fall, as he heads all of the NHL's television-related activity, including its broadcasting and production departments.
It's no secret that TV ratings have always been a weak spot for the league. Still, Perlman views his role more as tweaking than making a radical overhaul.
"We're certainly going to try to grow ratings," he said. "I certainly wouldn't say we need to, but it's a key metric that people measure the popularity of the sport by, so we're certainly focused on it."
The growth, he believes, will come primarily from improvements to the game itself via rules changes instituted this year, and more storytelling and new technologies in game telecasts.
There is an overall optimism in Perlman's thinking, one that is present throughout the NHL right now. It's a very different atmosphere than a year ago, when the season was canceled and ESPN was about to opt out of its television deal with the league.
"Things are very, very different in every way," he said. "That was obviously a very difficult period. It was difficult professionally and difficult personally given what everyone went through here. Now we're at the complete opposite end of the spectrum."