SBJ/January 29 - February 4, 2007/This Weeks News

ESPN’s storytelling draws in exec

Robert Wallace
ESPN is looking to a one-time editor of Rolling Stone magazine to help develop nonscripted programming for ESPN Original Entertainment. Robert Wallace officially joined ESPN last month after working on a 10-part NASCAR documentary that ESPN is slated to roll out in May. He reports to Ron Semiao, EOE senior vice president.

Five questions with ESPN ’s newest VP Robert Wallace

Birthday: Aug. 25, 1950
Hometown: Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1972
Most recent book read: “A Season on the Mat: Dan Gable and the Pursuit of Perfection,” by Nolan Zavoral
Favorite song: I’m kind of a closet metal head. I listen to the guitar gods. You know, Jimmy Page, Clapton.
Last movie seen: In one day, I saw “The Queen” with Helen Mirren and the Bond movie [”Casino Royale”].
Favorite vacation spot: The west coast of Ireland.
Best advice: It’s a lot easier to rock the boat than to row the boat.
Favorite sports program: “Monday Night Football.”
Thumbs up or down? “Rocky Balboa” – Up. “Friday Night Lights” – Up.

How did you and ESPN get together?

I have worked at ABC News for “Primetime Live,” so I had some background in television. I have a much more extensive background in print, but I’ve always been involved in content and storytelling. ESPN certainly puts content and storytelling high on the list of priorities. I was doing some freelance work for ESPN on a 10-part documentary series on NASCAR. I love the people I had been working with. And I like sports. It seemed like a very good fit for me at this point in my career.

What types of sports programming are you most interested in with EOE?

My mandate is to develop unscripted product that viewers want. We aired a show called “Summer House,” where we were with some athletes between their college and professional debuts. We have a lot of things on the table that I’m not at liberty to talk about.

What are you looking at first?

We’re going to be shooting the party that we do at the Super Bowl and airing that the following day. ESPN The Magazine always hosts a party at the Super Bowl on Friday. We’re going to shoot the party live, and we’re going to have some packages about what athletes did during the week and we’re going to air that on Saturday. It will be a good mix of being at the party, but also having packages of things that we did during the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

You’ve been at ESPN for 37 days. How many pitches do you get per week?

We’re taking pitches all the time. What’s most interesting is that people from all walks of life in the entertainment business … it’s amazing how many of them have a desire to do some kind of sports programming because it’s a love and a passion. The interest in working with EOE and ESPN is just amazing. I have people on my staff coming in with three, four or five per day. People call with this idea or that idea. It’s quite a few.

What’s the ultimate ESPN show?

I watch “SportsCenter” every day. When I want to watch a sporting event or when I want to find out what’s happening in the world of sports, I go to ESPN. I always have. They’re great storytellers

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