SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40

David Preschlack


David Preschlack
Age: 33
Title: Senior vice president, affiliate sales and marketing
Company: Disney and ESPN Media Networks Group
Education: B.A., economics, Denison University
Family: Wife, Alex; children, Miller, 2 1/2, Finn, 2 1/2, Cole, 11 months, and one on the way
Career: Started at ESPN as an intern 13 years ago
Last vacation: Home with the kids in between Christmas and New Year’s
Last book read: "Golfing with God,” by Roland Merullo
Last movie seen: "Charlotte’s Web”
TV show you never miss: "24”
What’s on your iPod: More stuff than I know what to do with — 1,200 songs, a ton of video podcasts, a ton of podcasts and a ton of shows
Pet peeve: People reading over my shoulder
Greatest achievement: My wife and children
Greatest disappointment: Missing family time and events
Best sporting event you’ve ever attended: 1986 NFC Championship Game with my dad (Bears vs. Rams)
Fantasy job: I want to run the Cubs.
Business advice: Focus on what’s right, not who’s right.

David Preschlack has one of the most difficult jobs in sports. He has to convince cable operatros that it makes sense to pay $3 per month per subscriber for ESPN, making it the most expensive cable channel by far. And the funny part is that while the MSOs don't like spending that kind of money, they genuinely like Preschlack, a Chicago native with an outgoing personality.

Preschlack is a senior member of an affiliate team that also is convincing cable operators to give carriage to ESPN's other channels, broadband sites and new services. These are among the toughest negotiations
in all of sports. Two years ago, Preschlack was locked in a conference room for two straight weeks, as ESPN put the finishing touches on acrimonious negotiations with Charter and Cox.

"That didn't seem so unusual because that's every deal," Preschlack said.

Once, the acrimony hit comic proportions during negotiations with Mediacom, the country's seventh-largest cable operator. While negotiating a deal at the MSO's Middletown, N.Y., offices, the
cable operator's CEO, Rocco Commisso, became so exasperated that he literally threatened to throw the 6-foot-3 Preschlack out of the window. "Fortunately, we were on the first floor," Preschlack said.

The bottom line is that Preschlack has been at the table for every major affiliate negotiation ESPN has conducted over the past three-plus years. Additionally, he has been involved in the launch of virtually every new business ESPN has rolled out.

In addition to the signed deals with Charter and Cox, Preschlack was instrumental in cutting ESPN's most important affiliate deal late last year, with Comcast, the largest cable operator, that sets the market rate. Preschlack's also putting the finishing touches on a deal with the country's second-biggest MSO, Time Warner Cable, that should come in the next couple of months.

Preschlack has followed a well-worn path at ESPN, one of many employees who started as an intern in Bristol. He joined the network in affiliate sales 13 years ago, working for his current boss, Sean Bratches. He since has stepped into a management role with relish, with 104 people reporting into him.

"People are a big part of my job," he said. "It's important to create opportunities for people."

One of the things Preschlack is most proud of is ESPN's ability to retain good people. Despite overseeing more than 100 people, Preschlack hasn't lost any of his best personnel to competitors, he said.

"Leadership is a natural part of David's DNA," Bratches said. "And his ability to motivate and lead the sales team at Disney and ESPN is directly responsible for much of our success."

— John Ourand

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