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SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/Forty Under 40
Published March 12, 2007
Unlike many of this year's Forty Under 40 winners, Kim Williams never had her sights set on sports. She bounced into the field four years ago only after a headhunter sought her out for a job running finance at the fledgling NFL Network.
Quite the renaissance woman — not least because of her time studying and working in Italy — Williams speaks three languages and majored in Japanese and Asian studies in college. It's not exactly the résumé for the standard sports industry veteran.
"I have never sort of planned out my career," Williams said. "I have always been very opportunistic."
Indeed, after getting her MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, she accepted a job in finance with General Electric Capital in London. Then she jumped at the opportunity to help GE integrate a gas and electric turbine company it was buying in Italy. So the young woman in her 20s had to carry the GE work ethic to Italy, not a land renowned for openness to executive women or long work days.
"There were a lot of coffee breaks and a lot of union meetings," Williams said.
She returned to the states to GE's NBC operations, still in finance, and then spent several years on the West Coast reporting to NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker.
In 2003, when she met Steve Bornstein, the NFL's executive vice president of media and former ESPN boss, and heard his vision for the NFL Network, Williams decided it was time for change.
Last year, when the NFL Network decided to put regular-season games on the network, Bornstein promoted Williams from chief financial officer to chief operating officer, making her in essence the network's No. 2 executive. In that role, she manages advertising and affiliate sales, network operations and administration, plus oversees financial controls and revenue.
She is deeply involved in the contentious talks to gain the network distribution on cable carriers such as Time Warner, but Williams called her biggest challenge "continuing to develop programming which is unique and compelling for an audience that has a lot of information about football."
— Daniel Kaplan