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SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
Damon Phillips cuts a familiar figure at his kids’ Saturday morning soccer games. With the game going on in front of him, Phillips can’t keep from looking down at his iPhone, checking out the usage stats and video quality reports for his broadband network, ESPN360.
Phillips’ Saturday afternoons in the fall are spent much the same way, with most of his attention going to ESPN360. He sets up in his living room, with three computers (a Mac and two PCs) and a television bringing video from games on his network. He regularly monitors Twitter and blogs to keep abreast of how ESPN360 is performing. “I need to make sure that the ship is headed in the right direction,” Phillips said.
ESPN360 is a broadband site that shows live and archived sporting events from around the world. The site carries everything from major U.S. college and pro games to Russian soccer and Indian cricket. Last month, it carried the America’s Cup yacht race, which at one time had been on television.
Phillips approaches his job as general managers run their TV networks. He deals with the same marketing, programming, affiliate relations and ad sales challenges as every other cable network head.
To Phillips, it’s important not to view ESPN360 as just a broadband site. That’s one of the reasons why the channel is rebranding from ESPN360 to ESPN3, so that it can be more readily identified with ESPN’s main television channels.
“It’s a TV network,” he said. “One of the fundamental shifts we had to make was in how we thought about it.”
In the past year, the service has seen a huge amount of growth. Thanks to a deal with the country’s biggest cable network, Comcast, ESPN360 has grown its distribution to about 50 million subscribers.
Phillips listed Big Ten Network President Mark Silverman as one of his mentors, having worked with him several times. Silverman said Phillips has the temperament to be successful with ESPN360.
“I have always greatly respected his level-headedness and problem-solving ability,” Silverman said. “He has a great demeanor and winning personality which has enabled him to become very successful at a very young age.”