SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
John Entz had barely unpacked his belongings in MLB Network’s Secaucus, N.J., office in mid-September 2008 when the first job seeker came through his door. Then came another. And another.
During the first three days at his new job as the channel’s senior vice president of programming, Entz interviewed a steady stream of applicants — one every 30 minutes with a short break for lunch — as he ramped up a full production department of 45 staffers.
MLB Network’s launch made headlines primarily for its distribution successes. By debuting to about 50 million on Jan. 1, 2009, MLB became the most successful cable network startup in history.
But the launch would have been a failure if Entz and his boss, Tony Petitti, had failed to make the programming as first-class as the distribution.
The network’s programming debuted to almost universally positive reviews, and Entz was the one who hired the on-air talent and production staff to make it happen.
“John built an incredible production team from scratch in less than three months,” said Petitti, president of MLB Network. “At the same time, he participated in hundreds of creative and content decisions. To put it simply, John was critical to our successful launch.”
The year was filled with programming highlights for the channel, from its comprehensive coverage of Alex Rodriguez’s steroid scandal last spring to All-Star Game coverage that was universally praised.
But when asked to recall the most memorable program of that first year, Entz brought up the Hall of Fame selection show from earlier this year. He remembers the planning for that show more than the show itself. For Entz, an indelible impression was made when he led a production meeting to go over the show, which would be MLB Network’s first show with Peter Gammons, who came over from ESPN.
Entz looked at the talent in the meeting, talent that he had brought to the network. Along with Gammons, Bob Costas was there. So was Matt Vasgersian. Harold Reynolds, Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman.
“I remember sitting and thinking that this was a pretty impressive group of baseball minds,” he said.