SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Colleges

Stevenson to run Pac-12 Enterprises

The Pac-12 is bringing in sports industry veteran Gary Stevenson to oversee its TV, digital and sponsorship units, adding to the conference’s profile as a collegiate powerhouse on the rise.

Stevenson will be president of Pac-12 Enterprises, the new wholly owned subsidiary that will launch a suite of cable TV channels in August 2012. The league’s digital and sponsorship sales units also will operate under the Pac-12 Enterprises umbrella.
WASSERMAN MEDIA GROUP

Stevenson will move from North Carolina to the San Francisco Bay Area, and start after Labor Day.

The hire represents another aggressive move by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who has revamped the conference significantly since taking over two years ago. Earlier this year, the conference signed a $3 billion rights deal with ESPN and Fox Sports extending 12 years. Just last month, it announced a deal to launch a national TV network and six regional channels.

Stevenson is another high-profile hire for Scott, who also brought in Danette Leighton from the NBA’s Sacramento Kings to be the conference’s CMO, former Big 12 Commissioner Kevin Weiberg to serve as deputy commissioner, and Jim
Stevenson will oversee the conference’s TV, digital and sponsorship units.
Steeg, the former NFL executive best known for running the Super Bowl during its enormous growth in the 1980s and ’90s, to run the Pac-12’s football championship game.

Scott believes Stevenson’s experience will be critical in the development of Pac-12 Enterprises.

“Gary’s always had a bold vision,” said Scott, who has known Stevenson for years but has never worked directly with him. “At its core, I feel we’re redefining what a college conference can be.”

As the first employee of Pac-12 Enterprises, Stevenson will spend his first two months assembling a management team. The Pac-12 already started a search for an executive to lead the networks division, using Bill Simon, head of the media and entertainment practice at Korn/Ferry in Los Angeles, to aid the search.

Next, the conference will look for a head of the Pac-12 Digital Network, and it later will hire a chief for Pac-12 Properties to oversee all sponsorship, licensing and event management for the conference. Fox Sports Enterprises has the contract to manage Pac-12 Properties, but that deal ends in June 2012 when the conference will take it over.

Eventually, Scott plans for Pac-12 Enterprises to have an international component to push the conference into foreign markets.

Scott said the startup nature of Pac-12 Enterprises will play into Stevenson’s strengths.

“He started something very successful and sold it to Wasserman,” Scott said, referring to the 2007 sale of Stevenson’s OnSport consulting company to Wasserman Media Group. “He’s an entrepreneur at heart.”

Through his 30-year career, Stevenson has served as a high-ranking executive at NBA Properties, the PGA Tour and Golf Channel, which he helped launch in 1995. He ran media and marketing for NBA Properties and was COO at Golf Channel.

Stevenson’s immediate priority with the Pac-12 will be launching six regional TV networks and one national network in 2012. Last month, the conference announced a deal with the region’s top cable operators (Bright House, Comcast, Cox and Time Warner Cable) to start these networks, one of which will be national and the others regional throughout the conference’s footprint.

In addition to adding more distributors, the new head of Pac-12 Networks will have to set up programming and production staffs to handle them. The networks head also will handle the day-to-day relationships with network partners ESPN and Fox Sports.

Next, Stevenson will focus on digital properties. Given the conference’s proximity to Silicon Valley, Scott says he wants the Pac-12 to be a leader in streaming all types of sports and will look to start a streaming business.

The conference plans to gain control of its schools’ websites once their deals with CBSSports.com and NeuLion expire over the next two years, Scott said.

“We want to roll up all of our schools’ websites into the first-ever college conference portal,” Scott said, referencing the MLB Advanced Media model. “That’s a big undertaking.”

The third piece of Stevenson’s plan will be to create an integrated sales group to sell inventory across TV, digital and sponsorships. That inventory will include title sponsorship of the conference basketball tournament and the football championship game.

“That’s where a lot of Gary’s creativity and genius will shine,” Scott said.

Stevenson was not available to comment on his new role.
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