SBJ/Sept. 9-15, 2013/Game Changers

Game Changers: Julie Sobieski

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Photo: RICH ARDEN / ESPN
Sobieski has maintained a lifelong passion for horseback riding.
Media Movers
Julie Sobieski
ESPN | Vice President, League Sports Programming

A
fter years of scuffling, unsuccessfully, to get Major League Baseball to relax its local blackout rules, ESPN went to its renewal discussions last year armed with reams of research and yet another impassioned plea. This time, MLB relented. In turn, ESPN agreed to showcase all 30 clubs on its national telecasts.

“We were able to show them that [eliminating blackouts] was important not only for our business but also for the growth of baseball,” said Julie Sobieski, vice president of league sports programming at ESPN. “The state of our relationship allowed us to have an open conversation about what we saw and where we see the opportunity, not only for us, but for baseball.”

It’s the sort of dialogue Sobieski also hopes to maintain with the NBA and NFL, which she added to her programming responsibilities at the network earlier this year. She started at ESPN as an intern in 1998, was hired a year later to work primarily on outdoors programming, and steadily added responsibilities, beginning with auto racing and then MLB.

“A big piece of my role now is relationship-building with the league partners,” Sobieski said. “We’re in long-term rights deals with all of them now. It’s a different mindset. We’re not in a constant acquisition mode, so we can actually take some time to grow our business together.”    

— Bill King

  • Crowning professional achievement: Last year’s extension of the MLB rights deal.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: The shutdown of ESPN Outdoors/BASS.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Gary Morgenstern: one of my first bosses and my first mentor. Gary gave me tremendous latitude to stretch my skills early in my career, allowed me to fail, and was always there for advice and guidance.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Heidi Ueberroth. She has an amazing purview over the business growth and popularity of the NBA globally.

“Whether in the context of programming, scheduling, production or marketing, Julie is just as open to exploring new opportunities to benefit MLB on ESPN as she is to constructively addressing issues as they arise. And, she has proven herself to be remarkably effective at both.”

— Chris Tully | Senior vice president, broadcasting | MLB

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