SBJ/March 10-16, 2014/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40: Bess Barnes

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JOHN PAUL FILO / CBS

Bess
Barnes

Company: CBS Sports / CBS Sports Network
Title: VP, college sports programming
Age: 33
Where born: Bloomington, Ind.
Education: University of Michigan (BBA)
Career background: ESPN Remote Production (production assistant), 2002-04; ESPN Programming (associate, planner, manager, director), 2004-12; CBS Sports, 2012-present
Family: Husband, John; daughter, Addison (1)

Favorite apps: CBS Sports, Delta, Yahoo News Digest, Amazon.
Favorite way to unwind: Catching up on TV shows on my DVR or reading.
Guilty pleasure: Online shopping.
Worst habit: Loud talking, especially when I’m on the phone.
Cause supported: Blood donation, with the Red Cross.
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Condoleezza Rice: I’d love to play golf with her at Augusta National.
I have a fear of … : Heights.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Hike into the Grand Canyon.
2014 will be a good year if … : Michigan returns to the Final Four, I’m there to see them win, and the tournament scores record ratings.

Bess Barnes wasn’t sure what to do when CBS Sports President David Berson called her in 2012 to see if she was interested in becoming the network’s vice president of college sports programming. She had worked at ESPN since 2001, when she interned in between her junior and senior years at the University of Michigan. While captaining Michigan’s golf team her senior year, her main goal after graduation, she said, was to land a job at ESPN.

She caught on as an associate producer, eventually moving over to the programming side of the business after two years. Barnes was happy at ESPN and never considered leaving. But the prospects of working with Berson (a former colleague at ESPN) and the job overseeing CBS’s college relationships was too good to pass up.

“While difficult to leave ESPN, it was an easy decision,” Barnes said.
Berson said his choice was natural, too.

“Everyone loves working with Bess,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with her for over 10 years, at ESPN and CBS. She’s smart, hardworking, passionate, always looking for solutions, and full of positive energy.”

With CBS’s roster including TV’s top-rated college football package and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Barnes is a frequent

SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

visitor to college campuses. She said she spends most of her time on basketball, trying to fill CBS’s 40 regular-season college basketball windows, but her most high-profile job is in picking the SEC football game that CBS will show on its Saturday afternoon package. It’s a  collaborative process, where she and her boss, Dan Weinberg, seek feedback from all sides before sending their recommendation to Berson and CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus.

This season, CBS chose the LSU-Georgia game over Ole Miss-Alabama, based in part on input from on-air analyst Gary Danielson.

“I remember vividly that Gary’s argument was that the LSU-Georgia game doesn’t happen very often … because they’re not in the same division,” she said. “I remember having an email exchange with Dan about it later on Saturday night. That was the determining factor.”

— John Ourand

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