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

Forty Under 40: Justin Connolly

WANT MORE GREAT STORIES LIKE THIS?

CLICK ON ONE OF THESE BUTTONS

ALREADY A
SUBSCRIBER?
SEE IF
YOU LIKE IT
GET IT ALL
(PREMIUM ACCESS)


RICH ARDEN / ESPN IMAGES

Justin
Connolly

Company: ESPN
Title: SVP, college networks
Age: 38
Where born: Boston
Education: Harvard University (A.B.), Harvard Business School (MBA)
Career background: Corporate finance, strategy, sales and marketing, programming
Family: Wife, Jessica; children Carthan (6), Brynn (4), Drew (2) and Jack (10 months)

Favorite apps: WatchESPN, Sonos, Pandora, Spotify, ABC News, Uber.
Favorite way to unwind: Reading to my daughters.
Guilty pleasure: Ice cream.
Worst habit: Hitting the snooze button.
Group supported: Roxbury Latin (my high school).
Person in the industry I’d most like to meet: Bill Belichick.
I have a fear of … : Being unprepared.
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Bungee jumping.
2014 will be a good year if … : The SEC/ESPN network is widely available to sports fans.

ESPN went an untraditional route as it looked for someone to lead SEC Network through its launch phase. Rather than hiring an executive with experience in programming or rights negotiations, ESPN picked Justin Connolly, an executive who previously had made his name on the distribution side of the business.

Now ESPN’s senior vice president of college networks, Connolly made SBJ’s Forty Under 40 list in 2011 (when he was senior vice president of national accounts) thanks largely to his work in crafting a carriage renewal with Time Warner Cable. This time around, he has traded arcane carriage negotiations for the excitement of building a business. When people talk about young executive talent at ESPN, Connolly’s name is at the top of most lists.

“I spend less time on solving contractual issues related to nuanced distribution items now,” Connolly said. “I spend much more time on things related to branding, marketing, programming — the vision of a product build rather than the specifics of how a product gets delivered.”

Connolly’s distribution background already has helped the network, which has cut a deal with AT&T U-verse and is close to a signed deal with Dish Network. His deep relationships with

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

distribution executives give them a comfort level they don’t have with many networks.

“It helps the distributors to have someone whom they have dealt with in the past thinking about their interests and thinking about their businesses in how we build the network,” Connolly said.

The 38-year-old executive has forged a fast friendship with SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. The two have spent a lot of time traveling together to various functions as they work to launch the network in August.

Said Slive of Connolly: “Your first impression of Justin is his pleasant demeanor and what a delight he is to be around with his ready sense of humor. You quickly realize it belies his intense focus, quiet determination, extensive knowledge and keen intellect. He is thoughtful yet decisive, with the unique ability to give great attention to detail while maintaining a strategic eye on the big picture. All of this combines to make Justin the right person at the right time to lead the SEC Network.”

— John Ourand

Return to top

Related Topics:

Forty Under 40

Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug