Forty Under 40: Justin Connolly
RICH ARDEN / ESPN IMAGES
Title: SVP, college networks
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.
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
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.
“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