Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 31
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Forty Under 40: Connor Schell

When Connor Schell made our Forty Under 40 list in 2012, he was recognized for his role as executive producer of ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series. This year, Schell is being recognized for expanding his role to become one of the most influential executives at one of the biggest companies in sports, managing some of the most creative sides of ESPN’s business — from “30 for 30” to the ESPYs, which set ratings records on ABC last year.

With an MBA from Columbia, Schell is the rare executive who has been able to blend a business-minded focus with high-quality creativity.

“He feels like more of a partner than an administrator,” said Erik Rydholm, executive producer of several ESPN studio shows, including “PTI,” “Around the Horn” and “Highly Questionable.” “He plays both sides of that very well. He understands the business side as well as he understands the creative side.”

He spent several weeks convincing Ezra Edelman to produce the 10-hour extravaganza on O.J. Simpson that will air on ESPN in June. Originally, Schell asked Edelman to produce a five-hour film. During the production process, Edelman told Schell it needed to be longer, and the ESPN executive immediately OK’d the change.

“The only way this happens is if there’s someone in charge who has the desire and wherewithal to make that happen,” Edelman said. “I’m not privy to the money aspect of the switch. I’m not privy to what he has to deal with on his end to make that happen.”

For Schell, it was an easy decision to make, as he’s eager to expand ESPN’s role in producing this type of programming.

“This sets the bar of what we’re capable of in the long-form storytelling space even higher,” Schell said. “It’s stunning. I believe it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.”

— John Ourand

Connor Schell

ESPN | SVP and Executive Producer, ESPN Films and Original Content
Age: 38
Where born: Washington, D.C.
Education: Harvard University (B.A., history), Columbia University (MBA)
Family: Wife, Melissa; children, Lucy (8), Clara (6), Wilson (3)

Advice I’d give to my younger self: Focus on the work, surround yourself with great people, and be patient.

2016 will be a good year if: The Chiefs win the Super Bowl, and my kids learn to sleep until 7 a.m.
Person in the industry I’d like to meet: Charles Barkley.
I’d like to change jobs for a day with: Steph Curry, to see what it feels like not to miss.
Group supported: The V Foundation.
Most thrilling/adventurous thing I’ve done: Skydiving in Australia.