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Exec who grew ESPN and launched NFL RedZone chats future of sports TV


Steve Bornstein, NFL Network president and CEO, attends the 23rd Annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 in New York.

Evan Agostini | Invision | AP

While Steve Bornstein might not be familiar to many, you have almost certainly come across the sports content he created in the last 30 years.

Bornstein returned in 2021 to the media in order to transform the sports landscape once again. He spoke with Jabari young of CNBC recently about live sports 2022 and his lessons from ESPN and the NFL.

Here are some facts about his success. Bornstein started his career with ESPN in 1980, as a programming executive. He eventually became the network’s president. His tenure saw the launch of SportsCenter and NFL Primetime as well as channels such ESPN2 and ESPN3. In 2002, he joined the National Football League and helped to launch the in-house network. which he publicly fought to placeWithin the cable ecosystem is the RedZone Channel.

Bornstein, now 69, has joined a London-based technology and data company in August Genius SportsPresident of North America Operations. Genius supplies data that allows you to place bets on gambling sports services like DraftKingsFanDuel. Caesars. This firm provides data for next-generation stats during sporting events. The firm signed an exclusive data rights agreement with the NFL for 2021. valued at roughly $1 billion acquired Second SpectrumFor $200 million, a company called. It uses cameras to gather data about players in real time.

Sports league data rights are being purchased by billions of companies and used to boost fan engagement. So Genius was founded in 2008 and joined the New York Stock Exchange. $1.5 billion mergerBornstein was hired by the company to assist it in expanding.

Bornstein stated, “I look at Genius Sports and I see ESPN 1981 or 1982.” Your destiny was not clear, but you could influence it.

Bornstein said, “What Genius is doing at Second Spectrum and Genius is taking big and artificial intelligence from sports and applying them to practical applications that increase the pleasure of playing games.” Bornstein said, “I think that this is what the next wave of content consumption will look like.”

The latest tech keeps viewers interested

Bornstein spoke earlier in December at the Sports Business Journal Conference in New York City. His talk on how more creative sports leagues than television networks was entertaining and insightful.

Former CBS Sports President, John C. Smith said that it used to be quite the reverse. Neal PilsonHe also recalled an unsuccessful effort to get David Stern (former commissioner of the National Basketball Association) to embrace digital technology back in 1990.

In 1998, Bornstein took over at ESPN. The digital overlay shows the first-down line. The yellow line is what you’ll see during college and NFL games. Bornstein’s company has another suggestion that keeps viewers focused on the action.

Genius sent CNBC an email video demonstrating CBS Sports’ “Romo Vision,”Genius technology is used to display an animated NFL play on the screen, just moments after it occurs. It’s named after former Dallas CowboysTony Romo, quarterback for CBS NFL analysts.

Romo Vision is designed, as the yellow first-down lineIt was to engage TV viewers longer. Genius set up cameras at Heinz Field where the Pittsburgh Steelers play to capture the feed for CBS’ Dec. 5 broadcast.

Bornstein and me talked about RomoVision and more generally about today’s sports media landscape and its changing nature.

Jabari, CNBC. Romo Vision makes me think of John Madden’s video games. It was like watching the play that I used when playing. It was a great way to engage viewers and keep them interested. That’s where I would like to begin. How can the networks present games to their viewers today?

Steve Bornstein:Are you referring to the broadcasters or networks when you speak of networks?


This is how I see it. This is how it looks. [Romo Vision]Is this the next evolution of how we consume content? And we’re going from one to many broadcasting models, which is basically what cable and ESPN is – what broadcast is – we’re going to customize feeds. It’s unclear if this will be one-to one feed or one to many, but that is how I believe it will begin. You can customize the video to show you what interests you most. If you are watching a sport and don’t know the names of all the players it would be a compelling experience to display graphics that show them all. This is what people love.

So, you think it’s the video customization – the ability to alter your feeds. This is the future.

It’s also trying to take – we have all this data coming out of sports because sports, in particular, lends itself well to data – whether it’s baseball, basketball or football. It’s just too much information. The funnel is nearly so large that we are trying to figure out which data you want. ESPN did some of this with the [the yellow line]. Fox did a lot more of that when they did the “Fox Box” – basically a constant score and clock up on the screen. These are innovative innovations that have made it possible to. [NFL games]More engaging. We have the opportunity now to have all this data that’s being collected – how do we use it for an application that’s fun and engaging to the consumer? This is what CBS did with us. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

What should happen in the next 10 years regarding sports consumption? 

When we launched RedZone, one thing was clear. It was thought that this would negatively affect Sunday’s games. But, the RedZone channel will be watched by consumers and not CBS or Fox. We found that all the boats rose from it. The RedZone channel performed exceptionally well, exceeding expectations. Sunday broadcasters also saw an increase in ratings. The multi-screen experience was something we discovered. Multi-screen sports enthusiasts will be the next generation. This is my view of where the future lies. Genius must make the experiences even better.

What needs to be done, but what is actually going on in the next ten years?

That’s an interesting question, and it is not easy to answer. Gamification of content should continue. The details of what that gamification means and how it works are still being worked out. That answers my second question regarding why I chose Genius Sports. Their ability to understand the desires of fans through gamification is a major advantage.

Do you MetaFacebook (formerly Facebook), has a significant role to play in shaping the future. 

It will, I am certain. But my thoughts are that it is likely to be much more complicated. This is more true than what the idea implies. It is a chance that I see in the metaverse. And clearly there are many more people working on esports than in traditional sports.

Genius Sports.

Genius Sports

Let me take you back to the time when ESPN was first established. Are there media principles you can still use as you assume a leadership role at Genius Sports

It’s quite simple. The model at ESPN – and it took us a while to get there – was we wanted to serve fans everywhere. That they place the fans first is what I believe has been the key to ESPN’s success. Genius is trying to achieve that. They want what? Which of these data do they wish to have?

The NFL Network! Was there anything you learned at the NFL you can bring to Genius? 

The NFL Network – you had this incredibly important content to the consumer. American football is the most popular sport in America. There was an incredible NFL Films library and tons of content being produced every week. You could make this a 12-month-long experience. So we invented content that didn’t exist before – whether it was the schedule release show or moving the draft into primetime – and it was all taking the stories that were already being told by the NFL and making it more accessible to people. So, the lesson I learned out of my experience at the NFL was – when you have all these compelling stories, what you need to do is to tell them. Then we made outlets where they could be told, whether that’s RedZone on Sunday afternoons and primetime NFL films on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings. [with HBO’s “Hard knocks” show and Paramount+ “Inside the NFL.”]All of these things are basically engaging storytelling that provides content people love. This was how we brought more of that to people.

Steve Bornstein at the NFL TV studio, November 2002. Rich Eisen hosts the National Football League’s television show, which will be aired in Los Angeles.

Carlos Chavez | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Is there a big role for sports betting in this type of gaming?

This is going to be a strong pillar. But, it’s not new. Gambling and betting on sports has been around for almost as long as there have ever been sports. That said, it’s unlikely that the number of people betting on sports will decrease or rise in any way. This is nothing new. We are just shining some light on it. Now we can tax it and the society can take a cut. However, the profit motive isn’t changing and people still want to gamble on it. We have now recognized this fact and are able to come up smart ways that it can be made more enjoyable.

Last thoughts about the sport leagues

Genius made 2 key decisions in 2021. National Basketball Association’s Africa operationAnd the Canadian Football League.Genius has the opportunity to continue innovating and testing gamification strategies through the agreements. multi-screen experiences like Romo Vision.

Tell me about the properties of sports when it comes to the future fan experience. How people will consume games on television and engage with them. Let’s get started with the NBA.

What they’re made of doing courtsideThis is very interesting. These people can see things from a unique perspective. These people rarely have the chance to see it. That could be true, I believe.

The WNBA is another example?

They are the same. They have shown that the WNBA has a community of people who care about it. That was very important – just because people play the game, it doesn’t mean they care about it. However, they have developed personalities and talent that allow them to tell stories people enjoy. This is what makes sports so popular.

Major League Baseball (MLB remains in lockout as of publication.  

(Laughs.) There are many thoughts in my head. While baseball is still a significant part of American entertainment, they have to deal with many of its issues. It will make the experience better.

How does the NFL work?

It remains the most popular entertainment source in North America. This is the gold standard for all content. Their event management team does a fantastic job and we will keep improving it. We can only enhance the experience. We don’t have to change the product in any way. It’s a fantastic product that people can enjoy everywhere.

How about Major League Soccer?

MLS is growing in importance to American sports consumption. And the World Cup, which will take place here in 2026, is sure to raise all boats.