George Bodenheimer is an ESPN and cable industry pioneer and, as the company’s longest-tenured President (13 years, 1998-Dec. 31, 2011), he led an unprecedented period of global growth. He oversaw all multimedia sports assets of The Walt Disney Company from March 3, 2003 – December 31, 2011 and was co-chairman, Disney Media Networks from April 20, 2004 – December 31, 2011. In January 2012, he assumed the position of Executive Chairman, ESPN, Inc. In that capacity, he provided strategic direction for ESPN’s global business until he chose to leave the company May 31, 2014.
From December 18, 2017, into March 2018, Bodenheimer returned to the company as Acting Chair to provide interim leadership as ESPN identified Jimmy Pitaro as the successor to John Skipper.
In 2015 Bodenheimer published a business leadership memoir, Every Town Is a Sports Town: Business Leadership at ESPN, from the Mailroom to the Boardroom. He joined the faculty at Iona College in 2017 in the School of Business division of Sports, Entertainment and Media to co-teach a course titled “Leadership and Management in Sports, Entertainment, & Media.”
Bodenheimer’s path to leadership mirrors that of ESPN itself – with his sharp focus on creativity and cutting-edge innovation, always enhancing value for sports fans and ESPN’s business partners, and his conviction for teamwork. He believes ESPN’s culture is the company’s strategic advantage. As President, he viewed his primary role as working hard to preserve and enhance that culture while emphasizing career development for all of ESPN’s people.
Consistent and substantive growth defined Bodenheimer’s tenure as President, leading to unprecedented success. His leadership style was simple but effective: empower all employees to proactively take charge of their careers and to base decisions on the company’s stated mission: “Serve Sports Fans. Anytime. Anywhere.” He launched a company priority process that engaged all employees to drive business initiatives. His vision created a vibrant, innovative workplace.
Since 1998 when Bodenheimer took over as President, through the time of his appointment as Executive Chairman, ESPN grew to:
- Eight domestic television networks, up from four
- 12 HD services, from 0
- Nearly 100 million households for ESPN and ESPN2, from 75 and 62 million, respectively
- 48 international television networks, from 20
- 13 international SportsCenter editions, from 0
- 18 web sites, from one
- 750 ESPN Radio affiliates nationwide, from 620
- 7,000 employees worldwide, from 1,900
The Bristol Campus increased to 116 acres (from 39), 18 buildings (from eight) and 1.3 million square feet (from 260,000). A state-of-the-art production facility in Los Angeles opened in 2009, and construction began on a second Digital Center in Bristol that opened in 2014.
Throughout his career, Bodenheimer’s contributions were integral to ESPN’s success. His business initiatives were designed with one goal in mind – to bring greater value to all of ESPN’s constituents: affiliates, advertisers, rightsholders and ultimately consumers.
While President, his vision led to company and industry-leading innovations in integrated sales and marketing, original programming, acquisitions and new technologies. At the same time, he solidified and enhanced ESPN’s position as The Worldwide Leader in Sports via the following primary pillars:
Content Across Platforms
His focus moved the company from mostly television deals of a shorter length to multiplatform deals of significant length. ESPN acquired a collection of rights unparalleled in scope, underscoring ESPN’s mission to serve sports fans.
Some examples of the roughly 30 agreements reached with major leagues, conferences and associations:
- SEC, Pac 12, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 – all 10-15 years for multi-platform coverage
- entire Bowl Championship Series
- Multimedia rights for Monday Night Football and NASCAR
- English Premier League television rights, which led to the creation and launch of a live sports network in the UK
- A wide-ranging, multimedia, multi-year agreement with the NBA
- 12-year deal for the entire Wimbledon tournament and long-term extensive coverage of US Open tennis
- Long-term multimedia agreements with MLB and the NCAA, including every game of the Women’s Basketball Tournament
- FIFA World Cup Soccer, The Masters, British Open golf, Indianapolis 500
He also focused on creating new television networks and growing popular brands:
- ESPN HD in 2003, ESPN Deportes in 2004, ESPNU in 2005, Longhorn Network in 2011
- X Games global expansion and enhanced competitions
- Live SportsCenter editions every weekday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
- Programming outside the network’s traditional event and news/information offerings such as the critically acclaimed “30 for 30” film project
- New multiplatform businesses such as ESPNHS and espnW
Under Bodenheimer’s leadership, ABC Sports had one of the broadcast industry’s most comprehensive sports programming schedules and contributed to ESPN offering more leading platforms than any other sports media entity.
International, expanding the brand across countries and platforms
- Expansion in Latin America: television, including the launch of ESPN3 in Argentina in 2011; ESPN Play (broadband); ESPNdeportes.com; ESPN.com.br and ESPNsoccernet.com (online); ESPN The Magazine Mexico and Brazil (print); ESPN Mobile and radio
- Acquired ESPN America (formerly NASN) which showcases North American sports across Europe
- Launched ESPN UK in 2010, just six weeks after acquiring Premier League rights
- 13 international versions of the flagship SportsCenter
- Global X Games competitions around the world
Innovation to better serve fans anywhere, anytime, across any platform
ESPN continued to drive innovation in the industry. While Bodenheimer was President, ESPN debuted 21 technological enhancements, launched five high definition simulcast services and developed the industry’s first 3D network and first authenticated online networks. Four companies were acquired to further advance innovation and two development labs opened to continue researching cutting-edge technological breakthroughs. The technology team won four Emmy Awards and was awarded 19 patents and Inventor Awards.
- WatchESPN app, a groundbreaking extension of ESPN’s “best available screen” philosophy, allows fans to watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU live online and on mobile devices
- High-definition simulcast services of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes
- ESPN’s Digital Center, one of the world’s largest HD facilities, followed by the Los Angeles Production Center. DC2 opened in 2014.
- The first 3D network
- Enhanced on-screen graphics (First & 10 line, K Zone, Shot Spot, virtual technology, ESPN Axis, etc.)
- Relaunch of ESPN3 as the online home for live sporting events – more than 4,000 per year
- Multiple applications for a variety of mobile devices
- Launch of an Innovation Lab in Orlando and a Media Ad Lab (in conjunction with Disney) in Austin, both in 2009
- Localization of ESPN.com with sites dedicated to local fans in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.
- New multiplatform businesses such as espnW, a digital venture serving female athletes and fans, and ESPNHS, focused on high school student-athletes and fans.
Bodenheimer’s leadership has been recognized throughout the industry. In April 2005, he received a Vanguard Award, the industry’s highest honor, from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. In 2008, he was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame for his leadership, innovation and contributions to the cable industry and his community. In December 2012, he was honored twice: the Distinguished American Award from The National Football Foundation and induction into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Throughout the years, he has received many other prestigious industry awards.
Bodenheimer serves on the boards of NCTA (The National Cable Telecommunications Association), Cable in the Classroom and the Cable Center, a Denver-based institution that educates and informs about the power of cable television. In 2010, he was named to the board of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Bodenheimer elevated the company’s numerous corporate outreach initiatives, most notably The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach and commentator Jim Valvano. The V Foundation has raised more than $130 million since 1993 and 100% of cash donations go directly to research. Bodenheimer also championed an impressive increase in ESPN employee volunteerism during his tenure as President, highlighted by more than 30,000 hours of service given to those less fortunate as part of the company’s 3oth anniversary efforts. Since 1998, he has served on the V Foundation Board.
Bodenheimer also serves on the board of Denison University, Sirius XM and Under Armour.
During his career at ESPN, he was strategically involved in the development and distribution of the ESPN domestic networks including ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes and ESPNU, as well as ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com and ESPN Radio. He led the most successful launch of a new network in the modern era of cable when ESPN2 debuted in 10 million homes in October 1993. ESPN2 is the nation’s second largest sports network and features a programming lineup on par with ESPN.
Prior to becoming President, Bodenheimer was responsible for affiliate sales, advertising sales, marketing and research for all of ESPN’s domestic networks. In 1995, Bodenheimer implemented an integrated sales and marketing unit to facilitate multimedia buys across all of ESPN’s franchises. ESPN’s multimedia platforms provide the most effective and efficient sports marketing vehicle worldwide for advertisers and affiliates, who cite ESPN number one in subscription acquisition, retention and local ad sales.
Bodenheimer, who began his ESPN career in the administration department as a driver in the mailroom just 16 months after the launch of the network, became President 17 short years
later. He learned the company from the ground up by taking positions in the affiliate sales and marketing department throughout the country – Dallas, Chicago, Denver, Bristol and New York.
Bodenheimer was graduated from Denison University in 1980 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics. He is married with three children.
|Dec. 18, 2017||Returns to ESPN as Acting Chair Bristol/New York|
|May 31, 2014||Concludes tenure as Executive Chairman New York|
|Jan. 1, 2012||Named Executive Chairman, ESPN Inc. New York|
|April 20, 2004||Named Co-chairman, Disney Media Network New York|
|March 3, 2003||Added President, ABC Sports duties New York|
|March 1, 1999||President, ESPN (all domestic & int’l operations) New York|
|Nov. 19, 1998||Named President, ESPN (domestic focus) New York|
|Sept. 1996||Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing New York|
|May 1995||Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing New York|
|Oct. 1993||Senior Vice President, Affiliate Sales & Marketing New York|
|Nov. 1992||Vice President, Affiliate Sales & Marketing New York|
|June 1991||Vice President, National Affiliate Sales New York|
|July 1989||Vice President, Affiliate Sales & Marketing, Eastern Div. Bristol|
|Feb. 1988||Director, Affiliate Sales & Marketing, Eastern Div. Chicago|
|July 1985||National Accounts Manager, Rocky Mountain Region Denver|
|May 1985||Marketing Representative, Central Region Chicago|
|March 1982||Marketing Representative, South Central Region Dallas|
|Jan. 19, 1981||Joined ESPN in the Administration Department Bristol|
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