Senior Vice President, Programming and Acquisitions
Julie Sobieski returned to the programming department in December 2020, where she had spent nearly two decades rising through the ranks, as senior vice president, programming and acquisitions. She serves as one of ESPN’s key executives responsible for management of a wide-range of signature properties and league relationships.
Her previous three years were spent in the newly formed ESPN Business Operations and Content Strategy group, playing a key role focused on driving value, enhancing operations, prioritizing resources and ensuring strategic alignment that positions ESPN for the future. In this role, she had oversight of all agreements involving ESPN Films, ESPN+ original content such as Kobe Bryant’s Detail and Peyton’s Places, and all third-party digital efforts, such as Facebook and Twitter. Her responsibilities included oversight of the business affairs function handling division deal-making, co-production, content business negotiation and best practices, ensuring business alignment across Programming, Legal, Finance and Disney Streaming Services on behalf of ESPN Content. In September 2019, she was promoted from vice president, content business operations and strategy to senior vice president, adding responsibility for Creative Works, ESPN’s in-house creative agency that serves to align creative and business strategies with the newly restructured Disney Advertising Sales organization. She also added oversight of Content Business Optimization includes budgets, work force planning and operations in shaping ESPN’s overall content strategy.
Sobieski originally joined ESPN as an intern in 1998 and quickly elevated through the ranks of the programming department. Sobieski’s steady rise included being appointed program planning coordinator in 1999, program manager in 2000, director, programming and acquisitions in 2002 and vice president, programming and acquisitions in 2007. She was promoted again in 2013, to vice president, league sports programming. In 2016, she was honored as a SportsBusiness Daily/Global/Journal “Forty Under 40” recipient.
In her previous stint in programming, she was one of ESPN’s core programming executives responsible for the overall direction of ESPN’s content across platforms and responsible for strategic planning and oversight of the day-to-day management of ESPN’s business relationship with the National Basketball Association; Major League Baseball; motorsports including NASCAR, the IndyCar Series and NHRA; and Little League Baseball.
In 2014, Sobieski led ESPN’s negotiations for a nine-year, multiplatform agreement with the National Basketball Association, beginning with the 2016-17 season. In addition to retaining the NBA Finals on ABC, the deal included additional regular season games and more exclusive regular season windows, increased team appearances to showcase the most compelling matchups and additional hours of NBA content on linear and digital platforms to generate a significant year-round presence for the NBA on ESPN. She also led in the creation of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, the first prime-time NBA weekend series on broadcast television, which debuted in January 2016. Additionally, the agreement established a framework for ESPN and the NBA to negotiate the launch of a new over-the-top offering in which the league would receive equity interest. The deal also included expanded rights for ESPN International, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Audio, increased highlights usage rights across all platforms and additional rights to the WNBA, NBA Summer League and NBA D-League games.
Similarly, Sobieski had spearheaded ESPN’s negotiations with Major League Baseball in 2012, resulting in an eight-year multiplatform rights extension – effective 2014 through 2022. The deal assures a more than 30-year relationship between ESPN and MLB, one of the longest between a network and a league. Through Sobieski’s creativity, progressive thinking and 360-degree vision of ESPN, the network significantly increased its already robust MLB portfolio, resulting in the rights to an annual Wild Card game, 10 additional regular season games, greatly increased highlight rights across ESPN digital platforms and authenticated feeds and dramatically more studio programming hours.
While in programming, Sobieski also worked on tennis (WTA, ATP, USTA, the French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon); horse racing (including the Triple Crown, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup); ESPN outdoors and setting the programming strategy for ESPN2.
In addition to her programming responsibilities, Sobieski was elected to champion “ESPN Women,” the company’s employee resource group charged with striving to make ESPN the premier organization for women in sports, media and business.
Sobieski was graduated from Springfield (Mass.) College in 1999 with a bachelor of science degree including a major in general studies and a double minor in biology/chemistry and business administration with a concentration in sports management.