What if I told you that the President of North American Operations for Genius Sports is one of the single most important individuals in the history of ESPN and the NFL? Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you the man with the Midas Touch, Steven Bornstein.
THE MASTERMIND BEHIND ESPN
- In 1980, Steve joined a 4 month old startup that some of you have probably heard of called ESPN. Ex-Disney CEO Michael Eisner would later say of Bornstein, "Steve brings a wealth of experience in broadcast, cable and new media. He was instrumental in developing ESPN into the most valuable brand in sports programming. And under his leadership, our internet business launched groundbreaking initiatives such as Enhanced TV, interactive online content and wireless applications that will provide ABC, as well as Disney's other businesses with important strategic advantages."
- In 1987 he stumbled and rumbled into the first cable rights deal in NFL history. Sunday Night Football. Chris Berman. Surely you've watched it in your parents basement.
Bornstein recalls some of those early years at ESPN: "Frankly, we were very close to going out of business in the early 80's. It early became quite clear that we weren't going to be able to make any financial sense out of this unless we changed the model. As a result, ESPN really invented the whole business of affiliation fees for the cable industry. Ultimately, it was such a sound model that it obviously became the standard that the entire cable industry was built on."
- 1990 - with his early success at ESPN, he soon became youngest President and CEO at age 38.
- 1992 Established ESPN Enterprises which helped pave the way for the creation of ESPN.com
- 1992 ESPN Radio is launched
- 1993 Oversaw the creation of ESPN2
- 1993 Created the first ESPY's Award Show
- 1995 First X-Games are held and teenage kids named Kyle finally have something to watch while slugging Surge
- 1995 Bornstein presides over the Disney Acquisition of ESPN's parent company (Capital Cities)
- 1996 Just like that Bornstein was promoted to President of ABC Sports
- 1997 Created ESPN Classic
- 1999 Promoted to President of ABC responsible for all media networks assets at ABC/Disney
- Throughout the years he also created the mainstays of ESPN: Sportscenter, NFL Primetime, Baseball Tonight, Outside the Lines, etc
- In his time at ESPN, his team won 59 Emmy's - absolute legend
- In January 2000 after a long successful career - he ends his ESPN chapter
Regarding his time at ESPN:
"Steve was the perfect person for that job at that time," says NFL SVP of Broadcasting/NFL Films COO Howard Katz. "Were it not for Steve, I don't think ESPN would have seen the enormous growth that they've achieved".
"Steve was the perfect leader for that decade," says ESPN on-air stalwart Chris Berman. "We could have made a lot of wrong turns, but we didn't, and the proofs is where we are today."
NFL GROWS OVER LEAPS AND BOUNDS
- In January 2003, Bornstein was named CEO of NFL Network and Executive Vice President of Media
"Steve certainly left a lasting impact on the NFL," says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "He launched the NFL Network and drove it to full distribution, but he did a lot more, He built out our entire media operation, which is very complex and includes all of our digital assets, and he was a key strategist in our television negotiations and sponsorship agreeements."
- November 2003 the NFL Network was launched
- Within 58 days they became the youngest network ever to win a Sports Emmy
- In 2006 Bornstein presided over the first season of games on the NFL Network
- 2009 - Don't worry, you Adderall laden autists. For those of you who can't concentrate on any one game, Bornstein spearheaded the creation of NFL RedZone, the widely acclaimed channel produced by the NFL Network that zips around live to the most exciting momements in every NFL game on Sunday afternoons delivering cheap thrills in the form of infinite touchdowns
- Ultimately, Bornstein would bring the leagues internet and mobile assets in-house and help build NFL Media into a collection of league-owned media assets including NFL Network, NFL.com, NFL Mobile, NFL RedZone, NFL Now, and NFL Films along with the NFL's social media platforms
- 2014 steps down at NFL Network
After leaving the NFL, he went on to chase the next big market: esports. In May 2021, Gamestop launched their esports Twitter Account but please remember, Steven Bornstein was on it first
THE ACTIVISION YEARS AND INAUGURAL ESPORTS LEAGUES
- In 2015, he was named head of the esports division at Activision, maker of popular titles such as Call of Duty, Starcraft, Overwatch, and Warcraft
- In 2016, he oversaw the Activision acquisition of MLG
- Summer 2017 creates a league for Call of Duty with total prizes of $3million. This league would create regional competitions and live-streamed events throughout the year.
- July 2017 launched the Overwatch League which became the first major esports league with city-based teams. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, even has a team
Steven Bornstein goes MIA and it's hard to find information about him between 2018 and 2021 but it seems like was working with various investment firms. He appears to be a Senior Adviser to the Raine Group.
THE NEXT BIG THING - GENIUS SPORTS - $GENI
- This all brings us to August 2021, Genius Sports Hires Steven Bornstein as President of North American Operations.
- According to GENI's press release: As the head of the North American operations, Mr. Bornstein will optimize Genius Sports' regional business infrastructure to position the company for accelerated growth in existing and new areas, including streaming. This will include the sourcing and unlocking of value with new and existing sports partners including the NFL, NCAA, NASCAR, NBA, and MLB. Additionally, Mr Bornstein will work closely with the executive team to identify innovative and revenue accretive acquisition targets. He will also support the integration of recently acquired businesses, including Second Spectrum, which is the official data tracking and analytics provider of the EPL, NBA, and MLS.
- Before Steve's hire, GENI secured an exclusive rights deal with the NFL. Presumably, the NFL thought their previous arrangement with Sportsradar (which the NFL chose not to renew) wasn't generating as much revenue from the sportsbooks as it could have been. Since Bornstein's tenure, deals have been closed with most of the major sportsbooks and the rest should be completed in the near future.
- Some of the sports books seem to feel fleeced by the deals, yet they've paid up.
"They are charging 4x for the same dataset." Said one sportsbook operator exec.
- I think a lot of it has to deal with GENI's leverage and the NFL's support of GENI but I can't help but think about Bornstein's role.
Longtime NBC Exec Don Ohlmeyer had this to say regarding Steve's business prowess, "Steve is one of those pivotal people in the history of sports television...He's a smart and tough negotiator, a tremendous leader, and one of the great innovators this business has ever seen. He simply knows how to position the side he's representing to be successful.
HERES MY TAKE
- Genius Sports has one of the best to ever do it on their team and he's going to create value and help foster growth. Everything this guy touches turns into gold.
- Sports betting is in its infancy stages where states like Texas (with the most valuable sports franchise in North America: Dallas Cowboys at $1.6b) haven't even legalized sports gambling.
- Reports are coming in from week 1 that NFL betting has more than doubled year over year...over 100% growth!!!
- I view this company like how everyone thought AMZN was an "online book store" or TSLA was a "car company". GENI isn't a "gambling company" or a "provider of gambling data", I mean sure they're going to rake in mountains of money from the NFL deal but they're to create new opportunities that we can't even begin to imagine yet.
- IMO Sportsradar blows