He has risen from the mail room to the throne of ESPN and ABC Sports. He has been called the most powerful man in sports. George Bodenheimer, a long-time New Canaan resident, is enjoying the view from the top and feels pretty good about where his journey has taken him.
"I love my job and love what I do," Bodenheimer said from his office in New York City. "I never envisioned things turning out like this when I started out. I just wanted to find an industry where I could be passionate about my job and establish myself."
Bodenheimer has done just that since becoming president in 1998. He has turned ESPN, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, into one of the most powerful brands in the world, and a gold-plated ATM machine. It generates more than $3 billion of operating revenue per year and has long since been a staple of every sports fan's viewing habits. They wake up to ESPN and it's often the last thing they see before going to bed.
"We serve the sports fan. ESPN wants to give them the best coverage they can possibly get, whether it be though television, radio, Internet or mobile devices. We want to continue to expand and develop more unique product for our viewers."
ESPN is offering up something a little different with the soon-to-be launched, "Longhorn Network." ESPN struck a 20-year, $300 million dollar deal with the University of Texas to broadcast everything in burnt orange.
"This was a unique opportunity. We've had a relationship with Texas for more than three decades," Bodenheimer said. "It's going to be a fun project and a nice opportunity. But I don't see us starting networks with other schools right now."
As of right now, there is a work stoppage in the NFL. ESPN pays the league more than one billion dollars a year to broadcast the "Monday Night Football" package. That will be a lot of money to re-coup, but Bodenheimer and company are ready for plan B if there is no season.
"We already have contingency plans if there is not a season. But I'm pretty confident that a lockout will be avoided and a full season will be played," Bodenheimer said. The New Canaan resident is also pretty sure about the future of ESPN and the television sports industry as a whole.
"I'm very optimistic about the future of the business, which has never been better," Bodenheimer said. "We will continue to deliver a great product to sports fans and look for new ways to improve it."
On May 1, Bodenheimer will be the featured speaker at the 's annual "" event. He is is scehduled to talk about what drives ESPN.
(Editor's Note: The word "lockout" was changed to "work stoppage" in this article. On Monday night (April 25), a ruling by Judge Susan Richard Nelson of the U.S. District Court ruled against the NFL lockout. The league has asked for a stay in the decision.)