ESPN VP Talks Sports Media, Entertainment Industry

Norby Williamson, senior vice president of production at ESPN and a 33-year veteran at the company, sat down with with the Sports Business Society (SBS) this past Tuesday to talk about his experiences in sports media over the years and offer advice to aspiring sports media students in the room.

The first guest speaker for SBS this year, Williamson answered an assortment of questions about his career and the modern media landscape.

The seminar began with a question about his lengthy tenure at ESPN, so his first answer was personal, but carried a lesson about how students must snatch opportunities whenever they are presented in the media business. He expressed concern about young workers losing their ability to communicate with colleagues and prospective bosses in the current media environment.

“I basically was willing to do things that other people weren’t willing to and that’s how you grow a business and that’s how you grow a career,” Williamson said. “You need to impress upon people and understand how personal relationships work.

Despite younger generations often entering the media game with higher intelligence than people in Williamson’s generation, their communication skills come up so short that they can’t work their way up the ladder.

He then went on to discuss the methods of business explaining the importance of content and a good delivery system. Finding a balance between the two is what ESPN has concentrated on discovering, specifically relying on the development of technology. Williamson described the difficulties of direct consumerism, telling the story behind the creation of ESPN’s new over-the-top app, ESPN+, and how it can reach larger audiences in the age of cable cord cutters.

At a more basic level, as the biggest company in sports media, ESPN is always struggling to find the balance of content.

“You need the high end content like Monday Night Football, the big scale events, and you need to then provide the smaller events,” Williamson said. “There are audiences that are unbelievably passionate in that space.”

When asked about advice for students who want to work in ESPN his answer was frank.

“Find someone you know because we get a ton of resumes,” Williamson said.

“I just connect with [an applicant] because I feel obligated because I was in their shoes. Same thing here at BC. You just have a huge, successful alumni [network] that are willing and dying to help you.”

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Staff