— Bryan Burns has left the ESPN campus after 17 years
with the franchise, where he was the face and voice of high-definition adoption
before the format took hold. Burns has formed The Forward Direction Group, a
sports, media and entertainment consulting firm he will head from offices in
Guilford. Burns is being joined by “a variety of industry professionals
with more than 125 years of combined industry experience. ” GUILFORD, CONN.
“We believe it is the perfect
time for this concept,” Burns said. “The premise is for FDG
to ‘flex’ to meet a client’s specific needs by
forming a tailored team to handle particular requests. Our group of individuals
will bring executive level, real-world experience and economic value to a
variety of teams, leagues, networks, conferences and schools plus various
companies and individuals with interests in and around the business of sports,
media, technology and consumer electronics.”
Creative director and artist Cathi Bosco, best known for The CBC Collection,
her illustrative work of college mascots officially licensed and/or
commissioned by dozens of college and universities.
Marketing specialist Jayne Hancock, who led DirecTV’s sports
marketing efforts for nearly a decade during the company’s period of growth.
Jared Miller, an expert in the implementation of emerging technologies. He has
been a key participant in the host broadcaster’s production of the
world feed for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino, Beijing,
Vancouver and London.
Jim Noel, with extensive experience as an attorney/executive for the United
States Golf Association, ESPN and the National Football League. He also was in
private practice with the international law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.
Samantha Rudolph, a nine-year veteran of ESPN and a specialist in the business
and monetization of new technologies. She is a Wharton grad and a creator of
innovative start-up strategies.
Jody Shapiro, a programming and creative production specialist and a veteran of
three professional sports leagues, the NHL, NBA and MLB. He also launched and
ran Home Team Sports in addition to the Midwest Sports Network.
Jim Sperry, the co-creator of the John R. Wooden Classic, also co-created and
operated the LPGA Ginn Open. He is a limited partner in the Portland Pirates of
the American Hockey League. His expertise is in event origination, financing
Licensing and merchandising specialist Rick White, who led centralization of
MLB intellectual property rights, which created a $2 billion market. He
invented fan festivals plus MLB Clubhouse stores and advises teams, leagues,
colleges, national governing bodies and brands.
Burns will lead The Forward Direction Group after 16 years in Major League
Baseball and 17 years at ESPN. At MLB, he was head of marketing and
broadcasting for the Kansas City Royals before heading to New York City to
become MLB’s director of broadcasting and later as senior vice
president of Business Operations. His scope at MLB included worldwide
television and the staging and administration of the game’s major
events, such as the World Series and All-Star Game.
He joined ESPN as vice president of Distribution Development and moved throughout
the company in Programming, Production, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, ESPN
Enterprises and directly for then-President George Bodenheimer. He was most
recently vice president for Strategic Business Planning and Development. Among his
contributions was heading the business side of ESPN’s move
into high definition television and the encryption of MLB’s backhaul
signals, which led to the creation of services such as MLB Extra Innings, NFL
Sunday Ticket, NHL Center Ice and NBA League Pass. He was also the architect of
MLB’s major move to cable when it sold a 175-game package to ESPN
that also included the sport’s first daily highlight show, later
named “Baseball Tonight” by ESPN.