Hot List: Damon Phillips
Vice president, ESPN360.com
ESPN’s decision last summer to relaunch broadband site ESPN360 as part of a company effort to create a true online sports channel is already returning dividends.
Since the announcement, the channel has increased distribution; it now reaches 24 million homes, up from 17 million a year ago and twice the coverage in 2006. The outlet now delivers more than 2,500 live global sports events annually via high-speed Internet connections from an affiliated service provider.
Guiding the vision on the channel is Damon Phillips, VP of ESPN360.com, who manages programming and operations for the outlet, which now showcases everything from the NBA and Wimbledon to cricket and rugby. Later this year the channel will offer more than 300 college football games.
“Since we relaunched in September, the channel has definitely evolved,” said Mr. Phillips. “That decision has not only provided a strong identity for ESPN360.com but it is already providing more value to our affiliates.”
This year alone, the outlet has inked deals that include Euroleague Basketball, of which ESPN360.com will be the exclusive home over the next two seasons; the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, with the channel providing tennis fans with more than 150 hours of live online tennis coverage from Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events around the world; and the 2008 Asia Cup Cricket Tournament.
“We’ve been very aggressive with acquisitions,” said Mr. Phillips. “But we’ve had to be a little creative in terms of the sports we go after. Cricket, for example, is not on any of the linear networks. By showcasing these types of sports, this allows us to serve the displaced as well as underserved fans.”
ESPN360.com scored its best month in June since the relaunch, bolstered by U.S. Open golf coverage, Wimbledon and Euro 2008. In fact, the U.S. Open playoff was ESPN360.com’s most watched event ever; it averaged more than 80 minutes of time spent per viewer when Tiger Woods came from behind to take the victory on June 16.
The site continues to be free to subscribers of ISPs that have paid to carry the channel, which include AT&T and Verizon. In addition to the ISP fees, ESPN earns revenues through advertising on the site.
When Mr. Phillips arrived at ESPN earlier this year, he was no stranger to the online sports world. His resume spans television, digital media and sports properties. He most recently was the assistant executive director of USA Football, the sport’s national governing body, which was founded by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association. He led the organization’s day-to-day business operations and strategic planning process.
In addition, Mr. Phillips is founder of sportsTVinsider.com, which provides personalized sports television schedules. There he invented the company’s patent-pending algorithm that provides viewing recommendations based on user preferences, real-time sports statistics and television ratings.
He also was a key member of the management teams that launched Fox Sports Grill and ESPN Zone, and held positions at DirecTV and the National Basketball Association, where he landed his first job after college.
Mr. Phillips earned a football scholarship to Stanford University and graduated with honors in 1995. He was an outside linebacker on nationally ranked Cardinal teams coached by Bill Walsh and Dennis Green.
“I always knew I wanted to work in sports, but I didn’t know where the road was going to take me,” Mr. Phillips said. “When I decided to come to ESPN for this job, I knew that the company’s philosophy was to serve sports fans whenever and wherever and that 360 would be part of that strategy. That was an environment where I knew I could thrive because they believed in their product.”