Chapter Advisors: New England VP, League Sports Programming ESPN
Julie Sobieski joined ESPN as an intern in 1998 and has quickly elevated through the ranks of the company’s programming department. Sobieski is one of ESPN’s core programming executives responsible for the overall direction of ESPN’s content across a wide variety of platforms. In 2013, she was promoted to vice-president, league sports programming. In her new role, she is responsible for strategic planning and oversees the day-to-day management of ESPN’s business relationship with the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, motorsports including NASCAR, the IndyCar Series and NHRA and Little League Baseball. Sobieski previously served as vice-president, programming and acquisitions, from 2007-2013. In 2016, she was honored as a SportsBusiness Daily/Global/Journal “Forty Under 40” recipient.
In 2014, Sobieski led ESPN’s negotiations for a nine-year, multiplatform agreement with the National Basketball Association, beginning with the 2016-17 season and continuing through 2024-25. In addition to retaining the NBA Finals on ABC, the deal included additional regular season games and more exclusive regular-season windows, increased team appearances to showcase the most compelling matchups and additional hours of NBA content on linear and digital platforms to generate a significant year-round presence for the NBA on ESPN. She also led in the creation of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, the first prime-time NBA weekend series on broadcast television, which debuted on January 23, 2016. Additionally, the agreement established a framework for ESPN and the NBA to negotiate the launch of a new over-the-top offering in which the league would receive equity interest. The deal also included expanded rights for ESPN International, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Audio, increased highlights usage rights across all platforms and additional rights to Women’s National Basketball Association, NBA Summer League and NBA D-League games.
Similarly, Sobieski spearheaded ESPN’s negotiations with Major League Baseball in 2012, resulting in a highly-publicized and historic, eight-year multiplatform rights extension – effective 2014 through 2022. The deal assures a more than 30-year relationship between ESPN and MLB, one of the longest between a network and a league. Through Sobieski’s creativity, progressive thinking and 360-degree vision of ESPN, the network significantly increased its already robust MLB portfolio, resulting in the rights to an annual Wild Card game, 10 additional regular-season games, greatly increased highlight rights across ESPN digital platforms and authenticated feeds and dramatically more studio programming hours.
Sobieski continues to be a pivotal leader in the evolution of ESPN’s MLB coverage which introduced several new elements in recent seasons, including new analysts across Sunday, Monday and Wednesday Night Baseball, the introduction of a new Baseball Tonight studio and increased baseball video content across digital platforms.
Sobieski also leads ESPN’s business initiatives across motorsports categories and has held a critical role in several progressions within NASCAR: the re-launch of the Chase for the Sprint Cup; the migration of races from ABC to ESPN, promoting more continuity and appointment viewing for fans; the launch of “NASCAR Nonstop,” in which ads appear side-by-side with race coverage during traditional commercial breaks; and the expansion of digital rights. The changes contributed to ESPN’s increased viewership across the board for NASCAR races in 2011, including the 2011 finale generating the network’s largest Sprint Cup viewership ever. Additionally, Sobieski oversaw ABC’s extension with IndyCar through 2016.
In addition to her programming responsibilities, Sobieski was elected to champion “ESPN Women,” the company’s employee resource group charged with striving to make ESPN the premier organization for women in sports, media and business.
Sobieski’s steady rise included being appointed director, programming and acquisitions, in 2002; program manager in 2001; strategic program manager in 2000; and program planning coordinator in 1999.
Aside from MLB and motorsports, Sobieski has being directly involved with a wide variety of areas including tennis (WTA, ATP, USTA, the French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon); horse racing (including the Triple Crown, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup); ESPN outdoors and setting the programming strategy for ESPN2.
Sobieski was graduated from Springfield (Mass.) College in 1999 with a bachelor of science degree including a major in general studies and a double minor in biology/chemistry and business administration with a concentration in sports management.