By Paul Kennedy
Veteran sports media and marketing executiveGary Stevenson has been named president and managing director of MLS Business Ventures, MLS's new business unit.
This represents a significant restructuring of MLS's upper management and comes as it enters one of the most critical periods in its business development -- the negotiation of new television deals to replace those with ESPN and NBC Sports that expire after the 2014 season.
Stevenson brings more than 30 years of industry experience to MLS, including executive positions at the Pac-12 Conference, NBA and PGA TOUR, as well as the Golf Channel, where he was chief operating officer during its launch.
Most recently, he was president of Pac-12 Enterprises, where he managed the launch of Pac-12 Networks.
Stevenson, who joined the Pac-12 after selling his highly successful OnSports consulting firm to the Wasserman Media Group, was responsible for gaining national distribution for Pac-12 Networks and launching six regional Pac-12 networks, all dedicated to Pac-12 sports. Pac-12 Networks launched nationally in record time, a year after he came on board, with 48 million subscribers.
Pac-12 Networks' launch has not been entirely smooth, though. Stevenson left in April before being able to reach a deal with carrier DirecTV, and no deal has since been reached, leaving open the possibility a second college football season will take place with DirecTV's 20 million U.S. subscribers being unable to watch Pac-12 games carried on Pac-12 Networks.
Stevenson, whose son, Kevin, was a Duke men's soccer co-captain in 2007, will join the MLS executive team in mid-July and oversee all commercial and revenue areas for MLS and Soccer United Marketing, including media/broadcasting, marketing, content and digital. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Stevenson will bring a "fresh perspective and entrepreneurial spirit" to MLS and SUM.
“Gary’s vast experience in the sports and entertainment world, along with his deep understanding of the media landscape, will play a pivotal role in growing key areas of our business and forming new partnerships,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I’ve known Gary for more than two decades and am thrilled to have him join us during an exciting time of growth for our league."
SUM President Kathy Carter will continue in her role and report to Stevenson and the newly created MLS Business Ventures. MLS Chief Marketing Officer Howard Handleralso will report to Stevenson.
In addition, MLS President Mark Abbott, the architect of MLS’s business plan and its first employee in 1993, will assume expanded responsibilities as deputy commissioner of Major League Soccer.
Abbott will lead and manage all areas of league operations and competition and lead a new business development group to address new areas of opportunity for MLS and SUM.
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