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ESPN The Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports Hardcover – September 8, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047054211X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470542118
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Thirty years ago, TV sports coverage was produced as a sidebar unworthy of serious news time. Game highlights, such as they were, usually consisted of scores and brief recaps crammed into a few minutes between news and weather on your local television channel. That all changed when Bill Rasmussen, an unemployed sports announcer in 1979, and a group of committed sports junkies in Bristol, Connecticut, decided to lease unwanted satellite time to broadcast some local college sports and minor league hockey games. They called their organization the Entertainment & Sports Programming Network which we know today as ESPN, the most powerful and prominent name in sports media, with twenty-seven satellite dishes feeding more than 97 million subscribers. How did Connecticut become the center of the sports universe?

ESPN The Company tells the fascinating story of how ESPN managed to sustain its growth, innovation, and brand in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving marketplace. Based on over twenty years of consulting inside ESPN, Smith provides the reader with firsthand observations, experiences, and research, which reveals for the first time an inside look and feel for the type of organizational psychology and culture that exists at all levels of ESPN. The authors detail four distinct stages in the company's development that the company has gone through illuminating how ESPN's business decisions and accomplishments can be understood in the context of the company's evolution. We ultimately learn that at the heart of ESPN's success is one astoundingly simple principle: serve fans.

After each chapter, the authors share the lessons learned at ESPN about launching and growing a wildly successful enterprise—all the while enhancing economic and human value. The lessons are rich and applicable anywhere, and if you're a fan of business, competition, or sports, you'll enjoy reading and learning from this book.

From the Back Cover

Praise For Espn The Company

"Any sports fanatic can appreciate what ESPN has done for sports viewing. ESPN: The Company provides keen insights into the business plan, leadership, and passion that dramatically changed the scope of sports television."
—T. Boone Pickens, legendary entrepreneur and 2008 National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award winner

"The enormous success of ESPN did not happen by chance. The story and lessons of the powerful vision, decision-making, leadership, and corporate culture are all captured in Dr. Smith's very compelling book. Truly a must-read!"
—Mike Krzyzewski, "Coach K," head basketball coach, Duke University and Gold Medal Winning United States Olympic Team, 2008, author of several bestselling books, including The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team

"ESPN The Company is a winner! It's a wildly entertaining book that teaches the fundamentals of the game better than any business book on the market. If you want to know how to build a successful franchise and how to keep loyal fans coming back day after day, you have to read this book."
—Jim Kouzes, award-winning coauthor of the bestselling book, The Leadership Challenge, The Dean's Executive Professor of Leadership, Santa Clara University

"This book is for anyone who ever wondered how ESPN created, nurtured, battled, and branded what has become the worldwide leader in sports. Dr. Smith, a leading expert himself, shares the secrets of ESPN's success and presents the game plan for how, as he says, 'to think like an incumbent, act like a challenger.' "
—Lesley Visser, award-winning sportscaster and the first and only woman enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

"When Michael Eisner presciently called ESPN 'the crown jewel of ABC,' he may just as well have been referring to Dr. Anthony F. Smith. Amidst the multitudes of management consultants out there, Tony is one of the precious few able to cut through the clutter and platitudes to deliver smart, strategic, and practical advice about leadership and organizational performance."
—James M. Citrin, Senior Director, Spencer Stuart, author of several bestselling books, including The Dynamic Path


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Customer Reviews

Interesting read for Sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
Paul K. Sink
In another, especially strong chapter, he describes how each of the company's leaders contributed to the right growth at the right time.
Drea Knufken
This book is a lot more than just a great lesson for growing businesses--its a great story.
Stuart Grauer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Drea Knufken on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's hard for your average author to effectively chronicle a company's growth. You have to draw out lessons and patterns from decades of details. You have to put your own biases aside to tell the story as it was. At the same time, you need to make readers understand the importance of how the company handled the challenges inherent to its evolution.

It takes the right combination of mind and skills to pull this kind of thing off. And that's exactly what authors Anthony F. Smith and Keith Hollihan manage to do in "ESPN: The Company."

"ESPN: The Company" pulls you into life at ESPN through vivid character and company descriptions. You learn by vicariously participating.

That's what consultant Anthony F. Smith did during his 20+-year tenure with ESPN, though he experienced the company firsthand. He joined with McKinsey just as ESPN was gaining traction as a startup. He stayed all the way through to its current incarnation as a $30 billion sports media giant.

In those years, he grew intimate with the people, culture, and strategy of ESPN. He and cowriter Keith Hollihan chronicle the highlights of those years: The prominent personalities within the company, the victories and losses, and the lessons learned.

Each of the book's eight chapters covers a guiding principle to ESPN's success. Those guiding principles helped ESPN evolve from idea to empire, but could be applied to any company wanting to stay competitive and creative while ascending competitive ladder.

Individually, each principle can be applied to any company. Taken together, though, they are the unique formula that led to ESPN's success.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bob Salt on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a big sports enthusiast and a businessman, I thoroughly enjoyed ESPN The Company! I found the passion of ESPN's founders, as well as their employees and all future leaders to be inspirational. For a growing company to maintain, and improve on, the original commitment to the sports fan is truly impressive. What dedicated adherence to the key core value! As business leaders all know, it is very difficult to stay focused and maintain strategies and corporate cultures over time. To do so over 30 years, with multiple CEO's across an ever-evolving cable environment and sports markets is the true lesson in this book. Each CEO brought his own skill sets and strengths that were perfect for the stage of growth the company was gong through at the time.

As a sports fan it is interesting to learn about the story of how the network expanded their offerings - and the actions that transpired at all levels to make this commitment work. The business lessons Anthony Smith shares throughout this book offer powerful insights business leaders can tap into for instilling or enhancing their own commitment to their employees, customers and markets.

Sports fans and business leaders will both enjoy and benefit from the story and strategies in this excellent book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Estill on October 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am not a sports person (there is a difference between being active which I am and loving to watch sports). I did, however, find the book interesting.

ESPN certainly created an awesome, well known brand. They deliberately set out to cater to sports fanatics(their words - not mine). They are passionate about it. They also set out to create sports fanatics.

One thing that makes ESPN unique is there is not a single person behind it. There have been a succession of owners and leadership. There is no icon behind the brand. Culture can continue to drive an organization regardless of the leader.

From the book:
"It is easy to get mystical about leadership. To generate alchemical formulas to explain its wondrous power. The reason is simple. Leadership is confusing and messy as hell. It comes in many difference circumstances and personalities. So we want to distill it."

All the leader does is start minor course corrections which have impact over time if they are continuously reinforced. One thing I learned from running larger companies is culture takes time and vigilance to change. It is likely the most important aspect of a company and at the same time, the toughest. I try hard to let people make decisions but coach on culture.

The book talks about Smith's Stages of Organizational development. Startup - Survival - Ramp Up Growth - Institutional. Smith implies that different stages of companies need different leaders.

I like the "Key Points" at the end of each chapter. If you really wanted just to get the business message and not the story.

Some of the chapter summary points (and the book has a lot more detail than this):
Let insecurity drive achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy St.Louis on February 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
At least, that's what the author of this book would have you believe.
Don't get me wrong, the 4-letter is pretty great but I was hoping for more 'insider' stuff on the birth, growth & success of ESPN' from the people who made it happen and were involved.

Not the case.

This is simply a consultant who wrote a 'leadership principles' book using ESPN as the 'catch'. A disappointing read - especially considering there are WAY better leadership books out there.

I feel somewhat duped. Don't be the same.
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