Imagine. Execute.

“Imagine. Execute.” is the hallmark of The Forward Direction Group. Listed below is a sampling of the visionary projects and situations over the years that Bryan and his various colleagues have “imagined and executed.” This distinctive work has changed the landscape of sports.

 

High Definition Television— ESPN’s bold move to HDTV in 2003 was preceded by years of planning and development, and radically changed the television landscape. ESPN HD’s creation promptly led ESPN 2 HD, ESPNNEWS HD and all the company’s television services to the 16×9 format. The effort was widely lauded for its creativity and its impact on the nation’s Digital Transition, which was mandated by the federal government for broadcasters.

The Move of Sports to Cable— You hear a lot these days about the move of sports programming from broadcast to cable. It’s not a new story. The fundamental start was the placement of 175 MLB telecasts in a national cable package that could have been bought by Turner, USA Network or what was then Cablevision’s Sports Channel America. The eventual buyer was ESPN. The concepts that are working now were invented then. It was also the dawn of the regional sports networks, a time when Bryan represented not just the Royals but the Cardinals and Reds in the creation of one of the first RSN’s—Sports Time. Along with the New England Sports Network and others, Sports Time led to the Pay Television Pool, professional sports’ first effort for local franchises to be allowed access to other teams’ telecasts for use within their assigned home territories.

Baseball Tonight— The popular program was actually created by MLB. Three years of work brought the necessary rights into place to allow local telecast highlights be utilized in national telecasts in special situations. The program concept was included in the negotiations for cable telecast rights bought by ESPN, which then named the program Baseball Tonight.

Encryption of Backhaul Signals— MLB was the first professional sports league to scramble backhaul signals of local telecasts. This was important to slow and subsequently virtually eliminate the viewing of local telecasts by owners of backyard satellite dishes. While initially controversial, the result was products like NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice, MLB Extra Innings, ESPN Game Plan and ESPN Full Court. The current asset value of these products totals multiple billions of dollars.

Lights in Wrigley Field— A highly emotional topic in Chicago, night games in Wrigley Field were allowed after lights were installed following a complex negotiation between MLB, the Tribune Company and the city of Chicago.

The Loma Prieta Earthquake— The 8.9 earthquake which jolted game 3 of the 1989 World Series had it all…two local teams, a stadium which stood strong but shed some concrete to the concern of many, a media contingent hungry for news, and no electricity in San Francisco. From an event management standpoint, it was without precedent, but all fans exited safely from Candlestick Park and the event resumed ten days later…after complex negotiations between the Giants, A’s, ABC Sports and the Mayor of San Francisco.

MPEG2 to MPEG 4— A cross-company group Bryan chaired evaluated and then implemented ESPN’s move from MPEG 2 to MPEG 4 compression technology. The project totally revamped the company’s allocation of transponder capacity and provided financial and distribution efficiencies around the world.

Superstations— The distribution of local broadcast stations’ signals and the sports programming they carried, allowed by what is called the “compulsory license,” was creating havoc in the sports television business in the mid-80’s. The five stations carrying local baseball telecasts began paying national licensing fees to MLB by the end of the decade.

Pay Per View and Interactive Television products— ESPN Game Plan, ESPN FULL COURT, ESPN Today and ESPN Now have been among products which either exist today or have morphed into other products for evolving and emerging technologies. Bryan’s chairing of ESPN’s Interactive Television Cabinet created concepts which have led to today’s products for second screen viewing.