April 17, 2017
Jon Litner, was named President of the YES Network, the number one regional sports network in the country, in September 2016. A 25-year media veteran, Litner oversees all aspects of YES, which is 80% owned by 21st Century Fox and 20% owned by Yankee Global Enterprises.
The most-watched regional sports network in the country for 12 of the last 14 years, YES is the exclusive local television home of the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees, the Brooklyn Nets and the New York City Football Club of MLS.
In October 2016, YES Network was included in Forbes’ list of top 10 most valuable sportsbusiness brands in the world for the seventh straight year. The network has won 95 New York Emmy Awards and has accumulated 402 Emmy nominations since its 2002 launch. Its Web site, YESNetwork.com, has won Emmy Awards twice for best sports site in New York.
Prior to joining YES, Litner was Group President of NBC Sports Group from 2011 to 2015, where he was responsible for NBC Sports’ eight regional sports networks and Golf Channel. Litner oversaw the RSNs’ production of live games and studio coverage of more than 20 pro sports teams, along with other Emmy Award-winning original programming. In addition, Golf Channel was the fastest-growing television network under his watch.
Before taking over the reins at NBC Sports Group, Litner was President from 2007 to 2011 of Comcast Sports Group and VERSUS, its cable network devoted to outdoor sports which was re-branded NBC Sports Network during his tenure.
From 2005 to 2007, Litner was President of SNY, the regional sports network which is the exclusive local television home of the New York Mets. He oversaw SNY’s 2006 launch and its rapid early growth.
From 1999 to 2005, Litner served as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the National Hockey League, overseeing all of the league’s broadcasting, communications, special events and new business and technology initiatives. Litner was responsible for the Canadian launch of the NHL Network, along with the development of the NHL’s first outdoor game in the modern era, the Heritage Classic.
Litner began his sports career at Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., where he held several executive positions from 1991 to 1999. He led ABC Sports’ acquisition and coverage of programming such as the Indianapolis 500, the Kentucky Derby, Wide World of Sports, the Brickyard 500, Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Big Ten, SEC, Big XII and Pac-12.
He also oversaw ABC’s securing of MLB television rights in 1994 which, among other things, resulted in the launch that year of The Baseball Network with partner NBC. Litner later was Vice President of Business Affairs at The Baseball Network.
A three-time member of Sports Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” sports executive list, Litner was inducted into the Sports Business Journal Hall of Fame in 2001.
Litner earned his Bachelor degree from Yale University in 1985 and earned his law degree from Cornell Law School in 1988. Litner has been a member of the Little League International Board of Directors since 2006.
For SBC members actively seeking employment or opportunities in the sports industry, especially opportunities in the world of sports network television such as YES Network, Litner had this to say:
On achieving goals and success as a group from a leadership position…
“Everybody’s role is critical. Your entire team must buy into the mindset that each person’s job or contribution is equally important to the complete success of the group. I often think of the story about President John F. Kennedy’s visit to NASA in the early days of our country’s space program: whether it’s a janitor or a scientist working at the NASA Space Center in Houston, they’re both working toward sending a man to the moon.”
On learning how to do the most…
“Always look for growth opportunities. Get yourself a mentor. Learn from someone else. When I was young, I wanted to hitch my train to an engine that was going somewhere. None of us has ever been able to create something new without first being inspired by someone else.”
On pursuing opportunity and challenges …
“Get out of your comfort zone and embrace challenge. Life is not about guarantees, it’s about probability. Make up your mind, know what you want, and go out and get it. I’ve never been afraid to chase opportunity.”
On confidence and finding your passion…
“Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if you don’t get something right the first time. Always own up to your mistakes. Take the initiative. Find what you’re really good at, and then figure out how you can become great at it."
On importance of details…
“You’ve got to sweat the details. Always strive for excellence, not perfection, because you can’t achieve perfection, but you can achieve excellence.”
On self-advocacy and believing in yourself…
“Be intellectually curious, and be your own best advocate. Take the time to invest in yourself, because betting on yourself is the only bet you should make.”
Thank you to Jon Litner for making the trip all the way from New York and taking the time to share his invaluable insight with our club about the ins and outs of working for a sports network like YES Network as well as his advice on how to succeed in such a competitive industry.
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