In the last five years, ESPN has launched two college networks – Longhorn Network (2011) and SEC Network (2014). While still in their cable infancy, team, conference and league networks are helping to define what it means to serve avid fan bases with dedicated, authentic content.
After nearly two decades of serving in key production roles for ESPN, Senior VP, Production College Networks, Stephanie Druley, oversaw the launches of LHN and SEC Network and continues to oversee all of ESPN’s college networks.
Front Row sat down with honoree Druley in ESPN’s Charlotte, N.C., studios to discuss her career and what she’s learned along the way working on ESPN’s NFL coverage and college networks.
You’ve been at ESPN for two decades. How did you get started and achieve the success you’ve had now?
I started as a production assistant back in 1990-something … a long time ago, that’s all I’ll say. I was very fortunate to get to work with some really amazing people who mentored me and liked my work and were big advocates for me.
You’ve worked on everything from the NFL to launching Longhorn Network, SEC Network and now overseeing all ESPN College Networks’ production. What has that journey looked like?
The whole idea that you “only get to launch a network one time” is not true, apparently. If you’re me, you get to do it a couple times.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: See the timeline of Longhorn Network’s launch.]
You’ve filled a lot of different roles while working for ESPN. What are the differences between the ESPN channel and the college networks that you oversee now?
Longhorn Network and SEC Network are unique given the partnership with the school/conference and the content’s focus. For Longhorn Network, we are serving fans of Texas sports and culture and with SEC Network we aim to bring college sports fans nationwide the sights and sounds of the Southeastern Conference.
We produce sporting events to the same standard and quality that we would on any platform. We ask our commentators to be fair and critical. In our surrounding coverage, we report any relevant news and serve fans with compelling storytelling that fits their interests.
Separately, ESPN has resources devoted to investigative journalism as part of the company’s enterprise reporting team. When there is news of any kind – positive or negative – that is relevant to our audience on either LHN or SEC Network, we have and will continue to report that news.
You graduated from the University of Texas and are a self-proclaimed sports fanatic. How has that influenced your role?
I love sports. I don’t know if it was going to the University of Texas, [but rather] growing up in Texas where football is in your blood. I lived “Friday Night Lights” in high school. That was my high school essentially. My family was football crazy. Professional football was our “thing” and we went to games every week as a family, and we watched as a family every Sunday.
You were recently named on CableFax’s “Most Powerful Women in Cable” list. What did that mean to you?
It’s a really cool honor to be on that list, not just with women in the industry, but women [at ESPN] – Marie Donoghue, Christine Driessen – that I am really impressed with and look up to.