SVG Sit-Down: Incoming Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken Has ‘Deep Enthusiasm’ For His New Opportunity
Succeeding Lydia Murphy Stephans, Shuken looks to build on what his predecessors have created
This week, Pac-12 Networks tapped Mark Shuken, a 30-year veteran of the regional–sports-network industry, as its new president. Filling the role vacated by outgoing president Lydia Murphy Stephans, Shuken brings with him an executive/production background that recently saw him lead the creation and branding of three RSNs covering the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Dodgers, and LA Galaxy for Time Warner Cable Sports Networks.
Although he doesn’t officially take over until Sept. 6, Shuken spoke to SVG about his excitement for the opportunity, how he sees the networks further innovating in production and operational techniques, and where he sees growth coming for a network that is already five years old.
What was it about this position at this network that was intriguing to you? What made you want to pursue this opportunity?
It’s really an ideal opportunity. The number-one answer is [Pac-12 Commissioner] Larry Scott. There are two things about Larry that I admire most. One is, he’s very focused on the environment and culture of the business, and I happen to be a big believer in the importance of that. I think great cultures make great businesses and ultimately drive your bottom line as well. The other thing is that he was so smart when the networks were built to maintain the opportunity and the rights to control Pac-12 content on all platforms. There’s really no other conference or organization where, top to bottom, we have the opportunity to adapt to the changing world of streaming, multiple platforms, social media, linear TV, and all of those things within one overarching strategy, which is to help the member institutions and our shareholders.
P12N has blazed a lot of technological trails in terms of at-home production and the use of IP technology. What are your thoughts on how this network has pushed the boundaries and experimented with new ways to broadcast sports live?
I happen to be a production guy by background, and I’m very intrigued by that notion. The most recent role I had in television was running the Lakers and Dodgers networks in L.A., and we focused very much on production innovation, connectivity to lots of different locales using new technology, the at-home productions, which have become somewhat common; I think we were one of the first entities to do that. So we’ll be taking some of those lessons forward.
This is one of those rare opportunities where you have all 12 member institutions completely connected to the Pac-12 Networks home base. So you have these immense resources in the form of technology and connectivity and, frankly, student-athletes and students to be able, without tremendous logistical or financial hassle, to create better content and create it faster.
Where do you see growth for the Pac-12 Networks? It has been five years since these networks launched. What could the next five years hold that might be different from the first five?
I think the product is really strong, so the next five years is continuing to innovate around that — and that could be technological innovation, production innovation, new content; I think, certainly, innovation in platform and distribution and adapting to the way consumers realize, recognize, and appreciate their content now.
The brand of these member universities and the networks themselves and the conference networks, there’s no more passionate fan than alumni. In these next five years, we want to utilize that passion for the product and that passion for the universities by those alums and their fans and families and all that surrounds them to help elevate the profile of the content and the networks.
You are following in the shoes of Lydia Murphy Stephans, the first woman ever to run a national sports network. What will it be like following in her footsteps?
I’ve never met Lydia, but she has developed a strong team and a strong product platform. For me to be able to build upon that is a rare opportunity. I think, [with] any organization that has gone through five years of very successful growth, you need to be reminded that people need to be inspired. I want to take what my predecessors have built and make sure that we maintain the inspiration and the innovation and that hunger that is so important in a competitive world.
What do you bring to the Pac-12 Networks that’s unique and will be a positive force for the organization?
Honestly, it’s my legitimate, deep enthusiasm for the opportunity here. I have had many roles in this space over 30 years, and I am so excited about what is possible for these networks and the team. I think that energy can’t help but inspire because it’s a legitimate, heartfelt feeling.
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