Honoring a Legend: After Four Decades in Regional-Sports Biz, MSG Networks’ Jerry Passaro Calls It a Career
Former colleagues celebrate the operations exec’s long list of accomplishments
When Jerry Passaro retired at the end of last year, he left behind a legacy as one of the most respected and influential execs in the history of regional sports television. During four decades at Cablevision, SportsChannel, and MSG Networks, the four-time Emmy winner worked in nearly every sector of the RSN business before topping it off as MSG Networks’ SVP of networks and technical operations from 2008 to ‘21.
“Jerry has been at the forefront of many great moments at MSG Networks during his 40-year career,” says Andrea Greenberg, president/CEO, MSG Networks. “Jerry’s passion for ensuring that MSG Networks was always best-in-class remains visible every time fans tune in to watch our networks. We thank Jerry for all his dedication and friendship over the years and wish him the very best in retirement. We know Jerry will still be watching our games, but now from the comfort of his couch as a fan of our teams.”
Born in Brooklyn and reared in Woodhaven, Queens, Passaro was passionate about New York sports and interested in television from an early age. He majored in media studies at Queens College before earning an MS from Brooklyn College (while interning at Channel 5/Metromedia).
Passaro joined Cablevision’s Rainbow Media as a promotions producer in 1981 and moved to SportsChannel a year later. He became executive producer for SportsChannel in 1989.
When SportsChannel merged with MSG Networks in 1997, Passaro became VP of programming, subsequently advancing to SVP, programming and distribution, in 2003. Five years later, he took on his last role at MSG Networks, serving as SVP, networks and technical operations, until Dec. 31, 2021.
“I’ve had a remarkable and unusual but always positive relationship with Jerry for over 20 years,” says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and former MSG Networks President Joe Cohen, who worked with Passaro in several capacities over the years. “No matter what the issue and what side we were on, I have always found Jerry to be diligent, competent, and forthright. I wish him great luck in retirement. He will be missed and is truly an outstanding person and professional.”
Among Passaro’s numerous accomplishments are negotiations for MSG Networks’ original 2005 and subsequent 2007 renewal deals with the Buffalo Sabres; the RSN’s historic, first-of-its-kind 3D Rangers-Islanders telecast in 2010; relocation of MSG Networks from the arena to 11 Penn Plaza in 2010 and construction of its studios and control rooms; and signing Hall of Famer Mike “Doc” Emrick to the New Jersey Devils broadcast team in 1993.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jerry for 37 years,” says Jackie Lyons, VP, network operations, MSG Networks. “I have never met a more gracious person in terms of sharing knowledge. His career has touched so many parts of this industry, and his experience is incredibly vast. I was honored to have him as my mentor.
In his 13 years as SVP, networks and technical operations, Passaro played an integral role in building MSG Networks into one of the most technologically advanced RSNs — or sports broadcaster of any kind, for that matter — in the country. In addition to overseeing in-house ops, he oversaw the RSN’s relationships with key production-technology and -services vendors
“Jerry Passaro is unique in our business,” says Pat Sullivan, president, Game Creek Video, MSG Networks’ longtime mobile-unit provider. “An incredibly savvy technical guy who has the ability to relate to everyone around him. Technical, business, production, executives, even the electricians at the Garden: it does not matter. When you deal with Jerry, you know you are dealing with the living definition of integrity. Just ask the people lucky enough to have worked with him. They loved the guy.”
CLICK HERE for an in-depth SVG Sit-Down with Jerry Passaro.