Power Hitter Profile: Glenn Adamo — A Winner on the Ice, in the Truck, and in the Front Office

Glenn Adamo may have begun his career in sports on the ice, but his most significant achievements have come in the production truck and the front office. Currently VP of media operations for the NFL, he was offered a tryout at the NHL’s St. Louis Blues following a career at the University of Connecticut, but a knee operation forced him to pursue an alternative path. That path turned out to be sports broadcasting, an industry on which he has left an indelible impact throughout a 30-plus–year career as both a producer and front-office executive.

From the Ice to the Peacock
A Brooklyn native, Adamo grew up among hockey royalty,  playing with future NHL player Bob Francis (Adamo’s best man and godfather to his son) and Hall of Famer Joe Mullen, and he credits Francis’s Hall of Famer father, Emile, as one of the most influential people in his life. Adamo went on to play hockey at UConn but opted not to pursue a pro career because of a series of knee injuries.

After taking 16 summer credits at New York University’s Film and Television school, he caught the broadcasting bug and landed a job as a receptionist at WNBC-TV New York. His old hockey connections quickly came in handy, as he landed his first job on the sports side of the business.

“I had known Marv Albert and Dick Schaap from my days playing ice hockey and hanging around Madison Square Garden,” says Adamo. “They opened up doors for me to be a runner on the weekend for the NFL [on NBC] in 1978 and ’79.”

A Producer in the Making
As the decade came to a close, NBC Sports producer Ginny Seipt hired Adamo as a production assistant, and Executive Producer Don Ohlmeyer assigned him to the 1980 Moscow Olympics Profile Unit. After the U.S. announced that it would be boycotting the Moscow Games, Adamo caught on as a full-time PA, working everything from Wimbledon and French Open tennis to the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball.

Then, just before Ohlmeyer left NBC in 1982, he elevated Adamo to associate producer, and, in 1984, new chief (and close friend) Michael Weisman offered Adamo his first producer contract. Adamo also served as coordinating videotape producer for the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

In 1988, Dick Ebersol arrived at NBC and elevated Adamo to coordinating producer on a variety of shows, including Sportsworld, Wimbledon and French Open tennis, and anthology programming. He also worked extensively on the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Then, in 1993, Ebersol provided the gateway for Adamo’s next big break.

“Dick Ebersol called me into his office one day and told me that Gary Bettman, whom I knew from working the NBA on NBC, was going to be the commissioner of the NHL,” recounts Adamo. “[Ebersol] knew how much I loved hockey and said Gary was looking for someone to start and run his broadcast department. I met with Gary, and we really hit it off immediately, so I took the job. It was magic right from the start at [the NHL], and I learned more there than anywhere in my career.”

A Return to the Rink — in the Front Office
Bettman’s and Adamo’s arrival at the NHL dropped the puck on a league media revolution that resulted in increased TV ratings and popularity in the U.S.

During his tenure as VP of broadcasting at the NHL, Adamo instituted a commercial-timeouts format that boosted advertising revenue; revamped the league’s scheduling practices to allow 100-plus televised games per season in both the U.S. and Canada; and introduced an arsenal of production elements, including cameras in the goal nets, as well as mics on the players, benches, and perimeter of the arena.

“[Bettman] gave me freedom because of my production background, so I made a bunch of changes to the game, which he supported,” says Adamo. “We changed the way the game was covered and changed the TV-commercial policy to allow for more storytelling about the players and the game. My background, because of my time working for Ebersol, was as a storyteller, so that’s what came first.”

In addition, he launched NHL Productions, which turned into a multimillion-dollar business within three years, producing a wealth of NHL content and signing a profitable home-video deal.

“We had a blank slate, and Gary gave us free rein. He was very involved and steered us in the right direction but never micromanaged,” says Adamo. “Gary Bettman and Dick Ebersol were two of the most influential people in my professional life. Bettman is the best boss I ever had and the smartest guy I’ve ever met, a true mentor. He had the same knowledge and passion for the game that I had, and that is why the two of us clicked together.”

The (New Jersey) Devil Inside
Having always dreamed of winning a Stanley Cup, Adamo saw his opportunity in 2001 when longtime New Jersey Devils President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello came calling.

“After trying for years to get me to work with him at the Devils, Lou finally convinced me to come aboard [in 2001],” Adamo says. “When we got that Stanley Cup ring in 2003, it was a life-long dream come true.”

While with the Devils, he oversaw all in-house entertainment, the team’s relationships with TV and radio rightsholders, and community development.

NFL Network on the Rise
The Devils took down the Anaheim Ducks in 2003 to win Lord Stanley’s Cup, and, with a Stanley Cup ring checked off his bucket list, Adamo was ready for a new challenge.

“I got very lucky,” he says. “[NFL Media CEO/Network President] Steve Bornstein, who is a genuine icon in our business and a guy I always wanted to work with, called me and said he was starting up a network. He asked me, with my broadcast and scheduling background, would I want to come over and get involved. So I came on board about two months before we launched and hit the ground at 90 mph.”

Since arriving in 2003, Adamo has not only played an integral role in the network’s launch and the construction of its studio in Culver City, CA, but also had a hand in developing its Thursday Night Football package. He has helped shepherd the network from a fledgling football channel to its current state as a cable sports powerhouse available in nearly 60 million U.S. homes.

Adamo also spearheaded development of the league’s successful flexible scheduling system, which was implemented in 2006 and allows the league to move marquee matchups to NBC’s Sunday Night Football without damaging the Sunday-afternoon offerings on CBS and Fox. Today, he oversees day-to-day operations for the league’s vast media portfolio, including NFL Films, NFL Network, and DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket.

“It’s been an amazing ride, he says, “with great leadership from Steve that lands us where we are today.”

Family and the Future
The NFL is a bicoastal operation, leading the Manalapan, NJ-based Adamo to often swing between the East and West Coasts. However, he is a family man first, making sure to carve out quality time for Valerie, his wife of 32 years, and his children, Gregory, 26, and Marissa, 22.

“[Family] is extremely important to me,” he says. “I’m blessed because I married my best friend, and, in our business, where there are a lot of casualties, that is pretty rare.”

Still a hockey nut at heart, Adamo is co-owner of a twin ice-hockey rink in Howell, NJ, which he makes sure to use whenever time permits.

“When I can get away from the day-to-day and get on the ice and skate with my son and kids I used to coach, it’s so fulfilling,” he says. “Around the holidays, we close the rink down, and my son and a bunch of our friends scrimmage for a few hours and have the time of our life.”

As for the future, Adamo has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Like many executives in the business, he sees a golden opportunity in the recent proliferation of digital and broadband platforms — both in the home and on the go.

“I’m looking forward to this because there is a real opportunity for us to service our fans with a much more meaningful experience wherever you can get the NFL,” he says. “This is a business where, due to the ever changing technology, you want to be part of it and work forever. When people ask me when I want to retire, I say, ‘Maybe at 90.’ My goal is to do this as long as I possibly can, because it continues to be challenging and is a lot of fun.”

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