ESPN, MLB Vet Bryan Burns Launches The Forward Direction Group

Sports industry veteran Bryan Burns has announced the formation of The Forward Direction Group (FDG), a sports, media and entertainment consulting firm he will head from offices in Guilford, Connecticut.  Burns will lead The Forward Direction Group after 16 years in Major League Baseball and 17 years at ESPN. The firm will utilize a variety of industry professionals with more than 125 years of combined industry experience.

“We believe it is the perfect time for this concept,” said Burns.   “The premise is for FDG to “flex” to meet a client’s specific needs by forming a tailored team to handle particular requests.   Our group of individuals will bring executive level, real-world experience and economic value to a variety of teams, leagues, networks, conferences and schools plus various companies and individuals with interests in and around the business of sports, media, technology and consumer electronics.”

The group of experts associated with the company include:

Creative director and artist Cathi Bosco, best known for The CBC Collection, her illustrative work of college mascots officially licensed and/or commissioned by dozens of college and universities.

Marketing specialist Jayne Hancock, who led DIRECTV’s sports marketing efforts for nearly a decade during the company’s period of great growth.

Jared Miller, an expert in the implementation of emerging technologies.  He has been a key participant in the host broadcaster’s production of the world feed for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Athens, Torino, Beijing, Vancouver and London.

Jim Noel, with extensive experience as an attorney/executive for the United States Golf Association, ESPN and the National Football League.  He also was in private practice with the international law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine.

Samantha Rudolph, a nine-year veteran of ESPN and a specialist in the business and monetization of new technologies.  She is a Wharton grad and a creator of innovative start-up strategies.

Jody Shapiro, a programming and creative production specialist and a veteran of three professional sports leagues, the NHL, NBA and MLB.  He also launched and ran Home Team Sports in addition to the Midwest Sports Network.

Jim Sperry, the co-creator of the John R. Wooden Classic, also co-created and operated the LPGA Ginn Open.  He is a limited partner in the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.   His expertise is in event origination, financing and production.

Licensing and merchandising specialist Rick White, who led centralization of MLB intellectual property rights, which created a $2 billion market.  He invented fan festivals plus MLB Clubhouse stores and advises teams, leagues, colleges, national governing bodies and brands.

At MLB, he was head of marketing and broadcasting for the Kansas City Royals before heading to New York City to become MLB’s Director of Broadcasting and later as Senior Vice President of Business Operations.   His scope at MLB included worldwide television and the staging and administration of the game’s major events, such as the World Series and All-Star Game.

Burns joined ESPN as VP, Distribution Development and moved throughout the company in Programming, Production, Affiliate Sales and Marketing, ESPN Enterprises and directly for then-President George Bodenheimer.  He was most recently VP for Strategic Business Planning and Development.  In his three decades in the sports business, his distinctive work has played a major role in the changing landscape of the sports business.  Among his contributions has been heading the business side of ESPN’s bold move to high definition television and the encryption of MLB’s backhaul signals, which led to the creation of services such as MLB Extra Innings, NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Center Ice and NBA League Pass.  He was also the architect of MLB’s major move to cable when it sold a 175-game package to ESPN that also included the sport’s first daily highlight show, later named “Baseball Tonight” by ESPN.

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