Paley Dialogues Luncheon

Gary Bettman and Robert Manfred in Conversation

Jul 20, 2016
12:30 – 2:00 PM
New York

The commissioners of two of the world's most dynamic and most watched leagues explored what it means to partner and engage sports fans in the digital age: combining the best experiences around video, connecting with next-generation audiences on mobile, social media, OTT, and gaming, and exploring new distribution models internationally. They offered lessons on how to run organizations with the digital agility necessary for media, technology, and entertainment executives, moderated by SportsBusiness Journal Executive Editor Abe Madkour.


Commissioner, National Hockey League

Gary Bettman has served the National Hockey League as Commissioner since February 1, 1993, and has guided the world’s top professional hockey league through more than two decades of advancement on and off the ice. Record revenues, record attendance and a wide variety of fan-friendly initiatives are just a few trademarks of Commissioner Bettman’s tenure, which has brought the NHL to a broader audience, through more media platforms, than at any time in League history.

By negotiating a long-term Collective Bargaining Agreement with the National Hockey League Players’ Association and long-term, multi-billion-dollar national broadcast rights agreements in the United States (NBC Sports Group) and Canada (Rogers Communications) -- in addition to a landmark digital rights agreement with Major League Baseball Advanced Media -- Commissioner Bettman has fostered unprecedented economic stability for the League’s 30 teams. During his tenure, League revenues have increased nearly tenfold.

On the ice, the NHL’s competitive balance may be unrivaled in professional sports: Through the implementation of rules designed to accentuate the speed, skill and creativity of the players, playoff races run virtually the length of the regular season and a different team has earned the most cherished and historic trophy in professional sports — the Stanley Cup — every season since 1998.

The combination of competitive balance, exciting play and a calendar of innovative signature events — including iconic outdoor games (the Winter Classic, the Stadium Series and the Heritage Classic) — has helped drive fan engagement and sponsor participation to unprecedented levels. Advancements in the game under Commissioner Bettman have included the implementation of three-on-three overtime and the ‘shootout,’ which eliminated tied games during the regular season. The League’s implementation of the two-referee system revolutionized hockey officiating around the world. The NHL also has been at the forefront of advancements in video review, an area that has been studied, and subsequently replicated, by the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

Charitable undertakings, as well as a focus on community service and diversity, also have been priorities for Commissioner Bettman. Hockey Fights Cancer has raised millions in support of cancer research and awareness. “Hockey is for Everyone,” a grass-roots initiative, brings hockey to youngsters. NHL Green has worked extensively to support environmental causes and in 2014 released the NHL Environmental Sustainability Report – the first of its kind by a major professional sports League – which highlights the numerous programs, benchmarks, and successes that have increased the overall sustainability of the League.

Commissioner of Baseball

Robert D. Manfred, Jr. was elected as the 10th Commissioner in the history of Major League Baseball on August 14, 2014 by vote of the 30 Major League Clubs. He officially became the sport’s leader on January 25, 2015.

In his first year as Commissioner, Manfred set goals for the industry that focused on the expansion of youth participation, international growth, improved pace of game, the infusion of technology into the game, increased marketing of the game’s young stars and furtherance of the game’s diversity goals.

Manfred became MLB’s Chief Operating Officer in 2013. Prior too that, he had served as an MLB Executive Vice President since 1998, directing all collective bargaining issues, including successful renewals of the Basic Agreement in 2002, 2006 and 2011.

Manfred is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He and his wife, Colleen, have four adult children.

Moderated By:

Executive Editor
SportsBusiness Journal

Abraham Madkour is Executive Editor of Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, SportsBusiness Daily and SportsBusiness Daily Global.

Mr. Madkour is responsible for determining the editorial content and shaping the editorial direction of the leading publications on the business of sports, while managing the entire editorial staff. In addition, he oversees all the editorial content for the various conferences produced by Street & Smith’s Sports Business Group, including the prestigious World Congress of Sports and Forty Under 40 awards dinner. Mr. Madkour serves as the lead moderator and editorial spokesman for all of the company’s events.

Mr. Madkour joined SportsBusiness Daily as a Senior Staff Writer when the publication launched in August 1994. He was named Editor-in-Chief in September 1996 and became Executive Editor of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily in 2003.

Prior to joining SportsBusiness Daily, Mr. Madkour was a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. In addition to working with Senator Leahy, Mr. Madkour had stints working for the Washington Bullets and the Baltimore Orioles in 1993 and 1994.

He lives in Charlotte, N.C., and is a graduate of the University of Vermont.


This event is exclusive to Media Council members and other invited guests. To find out more about Media Council membership, contact

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