Jamie Horowitz is a sports media executive who has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports, and the international sports streaming service DAZN. He’s known for his unique approach to programming, which emphasizes empowering the on-air commentators to create show content entirely based on their opinions and in their voice.
During his 20-plus year career, Horowitz has developed and produced some of the most iconic sports programs on TV, including The ManningCast, SportsNation, First Take, Undisputed, and The Herd. He’s worked with stars like Sylvester Stallone and LeBron James to produce groundbreaking specials such as DAZN’s documentary “One Night” and the docuseries “40 Days.”
Horowitz is credited with helping reimagine sports programming across the media spectrum. His influence is seen at various sports networks as opinion-based programming became the norm at ESPN, FOX, NBC and, more recently, the internet. In his early-40s, Horowitz is far from finished reimagining sports content. Horowitz has recently taken on the role of executive vice president of development and digital at WWE, where he’s expected to help push WWE to do more original programming that celebrate their superstars.
Jamie Horowitz’s Early Career
Jamie Horowitz was an avid sports fan from an early age. An athlete himself, he played basketball for Amherst College, where he majored in political science.
After graduating, Horowitz started his career as an Olympic Researcher for NBC Olympics. After the 2000 Olympics, he moved to NBC Sports and began producing content for the NBA, NASCAR, and the Olympics. He would stay on at NBC for nearly eight years.
In 2006, he was recruited to join ESPN as a senior producer in Original Programming. He began working on a program called Cold Pizza, a morning talk show. Horowitz was instrumental in transforming the program into First Take, which became one of the network’s most popular shows. Horowitz’s idea to replace sports analysis (which was already being seen on SportsCenter at the same time) with original sports debate. He revamped the show by focusing on passionate debates between Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, two outspoken personalities with contrasting opinions on sports issues. This reimagination led to a huge spike in ratings and a huge jump in Horowitz’s career.
Sprinting up the Ladder at ESPN
Horowitz quickly rose through the ranks at ESPN, becoming vice president of original programming and production in 2012. He oversaw several popular shows on the network, such as SportsNation, Numbers Never Lie, and Olbermann. He pushed his signature style of opinion and debate even on these established programs, resulting in ratings that continue to grow.
Horowitz stated that his aim was to create engaging content that appealed to young audiences who were looking for more than just facts and statistics. “We’re making these shows for the customers. We’re making these shows for the fans,” he said.
Aside from basic programming, Horowitz also played a key role in securing a deal with the NBA for ESPN’s pregame show NBA Countdown. Under his leadership, the show underwent a major revamp. He started by hiring new talent to join the panel, including former players Magic Johnson and Jalen Rose, and sportswriter Bill Simmons. Horowitz replaced some of the analysis-based banter with engaging segments that appealed to younger and more diverse audiences. He also encouraged the incorporation of pop culture references and social media into the show’s content.
Horowitz’s impact on ESPN’s programming strategy can’t be understated. The programs he produced and developed performed well, but they had an even larger impact on the network as a whole. Horowitz reshaped ESPN’s identity as a destination for sports fans who wanted to hear different perspectives and opinions on their favorite teams and players.
Building a Brand at Fox Sports
After a brief stint at NBC, Jamie Horowitz moved to Fox Sports in 2015 to serve as president of Fox Sports National Networks. He was hired to overhaul fledgling brands Fox Sports 1 (aka FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (aka FS2), two cable channels that had been recently launched to compete with ESPN.
Horowitz brought his signature style of debate-driven programming to Fox Sports — along with many of the sports personalities he worked with on ESPN. With a blank slate to work with, Horowitz created new shows like Speak for Yourself and Undisputed, the latter of which starred ESPN veteran Skip Bayless. He also relaunched The Herd with Colin Cowherd, a radio host with whom Horowitz had worked at ESPN.
One of the major tools used to propel FS1 to success was finding the right personalities to hook sports fans. According to Horowitz, he spent much of his time seeking “people who are fearless, original and thoughtful,” he said. “Those tend to be people with really distinctive voices in the sports landscape.”
Jamie Horowitz helped boost FS1’s profile and relevance in the world of sports media by bringing in big names and creating distinctive shows that generated buzz and debate.
By the time he left Fox Sports, FS1 was a serious competitor of ESPN. Viewership had jumped by 28% — a trend that would continue in the coming years. It would soon become the No. 2 most-watched cable sports news channel in the U.S.
Changing the Game: Jamie Horowitz’s Legacy
Horowitz left Fox Sports in 2017 after two years on the job. In that short amount of time, he had managed to build FS1 into a successful brand with a unique voice and a loyal following — one that rivaled his previous employer, ESPN.
But more than that, Horowitz had shown that his approach to sports journalism wasn’t just a fluke at ESPN. Audiences preferred his style of sports commentary and he proved that it could be repeated elsewhere with similar results. Horowitz’s programs went on to influence many other networks and platforms. His emphasis on personality-driven shows that generate buzz and controversy has become a common formula for attracting audiences in an increasingly competitive market.
Aside from his work on TV, Horowitz is also credited with moving broadcasting into the digital age. He led efforts to digitize entertainment at ESPN and Fox and he served as EVP of content for the sports app DAZN, which became the highest-grossing sports app thanks to Horowitz’s leadership.
Horowitz has left a mark on the sports media industry that will not be going away anytime soon. His content development strategy is now used as a blueprint at every major sports media outlet.
A Sports Media Visionary
Jamie Horowitz is credited with creating some of the most successful sports programs on TV and the internet over the past 20 years. He’s been described as a visionary and a disruptor for his controversial take on sports broadcasting. And although some lament the loss of more analysis-based sports shows, Horowitz is widely admired by his colleagues and fans.
He transformed ESPN during his tenure there, particularly with his work on the programs First Take, SportsNation, and Numbers Never Lie. He went on to build FS1 from the ground up in just over 2 years, turning it into a major sports network. His work with HBO and DAZN produced groundbreaking sports content for a new generation of fans. And now, he will continue to blaze forward as the EVP of development and digital at WWE.
The future of sports media is uncertain, but it’s clear that Jamie Horowitz will continue to influence the industry with innovative sports programming for many years to come.