Vox Media sports property SB Nation has taken a rather interesting approach this year. In April, they were one of the Vox properties specifically targeted to bear the brunt of unpaid three-month furloughs as part of a “cost reduction” strategy around declining advertising revenues amidst early COVID-19 impacts, with Vox CEO Jim Bankoff claiming (without citation) that sports was a “revenue area where short-term demand would be lower.” In June, many furloughed employees chose to leave for good to get at least a partial buyout, and in July, Vox cut many of the furloughed SB Nation employees who hadn’t already left (part of how they only brought back 30 percent of furloughed employees across Vox brands).
But this month has seen Vox singing a rather different tune about SB Nation. First, they made a big to-do about naming Jermaine Spradley as senior vice president, SB Nation. Spradley was already SB Nation GM, and the move came 16 months after Vox initially said they’d have a SVP leading SB Nation. Now, they’ve announced the hires of two further executives under Spradley, Nyerr Parham and Bryan Graham:
SB Nation is proud to welcome two new leaders to its executive team: Nyerr Parham, General Manager, and Bryan Graham, Senior Director of Audience & Engagement. Under SB Nation Senior Vice President Jermaine Spradley, Parham and Graham, along with John Ness, VP of Communities, and Keenya Scott, Associate Director of Operations, will lead Vox Media’s communities-centric sports network into its next chapter.
As SB Nation’s GM, Nyerr Parham will own the network’s business development and work closely with Vox Media’s revenue and marketing teams to develop strategic relationships and partnerships that support the growth of SB Nation’s communities. She’ll manage SB Nation’s Network Development team, as well as DraftKings Nation, the brand’s community dedicated to fantasy and sports betting content in partnership with DraftKings.
Bryan Graham will lead audience strategy to bring the best of SB Nation to readers, listeners, and fans — wherever they are. He’ll manage SB Nation’s growing programming team, with a focus on creative innovation in support of SB Nation’s network of communities and in the development of new communities.
Well, hey, it’s great that there’s apparently now some money in the Vox Media/SB Nation banana stand to hire these new executives (both of who are coming in after stints at WarnerMedia’s Bleacher Report and/or House of Highlights, sites facing their own challenges). And maybe a more built-out executive structure will help SB Nation be seen as more important within Vox Media. It’s an incredible shame that a wider company built on sports and SB Nation chose to decide that sports was a “revenue area where short-term demand would be lower” and a place where they should cut dozens of talented people.
But at the same time, it’s amazing to see the company decide to promote one executive who oversaw a disastrous round of cuts and then hire two more executives under him. And it’s remarkable to see them find the money for these executives only months after they claimed they didn’t money to pay the people actually doing the work.
Of course, the cuts aren’t necessarily on Spradley. It was Bankoff, the CEO of the whole company, who claimed that sports were a good area to target for cuts (despite his own background in sports, including in the early days of AOL FanHouse). And the decision to leave SB Nation without SVP representation (unlike all of Vox’s other brands, who at least had a shared SVP) for 16 months before Spradley’s elevation earlier this month appears to says a lot about the place SB Nation currently occupies at the company. (Again, that’s despite the rest of this company being built out of what SB Nation started.) Maybe some more executive representation improves SB Nation’s internal standing. But still, it’s curious to see the executive ranks boosted after the writing ranks were devastated.
At any rate, it is quite something to see Vox bragging about bringing in these new execs, and to see them using quotes like Parham’s “I am thrilled to drive SB Nation into the next phase of its growth.” The next phase of that growth might look a lot better if the company hadn’t laid off so many of its already-prominent talents earlier this year.