21. Ron Semiao

Vice president of content strategy and Global X at ESPN

Ron Semiao     Photo: Joe Ciardiello

Launched The X Games

In 1995, during the beginnings of the cable-channel bloat, ESPN was having trouble figuring out how to fill airtime on ESPN2. That’s when Semiao, a programming specialist, looked into skateboarding, street luge, and BMX. In 1995, he brought it all together with the X Games and Winter X Games, which became cultural touchstones. Now Semiao, 55, is going global, bidding out three international X Games to destinations to be announced next April.

By the Numbers 37 million: viewers of X Games 17, this July

Second Opinion “Ron was the guy who had the vision that action sports could be mainstream,” says skier and X Games commentator Chris Davenport. “He knew how to make them exciting and blow up the personalities. He saw the potential, while others said, ‘Huh?’ ”

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