ESPN/BBC Tech Project Underway

With the help of BBC Technology, ESPN is well on the way to transforming its tape-based operations to a nonlinear editing and acquisition environment. The sports network is planning to begin physical construction of a pilot implementation of this type of workflow, for which it is employing BBC Technology's Colledia for Sports and Colledia Control asset management solutions, at its Bristol, CT, facility this month. According to BBC Technology's Kevin Ivey, the BBC Technology/ESPN project comprises two phases: the pilot implementation mentioned above, and the full-blown implementation at ESPN's new all-digital facility (estimated to be ready to launch in mid-2004).

"We started with requirements gathering," said Ivey, regarding the first part of the pilot implementation. "Our requirements sessions include interviews with stakeholders and workgroups, where we review the current ESPN workflow and the changes that we wish to make, and we look at the current state of the Colledia product and how that's going to have to be modified to meet those requirements for ESPN."

Once the pilot implementation is fully constructed, the first part of it will go live in April 2004, to accommodate ESPN's launch of high definition programming from the new digital center during that month.

Not surprisingly, the largest difficulty ESPN has had with the project is helping its staff adjust to a more IT-centric workflow. "The bigger challenges are the people issues and the cultural issues associated with any change," said Chuck Pagano, senior vice president, technology, engineering and operations, ESPN. The network is addressing this issue by, as Pagano puts it, trying " get as many people involved in the process as possible." He said this creates an "evangelist pool" of people working in the day-to-day broadcast operations that will pass on the information about the new workflow to others. ESPN is also formally training its staff on using IT-based systems.