ESPN Goes West, Under Guidance of News Vet Judi Cordray

By Carolyn Braff
a few weeks’ time, ESPN’s national presence will expand dramatically,
when the network opens the doors to its brand-new production center in
downtown Los Angeles. Leading the charge as VP of the
12,300-square-foot facility is a sports outsider, Judi Cordray,
formerly VP, BO&E West Coast operations for Disney/ABC’s Media
Networks Group. Shifting her sights from news to sports is one of many
challenges Cordray must overcome in taking the helm of this
cutting-edge 1080p facility.
previously served as general manager of ENG operations for ABC News,
Western Region, Cordray is fully familiar with the technical workflow
of a major broadcast organization, but she did not begin her career
with a technical bent.
am not a techie,” explains Cordray, whose first job was an
administrative-assistant position with ABC News. “Quite honestly, I
fell into the technical side. When I started as an admin assistant, it
was on the engineering side, and I did enjoy it quite a bit. I’m a
behind-the-scenes kind of gal, so I definitely gravitated to that.”
with technicians in control rooms and on remotes, Cordray learned the
studio-operations business day by day, relying on the team’s veterans
for on-the-job training.
really can’t call myself a techie, but I know how to build a remote,”
she says. “I couldn’t fix a camera or a tape machine, but certainly I
know all the components that are necessary to put a show together.”
managed ABC News’ technical-network facility in Los Angeles for 2½
years, Cordray is very comfortable with her management role, overseeing
day-to-day operations of the new ESPN facility, and making the move
from news to sports is not as big a leap as one might expect.
think that news and sports are similar in many ways,” she says. “I
think there’s an immediacy with sports as there is with news. With
breaking news, there are no planned events, where sports are very
planned events. But, in terms of the fan base and the coverage, the two
are somewhat similar. Sports seem to have a little more fun with it.”
fun will be at the top of the to-do list when the L.A. production
center goes live in April, but, until then, there is plenty of work to
be done to complete the 1080p plant.
have a lot of smart engineering and production folks that have been
working on this for four years,” Cordray says of the massive facility.
“The construction piece of the building is almost finalized. We’re
hoping to move in the first of November. The engineering portion, the
system integration, is going on right now. All the technical geniuses
back in Bristol [CT] have been putting this production center together
and building the technology that we’re using in it.”
technology will outfit three production-control rooms, two
master-control rooms, eight craft edit suites, a music room, a
voiceover room, and two studios, from which ESPN original content and
the weeknight 1 a.m. ET SportsCenter
production will originate. The Los Angeles team will partner with
colleagues in Bristol to help smooth the transition over the next few
a 1080p plant, which is state of the art,” Cordray says. “That’s a
really exciting part of ESPN. They’re very forward-thinking when it
comes to technology, and it’s exciting to be a part of a group of
really forward thinkers.”
forward thinkers chose the L.A. Live Complex to host the new facility
at a time of regeneration in the city. “Los Angeles is going through a
renaissance right now,” Cordray says. “They’re building hotels,
restaurants, movie theaters. It’s almost an economic stimulus
however, an economic slowdown is under way, which might make first
quarter 2009 a very difficult time for launching a production center.
everyone’s concerned about the economy, and businesses like ESPN are
not immune to that,” Cordray explains. “But I do believe, in tough
times like the financial crises we’re going through right now, people
need an escape, and escape has always been through sports and
entertainment. Although it’s tough times, I think people need the
escape, and ESPN is here to help out with that.”

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