Behind The Scenes

Roll out the credits

Like cookies and milk for Santa, the ESPN end-of-the-year Credit Roll has become a holiday tradition.

Annually done as a tribute to all the full-time employees of ESPN, this year’s roll will debut on-air at the end of SportsCenter on ESPN Saturday, Dec. 24 at 12:30 a.m.

Even if your name – or that of a loved one or friend – won’t be appearing, the added bonus for sports fans is a continual stream of “This is SportsCenter” commericals. As you might have noticed, ESPN does not, and has not,  used the traditional credit roll used by most networks at the end of their shows.

According to ESPN’s Executive Vice president and Executive Editor John Walsh there has been a belief “from the beginning that the time should be given to the viewer and more content was better for viewing [rather] than for employees’ names.”

Still, early on, ESPN officials wanted a way to acknowledge all the hard-working people both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. So the holiday credit roll was created and has been maintained all these years later.

However, what used to take under a minute to display now lasts 30 full minutes.

“This year, the credit roll has 7,085 names of full-time employees domestically and internationally,” said Matthew Weeks, ESPN’s Director for Editorial Graphics Production and the man charged with compiling the yearly list that would even make Santa blush. (A time code sheet for each department’s approximate place in the roll is available so employees know when to tune in for their moment of fame.)

Just like Old Saint Nick, Weeks checks his list twice — or more — and coordinates with folks from all across ESPN to ensure names are spelled correctly and everyone who should be included, is.

Weeks, in his seventh year with ESPN after a career in newspaper journalism, said the compilation process begins in October and involves Human Resources, Content, Technology and Administrational and Marketing (which provides the “This is SportsCenter” commercials that accompany the graphics).

In addition to airing on the early morning SportsCenter, the credit roll is also posted on ESPN’s intranet and runs on an in-house channel on campus, in case any staffer misses it. The music accompanying both the video and the graphic is a holiday jingle developed in-house.

“The most challenging part of the credit roll is keeping the master employee list organized,” Weeks said.

“Many people from all over the company are sending me edits and asking questions — I have to make sure the structure I have in place is sound to ensure names are accurate and all edits make it into the list. One year, an entire department was accidently omitted — we had to go back to re-edit the piece to include them!”

Despite the hazards of putting the roll together, Weeks thoroughly enjoys the assignment

“It’s fun to interact with people from all over the company on this,” he said. “I’ve found that employees really do enjoy seeing their name on SportsCenter— it’s a terrific way to give staff recognition on our most visible product.”

CREDIT ROLL TRIVIA: According to Weeks, this year’s roll will feature a tie for longest name: Alfredo Carlos Montes De Oca and Pablo German SalibaMansour, both of ESPN Sur (serving Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), share the honor.

Several people share shortest name honors.