Behind The Scenes

Juggling the NFL Draft telecast, planning NBA playoff scheduling

For Leah LaPlaca, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions, scheduling the start of the NBA Playoffs is nothing new.

Leah LaPlaca, ESPN VP, programming and acquisitions

As a matter of fact, neither is scheduling the NFL Draft.

But scheduling these two popular ESPN events the same weekend? Now that’s a challenge.

The NBA Playoffs on ABC and ESPN tip off Saturday with the Miami Heat hosting the New York Knicks at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The NFL Draft began Thursday night on ESPN at the same time as the company’s NBA Night: the final day of the regular season where the hoops postseason schedule is determined.

As you may expect, juggling both events makes for a busy week for ESPN’s programming team.

“About a week out, we are in regular contact with the NBA and start looking at the potential first-round matchup. We look at what the matchups might be and how they might project out and how they fit into each broadcast partner’s specific windows,” said LaPlaca.

She continued: “We go back and forth with the league daily and whenever a new possible scenario presents itself. It all culminates with NBA Night where we gather together to wait for the ultimate scenario.”

Does she look forward to NBA Night?

“It’s a cool night. We have a large portion of our ESPN NBA team together because folks from all different departments in the company are waiting on information important to their areas. People are wondering, where are we going? What are we promoting? Where are we sending crews? Everyone is just waiting to see how the Playoff schedule season is going to play out.”

LaPlaca said: “It’s unusual this year that NBA Night and the NFL Draft happened on the same night. NBA Night is generally earlier, but with the lockout pushing the season back this year, it made for an unusual circumstance since we’re handling both events the same night.

“For the NFL Draft, a lot of planning goes on. There are so many platforms for which we produce content. In addition to the events at Radio City Music Hall and the Draft telecast itself, for instance, we’ve got cameras in potential draftee’s homes to make sure we capture those special moments and reporters at various team sites for updates and analysis. So there’s a lot of content available to feed out to all of those platforms.”

Overall, is she happy with the way everything panned out with our NBA Playoffs schedule?

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ve got great stories to tell and we expect to see the momentum from the regular season carry over to the postseason.”

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