ESPN Vice President for Production, Ad Sales Integration and Management Operations Tina Thornton oversees the production of ESPN’s coverage of the 64-team NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship field. First-round action begins today across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, WatchESPN and ESPN FULL COURT. Front Row spoke with Thornton prior to tip-off of the women’s championship.
What do viewers have to look forward to this year on ESPN’s NCAA Championship coverage?
The arrival of the NCAA Championship brings fantastic stories each year. We’ll follow the “Pursuit of Perfection” by UConn & Notre Dame focusing on: When will one of them go down or will they face each other in the Championship? How often do we get to potentially showcase two undefeated teams in the title game of any sport? We’ll explore all of those questions in our telecasts.
We will also feature Tourney Snapshots; an espnW.com initiative curating social photos from the teams, fans and players participating in the tournament. Also, actress/musician Connie Britton from ABC’s Emmy-nominated show “Nashville” covered a Jason Aldean song called “The Only Way I Know.” The song will be paired with visual elements introduced throughout the tournament.
Besides overseeing production of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, you are also Vice President for Production Ad Sales Integration and Management Operations, how do you juggle both jobs?
I am fortunate enough to have extremely talented people who work with me in all these areas. When the Women’s Championship comes around, they keep me involved and informed but give me the time to focus on the sport. I can do this knowing that our business is in good hands.
What does your “other” job entail?
The areas are all very different. On the Ad Sales Integration side, my team works with production and sales to create integrated sponsor opportunities across all our shows and events. The management operation team is made up of the production management and business operations groups, and both establish the front lines of support in production.
In 20 years with the company, what has changed the most since you started?
The growth of ESPN in 20 years still amazes me. I started when we had two domestic networks and a few of buildings. I never imagined it turning into a campus that houses more than 4,000 employees.
Adding to that, what is it about ESPN that has kept you here for over 20 years?
ESPN has always been at the forefront of storytelling. We value new ideas, new technology and new businesses that allow us to share sports moments in different ways with our fans. That differentiation is what makes ESPN special.