First Take

Behind the scenes of First Take with
VP, Production, Marcia Keegan

Vice president of production Marcia Keegan on the set of First Take. (Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
Vice President, Production, Marcia Keegan on the set of First Take.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)


Front Row is taking employees behind the scenes of First Take through a series of interviews with key production personnel. Next up is Vice President, Production Marcia Keegan. In August, First Take experienced its best August viewership ever in terms of households, People 2+ viewers and the key adult demos. First Take is televised on ESPN2 weekdays at 10 a.m. ET. Molly Qerim is the host with debaters Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

How long have you been with ESPN?
I’ve had two different tenures here. The first time was in the early 1980’s and I was here for four years. I worked in Production and really enjoyed it. For a variety of reasons, however, I decided to pursue a different career.

So I went to law school (Cornell University) and came back to Connecticut to practice employment law. ESPN became a client and I worked closely with the Human Resources department, providing advice and counsel. In 2005, there was an opening in HR and I decided I’d had enough of law and wanted to try it. I was fortunate enough to get the job and was assigned to work as an HR generalist in (current) Executive Vice President, Production, Program Scheduling and Development Norby Williamson’s areas. About two years into that, a Production job became available working for him and he offered it to me. It’s been great.

What is your role with First Take?
I believe in letting good people do their jobs and I don’t think the staff needs me breathing down their necks and getting into the weeds. I make sure the show is produced with integrity and remains relevant, interesting and appealing to our fans. I check in almost daily with some of the staff and I meet regularly with our on-air people. Skip and Stephen A. are incredibly talented, and I like to check in with them periodically to make sure they understand how valued they are and how important it is that they continue with the energy, commitment and passion they have always shown. And with Molly recently joining us full-time, I meet to help her settle into her role and to make sure she’s comfortable and understands what we are looking for from her.

Molly was just named full-time moderator. What is the dynamic between her, Skip and Stephen A.?
Molly gets along wonderfully with Skip and Stephen A. She’s a tremendously hard worker and very knowledgeable about sports. Both Skip and Stephen A. respect her and enjoy working with her. The rest of the staff feels the same way.

August viewership and ratings were up across the board. Why?
It may sound simplistic, but we continue to provide strong, compelling television. And our fans recognize that. They are watching for longer periods of time and coming back on a more frequent basis.

What is the overall goal of the show?
To inform and entertain. We have an avid fan base and I never want them to be disappointed. We give them lively, informed debate and make them think. In most cases we provide two sides of an argument with strong facts to support both sides. We also entertain them. It is hard to watch Skip and Stephen A. debate and not get pulled in and root for one or the other.

What is the one thing you want people to know about the show?
That Skip and Stephen A. are genuine and authentic – in their opinions and as people.

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