A man with a plan for remote ops: ESPN’s Claude Phipps

Claude Phipps is no stranger to International productions.
Claude Phipps is no stranger to International productions. (Catherine Steenkeste/ESPN Images)

ESPN senior remote operations specialist Claude Phipps lives by one maxim: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” No instructional axiom in life has been more apt for Phipps’s responsibilities at ESPN.

Since debuting as one of ESPN’s lead production operations reps at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Phipps has overseen operations at a bevy of top-tier international soccer events – helming technical operations for all marquee soccer events on ESPN since the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Shanghai, China.

The Bronx, N.Y., native has parlayed his soccer experience into other events – 2012 Summer Olympics and 2015 Pan American Games. After UEFA EURO 2016 this weekend, Phipps will head to Rio de Janeiro to oversee operations for ESPN Deportes and ESPN International’s presentation of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Phipps spoke with Front Row about his job and EURO 2016.

In simple terms, explain what you do?
I organize all the operational and technical aspects of the event. I work very closely with the production crew to get what they need to make the telecast special. That would include working with vendors, scouting out host set locations and developing the process of getting the production crews to work at the remote event location.

What are the unique challenges of each event and location?
One unique challenge is culture. For example, the culture in Germany is quite different than the culture you find in Brazil. Another is the way work is done, and the facilities available to use. When we did the Women’s World Cup in Germany (2011), we had tons of vendors that were experienced producing European soccer. In Brazil, that choice was much different. Between culture, language, the way people do work and the facilities available in-country, these are the things that impact me the most.

We’ve been fortunate finding great people everywhere we go. In Brazil, I work very closely with ESPN Brasil colleagues. They are a huge asset to us, moreso, with the upcoming summer Olympics.

How challenging was the flooding at the Paris host-set location for EURO 2016?
The first challenge was figuring out how to manage the timeframe for building out our flooded host-set production facilities while searching for a location with basic infrastructure to serve as our alternate set.

Afterwards, we began a delicate balancing act since the same personnel and equipment was being used to simultaneously build out our primary set after the floods, while our alternate set was still on air.

International sporting events Claude Phipps has overseen

2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Shanghai, China
UEFA EURO 2008 – Vienna
2009 FIFA Confederations Cup – Johannesburg, South Africa
2010 FIFA World Cup – Johannesburg, South Africa
2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Germany
2011 Pan Am Games – Guadalajara, Mexico
UEFA EURO 2012 – Warsaw
2012 Summer Olympics – London
2013 FIFA Confederations Cup – Belo Horizonte, Brazil
2014 FIFA World Cup – Rio de Janeiro
2015 Pan Am Games – Toronto