For a behind-the-scenes look at First Take, Front Row interviewed ESPN’s Justine DeLuco, director, Production & Events, who oversees strategy, planning and execution for all live events for Mike & Mike and First Take.
The current remote production is from the NBA Finals in Cleveland, Ohio, featuring added primetime First Take Special shows. First Take airs weekday mornings from 10 a.m. – noon on ESPN. Follow First Take on Twitter, Facebook or the Podcast for more updates and info.
How long have you been with ESPN and what has been your job progression?
This August, I’ll have been with ESPN for 17 years. My first job at ESPN was as a scheduling coordinator. Then I moved to Operations, then to the newly created Production Coordination unit as a production manager.
From there I went to Radio, which is where I first started working on Mike & Mike. My goal then was to elevate the live event presentation for their platform with a focus on creating on-site sponsorship opportunities. I returned to Studio Production last year to continue my role with Mike & Mike, and I was offered the opportunity to take on First Take, which I’ve enjoyed.
How difficult is planning an event like the Finals when the location (or multiple locations) isn’t known until just before the production?
The most challenging aspect is that you really don’t have the luxury of a sense of completion when planning for an unknown, multiple-city event. Like most things, your success boils down to how well you are prepared. I treat each location as a separate event, while keeping in mind the bigger picture strategy. I also create a timeline and try to stick to it. That’s when I can identify creative ways to share resources, identify cost savings and event efficiencies. All you can do is identify one thing to complete each day to keep the event plan flowing in the right direction.
What do you consider a successful remote production?
A successful event is one where the primary goals are met and positively measured. Goals can be defined as content, sponsorship, brand promotion and/or fan engagement opportunities. Identifying the goal of an event leads to good planning and assists in appropriate allocation for resources.
What do you enjoy most about remote productions with First Take?
Seeing the passion of the First Take fan base. They come out strong to live events!
The 2017 NBA Finals on ABC and the ESPN App continues with Game 3 on Wednesday, June 7, at 9 p.m. ET (coverage starting at 8:30 p.m.).