Behind The ScenesESPN TechnologyTennis

For Wimbledon encores on ABC, it’s a matter of good timing

ESPN in London, ABC in New York work in concert to present Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Championships in afternoon time slots

LONDON – Since ESPN acquired exclusivity for Wimbledon starting in 2012, three-hour encores of the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Championships have aired that day on ABC at 3 p.m. ET.

But here’s the thing. The Ladies’ match on Saturday likely will be shorter than the time slot. Perhaps (but the crew hopes not) much shorter.

And the Gentlemen’s match on Sunday could be longer than the time slot. Perhaps (but the crew hopes not) much longer.

That’s the tricky situation producer Brian Boyle and associate director Brian Fahey find themselves facing.

“It’s a different animal, for sure,” says Boyle, an ESPN employee since 2000 who returned to the tennis team this year. “That’s what’s exciting about every event, though. Everything I work on – college football and basketball, NBA Draft – is a different animal.

“Producers know you have to have a plan, but be willing to deviate from it,” he adds. “For the women’s telecast, we have to have a list of studio segments that we may or may not need to fill the time slot. For the men – “gentlemen as they say here – we could be editing out action we don’t need to tell the story of the match.”

Fahey will spend this weekend’s afternoons in constant communication with New York where the live match is being fed.

“The matches are fed live and my counterpart at ABC in New York and I map out the telecast by timing each segment, knowing we need approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes of content,” says Fahey, who has worked on ESPN events for 20 years including ABC’s Saturday Night College Football and the College Football National Championship.

“We know at least have an open, a review and a segment with the winner on the set,” he continues. “The top priority is making sure both sides are crystal clear and agree on the content and timing given the commercial load and local breaks.”

So when you watch the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Championship from London SW19 this weekend, know that when the first ball is in the air, people are already working on the encore . . . And on Sunday it might have started before the winner is determined.