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ESPN’s Gymnastics Squad Sticks the Landing with Storytelling Enhancements Through Technology

ESPN's NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championship coverage this week in Texas will feature "score towers," which debuted earlier this season, inspired by auto racing storytelling

FORT WORTH, Texas – The spotlight on women’s sports across ESPN platforms has never been brighter. ESPN’s Gymnastics team viewed the intense glare as an opportunity to highlight the sport’s greatest stars and serve superfans while also looking toward audience expansion.

New leadership overseeing the sport’s production saw the chance to reach new fans who might not be able to follow multiple teams easily and to expand the technology behind ESPN’s storytelling to connect with emerging audiences.

“The biggest issue for me being the newest person on [gymnastics],” said ESPN Vice President, Production Kate Jackson, “was needing more data and information. The old gymnastics score bug only showed overall scores, and it was very hard to keep up with where we were in each rotation and what the lowest score was for each team.”

A cross-departmental, multi-year effort has been underway to build upon the fandom of the “gymternet” and inform supporters of other sports who might be tuning in for the first time.

Between the programming shift for the championship to ABC in 2021, apparatus feeds with commentators on ESPN+, and the championship reaching the million-viewer milestone last year, the chance to bring in new demographics to gymnastics has never been bigger – especially just weeks removed from some of the most-watched moments in women’s sports. For producer Cara Lagana, the prospect of building something new to inform viewers was exciting.

“Kate and I both came in with backgrounds in motorsports and immediately had a similar vision for what the new score bug could look like,” Lagana – who began producing the sport in 2020 – noted. “When working on IMSA [International Motor Sports Association], there were multiple classes on track at the same time. One of the ways we shared the leaders was to show the top few drivers in all classes on the scoring pylon. I knew it would be perfect for what we were trying to accomplish.”

Here’s an example of the scoring pylon approach on ESPNs coverage of IMSA racing. (ESPN)

The brainstorming for the quad meet score tower took a team of nearly 20 ESPN and Disney staffers. Several months, numerous iterations, multiple tests, and a handful of tweaks later, fans were treated to the debut of the score tower during ESPN’s presentation of conference championships on ESPNU, SEC Network and ACC Network.

The graphics showed every apparatus with the lineup for each team, allowing viewers to see the drama unfold in real-time and indicate the lowest score – which is dropped – and continually update the team scores at the very bottom.

Fans were treated to the debut of the score tower during ESPN’s presentation of conference championships on ESPNU, SEC Network and ACC Network. (ESPN/Illustration: Amanda Brooks/ESPN)

The response? A perfect 10.

Here’s a compilation of positive fan reaction to the score towers incorporated into ESPN’s gymanstics coverage. (From X/ESPN)

“It was a huge group effort with several smart people who were key to helping us get this done,” Jackson shared. “The graphics and internal technology teams were key to making this a success.”

“Kate gathered all the right people together to make it happen and the team absolutely nailed it,” Lagana added. “We’ve been so excited to see all the fan comments and hear from coaches about how much they like it.”

The score tower will be used in quad meets moving forward on ESPN’s linear platforms, including this weekend’s NCAA Championship on ABC, ESPN2, and ESPN+. This furthers ESPN’s strategy to innovate and inform viewers as the company’s commitment to women’s sports storytelling continues.


Kate Jackson
Lori Mancini
Cara Lagana
Dan McVan
Jenny Keagan
Bayley Zarrehparvar
Dawna Davis
Cam Norris
Justin Morris


Lisa Courtemanche
Kathy Rajcula
Dana Drezek
Isabel Bristol
Brian Bell
Mildred Ochoa-Reyes

Jeff Holdsworth
Joe Durante
William Gairing
Joe Sack

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jeff Holdsworth, a part of the Disney & ESPN Technology team who was instrumental in bringing this score tower to ESPN platforms, sadly passed away last week. He lent his incredible expertise and insight, all while going through his own health challenge. The senior software engineer was honored on air Thursday during ESPN’s presentation of the NCAA National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championship from Fort Worth, Texas (see video above).

Here’s another example of ESPN’s gymanastics scoring tower at work. (ESPN)
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