One example of Kevin Stolworthy’s technology leadership can be found outside his office window, where construction is beginning on ESPN’s second digital center. “It will be 40% bigger than the original digital center, which is 120,000 square feet,” he says. And like the original, which broke new ground in HD production when it opened in 2004, it will again push the limits of technology by the time it opens in late 2013 or early 2014, Stolworthy notes.
“We are looking to make the first agnostic facility that can handle 1080p, potential 4K or even 8K,” he adds. “It is going to be much more IT-centric as far as moving large chunks of media around.”
Stolworthy has six key engineering and operational groups reporting to him and is responsible for a wide variety of technical operations at ESPN, including all content production and corporate information systems, broadcast technical facilities design and maintenance, on-air production software and enterprise software development, and content-transmission technology and operations.
But in many ways, he brings an even broader depth of experience to his work. Unlike many execs overseeing engineering and software teams, Stolworthy has extensive experience on the production and creative side.
He was a huge sports fan growing up on Long Island. He landed his first job at KLTV in Tyler, Texas. From there he moved through a series of station jobs directing sports shows and eventually landed at ESPN in 1991 as director of SportsCenter. He was promoted to coordinating director, and in 1994 became senior coordinating director.
In 1999 Stolworthy expanded his duties as VP of technical operations and creative services, where he first began reporting to Chuck Pagano, who is now ESPN’s CTO. “I’ve always worn two hats, creative and operational,” Stolworthy says. “I’ve always been the one who worked to figure out the creative needs and then communicate that to engineering and get it built.”
Over the years, that approach has gotten Stolworthy’s teams involved in a number of cutting-edge technology projects, including the construction of the fiber network that links ESPN operations around the world, the development of 3D production techniques and, more recently, experiments with 4K cameras and virtual technologies, just to name a few examples.
“One important thing we’re looking at is how we can produce more content at a more efficient scale,” Stolworthy says. “This is exciting, because there are a lot of sports you don’t see now because it is cost-prohibitive to produce them. We have a lot of rights deals with a lot of leagues, and we want to change the technology tools to allow us to make more of that content available.”
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