How we make the game clear for ESPN

“Simple playing is the best,” said Johan Cruijff.
this also applies to software: the best software
does what it is supposed to do and is fast and clear.

Customer interview: ESPN (Fox Sports)
Sara de Waal, 20 april 2021 - Hilversum, The Netherlands

“Simple playing is the best,” said Johan Cruijff. Actually, this also applies to software: the best software does what it is supposed to do and is fast and clear.

Without unnecessary fuss. And that was exactly what ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) was looking for four years ago, when the sports channel was still called FOX Sports. What ESPN needed was a system in which you can easily create an interface for all employees, with all the necessary information being displayed at the click of a button.

FileMaker klant interview
  • FileMaker Pro on Macbook

    "Software must adapt to the company, With the FileMaker platform we can tailor a package of apps that we can allow to grow with the wishes of the customer, that is essential."

    Willem-Jan Kempen
    Product Owner ESPN & Founding Partner
    Kempen Automatisering 

Clogged mailboxes and misunderstandings

“Up until mid-2017, we used countless Excel sheets for sharing information: a separate sheet for the timetables, a separate document for satellite connections, a separate email with broadcast instructions, it resulted in a complete mess,” says Vincent Burgers, Broadcast Operations & Facility Manager Sports at ESPN.

“All those files caused a clogged mailbox, a lack of overview and the circulation of wrong versions of schedules for many people. People could also not quickly see where they needed to be, without opening all kinds of emails and folders.

We run a 24/7 operation and television does not wait, so it is essential that you have your information in order. You don't have time to dig through your mailbox or find where that sheet of instructions is. What we were looking for was one overarching system with which everyone has access to the correct, up-to-date information. I heard FileMaker was a useful platform for this, so I went online to find a software developer specializing in FileMaker. Kempen Automatisering [Automation] appeared at the very top of the list. The company appealed to us, so we invited them for an interview.”

FileMaker Pro on Macbook

  • FileMaker Pro on Macbook

    "The opportunity for growth turned out to be of great added value for ESPN."

    Vincent Burgers
    Broadcast Operations & Facility Manager Sports ESPN.
FileMaker Pro on Macbook

Software must adapt to the company

Why has Kempen Automatisering specialized in FileMaker? “With this platform we can tailor a package of apps that we can allow to grow with the wishes of the customer,” explains founder Willem-Jan Kempen. “That is essential.

We believe that the software should adapt to the company, not the company to the software.” The opportunity for growth turned out to be of great added value for ESPN. Vincent explains: “Four years ago, our wish was to simply be able to make a clear schedule for final directors, so Kempen built that module for us at the time. Over the years, however, our additional wishes were realized, such as the Connections, Broadcast Reports, Incidents Reports and Daily Info modules.

For instance, the small system has slowly been rolled out into a large system in which all apps are linked.” Robert van Heusden, Project Coordinator at ESPN, outlines how this works in practice: “If one of our Operators is on an Eredivisie [Dutch Soccer Premier League] service, all the information is available linked, from reports to manuals, satellite data, telephone numbers and email addresses. In the event of incidents, he can use another module to generate a report. We receive the general reports on the broadcasts of the last 8 hours three times a day.”

Smooth and fast service provision

In 2017, ESPN started with one FileMaker portal for the final direction of ESPN (at the time FOX Sports) in Hilversum. Six months ago, a second portal was added for the ESPN office in Amsterdam, the portal for the so-called Talents: the voices and faces on television. “The planners and field producers use this new portal to schedule our presenters, commentators and analysts, such as Hélène Hendriks, Toine van Peperstraten or Ronald de Boer,” says Robert.

“They can check for themselves when they need to be where through the web application of this portal. As with all software, things can go wrong. Recently, the names of the people who had already been removed 'got stuck' on the schedule. Not a disaster, but the other way around: suppose a director who should have been there does not appear: the consequences would have been major. Fortunately, Kempen has solved the problem very quickly. Since the show must always go on, we have an excellent service agreement with Kempen: if something does not work, it will be resolved immediately the same day - even during the weekend.

In addition, we have a subscription for the further development of our software, so that the apps always meet our current wishes. That works really well: if we ask for something, it can often be arranged the following week. That is often different with other developers. The contact with Willem-Jan is in any case very pleasant and flexible, we have intensive contact and he takes the time to collaborate with us. So, a great choice for a dynamic company like ours!”

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