ESPN's Jed Drake Discusses World Cup Logistics, Preparation, Plans For Brazil
ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake was in Brazil for Friday's '14 FIFA World Cup draw, overseeing the construction of the net's main set on Copacabana Beach and the build-out of its technical system at the Int'l Broadcast Center a few miles away. THE DAILY caught up with Drake earlier this week as he was traveling to Brazil to get an update on how ESPN's World Cup preparations are going.
Q: What were you hoping for from the World Cup draw?
Drake: There's one scenario that we played out where the U.S. ended up in a group with Switzerland, Cameroon and Greece. That's what I was hoping for. There was another scenario that we played out that had the U.S. with Brazil, Portugal and Russia. That's not quite as advantageous for us. We're hoping for great matchups at every opportunity, and we hope that the U.S. gets a favorable draw.
Q: Will Brazil be ready to host the World Cup?
Drake: How is Brazil in terms of its infrastructure, stadiums and transportation? I would say that it's going to be a big challenge. These are the same things that were asked about South Africa in 2010, and miraculously everything got done to everybody's relative satisfaction. I'm always concerned. The events of last week only heighten that concern. There are only so many things that we can control.
Q: How do your Brazil preparations compare to your South Africa preparations four years ago?
Drake: Our layout for this event is much more complicated than it was in 2010. In 2010, our entire operation was all at the IBC in Johannesburg. Soccer City was adjacent to that. This time around, we determined early on that because the IBC was basically in a big warehouse district, it was not in a place where you would want to host an event of this magnitude. We decided to go onto Copacabana Beach and found a location that is the most beautiful location to host any event that ESPN has ever done. We ended up separating the operation. The engine room is at the IBC, as is a lot of the infrastructure, media management and technical structure.
Q: How will your approach be different in Brazil?
Drake: The word that we used throughout 2010 was 'authentic.' We wanted our coverage of soccer, our coverage of the country, our utilization of storytelling and music to be authentic. We have not forgotten that term. At every turn this time, we are going to make sure that our presentation in Brazil is authentic. That could be in the hiring of a new group of announcers to augment those that will be returning. It could be our fascination, curiosity and desire to better understand the culture of this country. It could be about making sure that we cover soccer from a level that our soccer fans could appreciate.
Q: What changes should viewers expect?
Drake: We will be more integrated with ESPN International. They cover soccer 24 hours a day. We were not nearly as well connected as we should have been in 2010. They were off doing their own thing and we were off doing our own thing. In Brazil, we will be working side-by-side.
Q: What are you most excited about for this tournament?
Drake: What I enjoy most about this event is the challenge of the scope of it 12 venues, 32 teams and what it means to the world. I'm trying to capture that. This is very likely to be my last World Cup. The next time ESPN could acquire the rights would be in 2026. By then, I hope to be concentrating on bonefishing in the Bahamas.