When it comes to the future of the industry, there’s nothing more important than investing in young talent. ESPN certainly takes that mantra to heart with its internship program. The company has approximately 100 interns per year, 50 in the summer and 25 in the fall and spring, spread out throughout the country. The programmer has internships available not just in production, but throughout the business in marketing, social media, programming and finance.
“The internship program has been part of ESPN culture and our foundation for many years, and I think a large part of the reason is we have a deep content relationship with colleges and universities,” Kristen McKenna, Senior Director, staffing for ESPN, tells Cablefax. “We’ve always been highly supportive of providing college students with the requisite skills they need.”
McKenna leads full-time recruitment efforts at ESPN, including efforts to convert interns to full-time employees. “For a little while we lost sight of that, and I would say for the past two to three years it’s really been a concerted effort for us to convert our interns,” McKenna explains. “We say it’s a 10-week audition, if someone’s here and they’re doing a great job, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be here full-time. We have enough entry-level hiring needs where they can be considered, and that is a driver for us and it’s a big consideration to be able to convert them full-time.”
Interns may not always end up in the same department they started in. Brad Ross began with a films internship and now is full-time in ESPN’s in-house creative team, Creative Works. “It was a great experience meeting the other interns and getting to live with them throughout the summer and experience everything I was doing along with the way,” Ross says. “I was an intern with ESPN Films, and obviously seeing all those ‘30 for 30’s and incredible features growing up as a kid, and then getting to work on them and get a firsthand look at all that experience is something I’ll never forget and something that helps me to this day.”
As part of The Walt Disney Company, ESPN interns are able to access not just ESPN resources but company-wide assets. “We offer them events throughout the internship experience to really help with their development,” says Amy Bennett, Disney’s senior recruiter, campus recruitment. “Outside of the work they’re doing day-to-day, we really want to make sure it’s a well-rounded experience for them. They’re part of the Walt Disney Company, they’re also able to virtually call in to events throughout the company and hear from leaders throughout the company.”
ESPN interns have a hands-on experience throughout the 10-week program, culminating in a summer competition called “The Pitch.” The competition allows interns to pitch senior leaders ideas that are often implemented within ESPN. “A lot of the time they form groups to do this, and typically they’re working on a pitch that’s outside of their day-to-day work,” says Bennett. “Ultimately they come and present this idea, they get to tap into the leaders within the departments and run the idea past them, get some insight, and ultimately they put all of this research together and present their ideas to our senior leaders. They’re the best and brightest, and we’re able to tap into their knowledge.”
– Mollie Cahillane