Scott Pentoney’s first job at ESPN was a simple one — watch television. All the time.
That’s right, Pentoney was paid to watch ESPN programs. His job, as a program screener, was to watch live programs for sections that could be cut when the program was aired again on tape at a later time. He was also listening for obscenities and anything else that needed to be cut out before the program was aired again.
“If you were a big sports fan like I am, it’s great,” Pentoney says. “I got paid to watch TV, and you were sort of the last eyes and ears for the ESPN network. It never got monotonous for me.”
Pentoney, a 1996 graduate of NC State, knew when he started college that he wanted a career in sports television. And the mecca of sports television, for Pentoney, was ESPN. It didn’t take long for him to get there.
Pentoney started at ESPN in October 1997 and, after his stint as a program screener, became the manager of a group of program screeners. That led to a position overseeing a group that worked on closed captioning and eventually to his position today as associate director of media technologies for ESPN.
Each new role presented new challenges. Pentoney knew little about closed captioning before it became part of his job, but he quickly embraced the power of the technology to expand the reach of ESPN programming.
“It turned into something that was more than just a job,” he says. “It was more important than that. We have great content, and we want it to be accessible to all sports fans, not just hearing sports fans. It is sort of a cause near and dear to my heart. I want everybody to be able to access that content, even if you are deaf or hard of hearing.”
Pentoney also became active with an employee group at ESPN that works on disability matters within the company. “We’re here to support and serve the employees that may have a disability,” he says.
In his current role, Pentoney oversees a content planning team of 17 people that handles closed captioning as well as the delivery of taped shows and segments from the producer to ESPN’s master control. They make sure the producer works within ESPN’s production guidelines and delivers the content on schedule.
“The biggest challenge is just keeping track of all that information,” says Pentoney, who handles programs for ESPN’s 15 networks.
Pentoney has also had the opportunity, over the last six years, to work with a group of other ESPN employees to help make the week leading up to tomorrow’s Jimmy V Basketeball Classic (featuring NC State vs. UConn) a special tribute to Jim Valvano and the V Foundation’s efforts to raise money for cancer research. Jimmy V Week kicked off last Tuesday with what Pentoney calls a “road block” — a 7 p.m. airing on all ESPN networks of Valvano’s memorable speech at the ESPY awards in 1993.
“At 7 p.m., wherever you went on ESPN, you would have seen the speech,” Pentoney says. “One of the privileges I get is making that a reality.”
Pentoney says he thinks he is the only NC State alum on the group at ESPN that works on Jimmy V Week.
“It’s special that there’s that connection with NC State and Jim Valvano,” he says. “But more importantly, it’s not just about that. What’s really special is that I get to do something to help find a cure for this dreaded disease that affects way too many people.
“It’s fun, but at the same time it’s so important. If I can just help in some small way, with ESPN and the V Foundation, to raise money to help find a cure, that’s really what it’s all about.”