Re-worked “Timber” from Pitbull puts bite into NBA Playoffs’ telecast open

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In this scene from the ESPN/ABC NBA broadcast open, rapper Pitbull (center, red jacket) appears with a variety of NBA stars. (ESPN)

The NBA Playoffs continue this weekend with seven games across ESPN’s family of networks. One common thread connecting ESPN’s coverage will be its special broadcast open, produced by senior coordinating producer Tim Corrigan and his team.

Each year, ESPN works with various recording artists to add star power to its broadcast open, and once again the team came through with a big “get”: Latin Grammy award winner and international recording artist Pitbull.

His hit song “Timber” was re-worked and re-imagined to serve as the theme to ABC’s and ESPN’s NBA Playoffs coverage. The crossover superstar is joined by several of the NBA’s elite, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Chris Paul, Joakim Noah and Stephen Curry.

Front Row had the opportunity to catch up with Corrigan to discuss the project:

How did the idea to pursue Pitbull for the NBA Playoffs broadcast open come together?
Executive Vice President, Production John Wildhack, Senior Vice President, Production Mark Gross and I were at a strategy meeting, off-site, with the NBA in New York several months ago. We discussed what we could do that would be welcoming to our Hispanic audience. One of Pitbull’s people was there on one of the panels and I grabbed him during the break. At the time, the song “Timber” was becoming huge. Pitbull crosses over with everybody. The song has a great hook, so visually, you could see it and feel it.

What was it like working with Pitbull on revising the lyrics?
We had Pitbull change the lyrics to make them apply to us and to the NBA Playoffs. Valerie Fischler [producer] was excellent on working with Pitbull’s team and helping him adjust the lyrics. What we’re doing is extending his hit [“Timber”]. It has turned out great for everybody.

What do we want ESPN viewers and NBA fans to take away from this broadcast open?
I think what you’re really looking for is for that viewer discovery – ‘Wow, these guys are all together and the playoffs are a big deal and they’re all amped up for it.’ Pitbull, the players, the images are supposed to sell you, the viewer, on the upcoming game.

What other ESPN personnel helped make this broadcast open happen?
Scott Duncan directed the piece. He’s directed the NBA Playoffs broadcast opens for the past couple of years – both last season’s will.i.am. and now Pitbull. He’s actually Tim Duncan’s brother. He’s a great guy and a really talented director. He and producer Valerie Fischler make a great team. Val and I have done this for a number of years and we work well together as a team. She understands the overall goal of what we’re trying to accomplish and Scott is a very visual guy who can coax the best out of people.

Mike Amoia edits the pieces with Val in New York. Mike’s a big part of our team and a very valuable guy. He understands the energy that we’re trying to get out of these pieces. He’s a really vital part of making this happen.

In what other ways has the company utilized the broadcast open?
What’s great is that both our domestic and our ESPN Deportes marketing folks are working with the piece as well. It’s been cool to spread one message throughout the company and have the whole team use that message and maximize it. When you hear “Timber” you should think ESPN/ABC and the NBA Playoffs.

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