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How Kris Budden Balances Life as a Mom and an ESPN Reporter

Thanks to immense talent and a strong work ethic, Kris Budden leans into every aspect of her life, from her job at ESPN to her role at home.

Bailey Knecht



Kris Budden - ESPN - Sports

Photo credit: Kris Budden

This November, college football fans were treated to an epic seven-overtime game between LSU and Texas A&M, and ESPN’s Kris Budden was on sideline duty for all four hours and 53 minutes of it.

There was an added catch, though — she was nearly six months into her pregnancy with her second child at that time. On top of being on her feet for hours, she had to be surrounded by four security guards as fans rushed the field after the game.

Despite the extra obstacles that come with working in the sports industry while pregnant, Budden hasn’t missed a step.

“She’s been comfortable with traveling and preparing each week,” said Steve Ackels, coordinating producer at ESPN. “She hasn’t skipped a beat with her preparation. She’s been on top of getting her storylines and her in-game interviews.”

“One of the hardest things about being pregnant is sometimes what I pack on Wednesday for the weekend no longer fits by the time I have to wear it a few days later,” Budden added with a laugh. “I have to bring three outfits because I’m wondering if I’ll fit in what I brought.”

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Budden hasn’t always been this open about her pregnancy journey. Although she has spent much of her professional life in front of the camera, Budden kept her first pregnancy under wraps back in 2015, while she was with FOX Sports San Diego.

“I think there is an image — whether I put that expectation on myself or not — that people have of women in sports,” she said. “They’re supposed to be young, beautiful and thin, and when you’re pregnant, you feel anything but that. I thought my pregnancy would change people’s perception of me… Pregnancy is a very personal thing, with your health and your family, and you live your life in the public so much that part of me wanted to keep that between me and my husband.”

Beyond public perception, she was concerned about how her pregnancy might affect her ability to do her job.

“I also had a fear of how that would change my career — not just the beauty and age aspect, but before, when I had to travel, I could just pick up my suitcase and go,” she said. “Now I’d have to get a babysitter and plan everything.”

Budden and her husband then moved to Los Angeles and, having finished out the college football season with FOX, she found herself between jobs and concerned that companies wouldn’t want to hire a new mom.

That’s where ESPN came in, where she was hired just a few weeks after her son was born.

“I wondered, ‘How would management see my priorities changing? Would that hurt me?’” she said. “I came to the realization with ESPN that that couldn’t be farther from the truth… I realized my fears were maybe more insecurities I had with myself. The people that make decisions care more about the talent than anything.”

Ackels explained that ESPN makes it a point to not only encourage its employees to lead lives outside of work, but to support them in their endeavors.

“It’s extremely important that we have that work-life balance, whether you’re male, female, married or not, with or without kids,” he said. “We’re very sensitive to that, and we try to take care of their needs and help with preparation.”

Despite the flexibility and backing of ESPN, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Budden and her husband, who had his own busy schedule as a tennis coach at Pepperdine.

“For the first year of our son’s life, if my husband was out of town recruiting or for a match, I would bring my son on a flight where we would have a layover in DSW,” she said. “I’d drop him off on the other side of TSA with my parents and then make the flight to my game and pick him up on the way back. It was basically impossible.”

Budden and her husband later moved to Dallas to be closer to family, but the struggles continued, as she had a miscarriage while she was headed to an assignment.

But despite dealing with her first pregnancy and her miscarriage in private, Budden has since begun documenting her experiences on her personal blog.

“With my miscarriage, I felt like I had a platform to share my experience and help people,” she said. “When I went through my miscarriage, I knew one person who also had one that I could lean on. But then, I was open with it, and I realized how many other women go through it, and you would never know. It made me want to talk about it more.”

“There are other women that have been vocal about it too, like Sara Walsh, and it helps women who think they’re all alone, and men as well,” she added. “It’s a different experience for the woman as for the man, but I think knowing there are other people going through what you are is the reason I wanted to get it out there.”

Sharing her experiences hasn’t just helped her cope — now that she’s pregnant again, Budden has been more open about it than ever before. She is expecting a baby girl in March, and she feels as though it’s helped her connect with both viewers and interview subjects.

“I realized how much more relatable I am to coaches and players,” she said. “They ask about my son, and I ask coaches about their families. I work with all men, and all of them have families, so to talk about our kids, there’s a level of respect for how you’re all juggling all of this. There’s an extra level of respect that you’re able to still have a career and build that and be a mom.”

“A lot of women watching have been where you are, and they understand, and you’re a little more relatable to them,” she added.

That doesn’t mean this pregnancy has been easy for her. She still grapples with the expectations that come with being a woman in the television industry.

READ MORE: WNBA Star Sue Bird Makes Leap to NBA Front Office 

“Some people may feel beautiful while pregnant — I’m not one of those people,” she said. “It’s something I constantly manage. Do I wear an oversized coat or something tight that shows that I’m pregnant? There’s a stigma in this job to always look and feel the best, and social media has made that tougher.”

She’s also had to come to terms with the difficult balance of working while raising a child.

“The thing I learned through having a son and a career is that before you have kids, you can give 100 percent to your job,” she said. “With both, you have to manage that, and you constantly feel like you’re letting one part of your life down, whether it’s your job or your family. I’m used to giving everything that I have, and you have to be okay with saying, ‘This is all I have.’ You can’t be there for every moment.”

With that sense of acceptance, Budden plans to lean into every aspect of her life, from her job at ESPN to her role at home.

“I want to stay at ESPN and keep doing more games, bigger events, and still manage my family life,” she said. “I would love to write a children’s book one day. It’s been a goal of mine, especially as I’m having a daughter, and being in this male-dominated industry. I never thought, ‘I want to retire and be a stay-at-home mom.’ I want to show my daughter what women can do.”

Bailey Knecht is a Northeastern University graduate and has worked for New Balance, the Boston Bruins and the Northeastern and UMass Lowell athletic departments. She covers media and marketing for Front Office Sports, with an emphasis on women's sports and basketball. She can be contacted at


What CBS Sports HQ Hopes to Accomplish During Super Bowl Week in Atlanta

CBS Sports HQ will be on the ground in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII with more than 30 hours of live streaming content during the week.




Photo via CBS

CBS Sports HQ begins a massive stretch of streaming Super Bowl coverage next week.

With a variety of on-site programming in Atlanta, the event offers CBS Sports HQ the ability to effectively launch its second year with a major hook — and test out on-site programming. CBS Sports HQ is the company’s 24/7 streaming sports news network, available for free across a variety of digital platforms.

“This is the biggest investment in any event we have made,” said Jeff Gerttula, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Sports Digital. “CBS Sports HQ has tools we haven’t had in the past, and it’s exposure for a great product that fits a need for more fans. It’s a great showcase for us and shows everything we have across the board.”

Starting Monday, January 28, CBS Sports HQ will air more than 30 hours of live programming from Atlanta leading up to the game. Its daily morning show, “Kanell and Bell,” hosted by Danny Kanell and Raja Bell, will be on site each day. “Pick 6 Rundown” brings to life a podcast Monday through Friday, and “Reiter’s Block” will air each day from Radio Row.

Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, CBS Sports HQ will show 10 hours of pregame coverage — and following the game, a live postgame show will air.

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Gerttula said the network knows the fans want the hours of extra programming around the year’s largest sporting event, so with the newfound ability to offer it to viewers, it’s a no-brainer to capitalize on the access and production ability on the ground in Atlanta.

The programming, for the most part, doesn’t deviate from the standard weekly programming on CBS Sports HQ, but it does provide an inside look at the week in Atlanta and offers more brand awareness at the event while engaging more people.

The Super Bowl itself will be streamed across platforms, including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku.

“We’re able to reach more fans on televisions,” Gerttula said. “The cord-cutting audience can access something that’s free and easy to consume.”

Along with spreading the product further, CBS Sports HQ also gives the network an ability to produce more and better digital content than in the past. A 24/7 streaming network helps give the network’s sports programming an additional outlet for content when in the past it was limited to TV and radio allowed times.

The Super Bowl week coverage will kick off another year — it launched Feb. 28, 2018 — of learning for the young streaming network, Gerttula said. Logistically, this week the network will seem normal on the stream, but massive operations-team execution will be happening in Atlanta, setting up for what essentially is a test of future capabilities.

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“This is the first chance for us to flex operational muscles and produce things we couldn’t have done three years ago,” Gerttula said. “The beauty of this space is we’re always learning and experimenting. The data is real time. So when we have ideas, we can test them and we see the results.

“We’re going to learn a lot in year two, starting with the Super Bowl.”

Gerttula said the week in Atlanta will potentially be something they extend to other major sporting events, but how often is to be determined.

“We’ll be opportunistic,” he said. “We want to play to our strengths where we feel we can do something unique. It’s not something we’ll do all the time, but where we have an opportunity and can take advantage of it.”

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Saturday Nights Evolving Into Marquee NBA Night for ESPN and ABC

ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

Bailey Knecht




Image via ESPN Media Zone

Back for its fourth season, ESPN’s NBA Saturday Primetime will premiere this Saturday on ABC with a matchup between two of the league’s flashiest franchises in the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.

“I think you’re going to see a great presentation of NBA basketball from a production standpoint, and from a standpoint of the best the NBA has to offer, in terms of teams and players,” said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisitions at ESPN. “It really encapsulates everything that’s great about the NBA.”

The series will continue throughout the rest of the season, with a marquee matchup on ABC each Saturday. This week, the Rockets and Lakers face off with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Lisa Salters leading the broadcast crew.

“The league itself does great job collaborating with us and working on the schedule,” White said. “If anything, in terms of the way the league works with us, it’s that we’ve been able to make sure we put a good product forth for our viewers and fans.”

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Saturday will also feature a matinee version of NBA Saturday Primetime with a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, called by Mark Jones, Hubie Brown and Israel Gutierrez.

“You never know what’s going to happen that far out, but what you can probably say is that some of the teams you see on Saturday nights will be the teams in contention, and will be the teams — in all likelihood — vying once we get to the playoffs,” White said.

The usual NBA Countdown crew of Michelle Beadle, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Jalen Rose will hold down the fort during pregame and halftime each night.

Despite this Saturday being the first broadcast of NBA Saturday Primetime this season, White said that the ESPN team is in full swing, from its producers to its broadcasters.

“It’s not practice for us,” he said. “These are real, live games, and although the Finals is the culmination of everything, our guys already have their chemistry down, from Mark Jackson, Mike Breen, Lisa Salters, Doris Burke—they’ve all worked together for a number of years.”

Between the NFL’s Monday Night Football and MLB’s Sunday Night Baseball, certain days of the week have essentially become synonymous with big-time matchups in other professional leagues. Though NBA games receive high ratings when they are broadcast on the popular networks like ESPN, ABC and TNT, there hasn’t traditionally been one major matchup of the week like in the NFL and MLB.

That’s why, as White explained, ESPN has made it a goal to turn Saturday night into the primary must-watch time slot for NBA fans.

“Definitely, from our standpoint, this is our marquee night of the week, and we treat it as such,” he said. “We do put some additional bells and whistles on it, so it does stand out a little bit from a presentation standpoint.”

So far this season, ESPN and ABC have been a powerhouse pairing during NBA broadcasts, with ABC averaging 7,100,000 viewers (up five percent from last season) and ESPN averaging 1,761,000 viewers. Although ESPN’s numbers are down 4 percent from last season, the network has seen a seven percent increase from two years prior at this time of the year.

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“We’re all part of the Walt Disney company, so we work very much in tandem with our ABC stations,” White said. “It’s pretty seamless, and we’ve been doing it for so long together… We’ve learned that people will tune in, and people will come for big-time matchups, and that Saturday night is a great platform to present that to fans.”

Although it’s yet to be determined what the final viewership numbers will look like at the end of this season, ESPN’s increased emphasis on NBA Saturday Primetime — paired with the NBA’s drama-filled season thus far — appears to be the formula for successful ratings.

“We’re bullish on this year and the NBA overall,” White said. “It’s a very healthy league, and it’s popular with the fans and all demos. We think, for this year in particular, it’s an exciting year. There’s been great drama that gets played out. It’s like a gift that you unwrap all season long to find out who will be there at the end.”

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Executives Believe Golf’s ‘First-and-10 Line’ Can Help Build the Sport

NBC Sports and Topgolf are banking on growing the sport of golf, both in viewership and participation, with the Toptracer ball-tracking technology.




Photo via Toptracer

NBC Sports Group’s use of Toptracer tech could help attract fans to golf and demonstrate the broader application of the tech to lower the barrier of entry to the game.

NBC Sports and Topgolf Entertainment Group, the parent company of Toptracer, announced a partnership this week to include the tracking technology on PGA tour telecasts this season.

“Topgolf and NBC Sports are two companies focused on technical innovation across the golf industry,” said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports Group. “This forward-thinking partnership allows us to combine our strengths to modernize how fans engage with golf.

“We’re thrilled to expand our partnership for high-quality PGA Tour coverage, but we’re equally excited to showcase technology like Toptracer Range for golf courses to help evolve the golf experience for the future and bring new fans to the sport.”

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The Toptracer ball-tracking technology will be on all of NBC Sports PGA Tour golf telecasts, starting with the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which tees off on Jan. 31. The ball tracking will be viewed on either live video or NBC Virtual Follow, which traces the ball’s trajectory over a graphic of the hole.

Rather than just a white ball in the air, the Toptracer tech provides 3D flight data analytics, including ball speed, apex, curve and carry. Topgolf acquired and rebranded Protracer is 2016.

Toptracer President Ben Sharpe said he’s excited the potential the partnership brings to fans watching a golf broadcast and equated it to football’s introduction of the First-and-10 line.

“When it started, it was [Founder Daniel Forsgren] watching and seeing the ball in the air, but didn’t know if it’s fading or drawing,” Sharpe said. “He was trying to find a way to show information for golf fans of all knowledge levels to appreciate.”

Sharpe previously worked at TaylorMade Golf Company, including a stint as CEO, until 2015 and joined Toptracer in 2018, despite not looking to get back into golf. He said he saw the opportunity of the technology to grow the game, which he loves and is now having the “most fun ever” in his career.

The partnership’s announcement also mentioned the potential of future content development initiatives.

What Sharpe is potentially most excited about is the partnership’s ability to help commercialize the Toptracer technology beyond the Topgolf locations — which see 18 million people annually. He said the partnership will accelerate the technology’s implementation at golf courses and driving ranges, opening up access to the game.

NBC Sport’s Golf division includes GolfNow, an online tee time and booking platform, which is now the official sales partner for Toptracer Range, the consumer-facing product for golf facilities.

“We’re in the business of helping our golf course partners leverage these new concepts to attract more golfers to their facilities and build their businesses,” said Will McIntosh, executive vice president of strategy for golf at NBC Sports. “Toptracer Range is a perfect example and we’re looking forward to showcasing this new technology to our partners around the world.”

READ MORE: Why Mastercard Holders Will Soon Get Unique Benefits From Topgolf

The Toptracer Range places a camera on the bays, with in-bay monitors, which provide similar data seen on the broadcasts. The data can then be tracked through different sessions on the company’s mobile app.

The technology at a driving range can open up virtual games, such as longest drive and closest to the pin competitions and virtual golf courses.

“We’re all consuming more media through digital form now and what we can do is digitize the game and bring it to a much wider demographic,” Sharpe said. “In an industry that people say participation is down because it takes too long or is too hard, we want to get people back in.

“We’re creating a leisure activity where family and friends can have an enjoyable experience on a range, when they used to be for middle-aged males.”

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