Behind The Scenes

Fast Break: Bryan Burns on 2012 CES

This week, ESPN announced an ambitious but exciting slate of events to promote ESPN3D and WatchESPN at January’s annual International Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest consumer electronics tradeshow.

CES highlights the latest and greatest electronic products available to consumers.

Not surprisingly, ESPN 3D will be front and center during the event, which takes place at the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center.

To kick off the event, the network will host a special invitation-only 3D showing of ESPN 3D’s production of the Allstate BCS National Championship at the Las Vegas Hilton Theatre.

Later in the week, The Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio and SportsNation will air live from the ESPN 3D exhibit space in Las Vegas.

This marks the first ESPN studio show telecast in 3D. ESPN will also sponsor live boxing matches on the show floor, which will also be televised in 3D.

Bryan Burns

ESPN’s Bryan Burns, vice president of strategic business planning, and members of the 3D Operating Committee conceived of these creative new events to provide a powerful 3D experience at the conference.

Burns spoke to Front Row to explain how it all came together.

FR: ESPN’s been involved with CES in the past, but your team is taking big strides forward with this robust slate of events. Can you explain why you wanted to make a big splash at this time?

Burns: We actually didn’t plan to make a big splash initially. Traditionally, CES has taken place between Thursday and Sunday, but this year they changed the schedule to Tuesday through Friday. We noticed right away that we had a huge opportunity with the BCS championship game on Monday evening before CES to showcase one of our biggest events of the year on the ESPN 3D platform. There have been scores of meetings and dozens of people involved from across different departments on this project to make it something special for our company.

FR: ESPN’s exhibit space will feature a regulation boxing ring. Can you explain how you arrived at that decision?

Burns: We wanted to show the nearly 150,000 attendees at CES something that would bring the ESPN 3D experience to life. When you think of Las Vegas, boxing comes to mind right away. Our colleagues in programming including Doug Loughrey and Marc Kosienski quickly embraced the idea. It’s going to be the real deal – live, sanctioned boxing right on the show floor. The rest of our schedule was born of being economical. Because we were already bringing the truck to Las Vegas to shoot our boxing event on Thursday, we thought it would be efficient to televise Friday Night Fights at the Hard Rock Café just after the conference wraps up.

FR: ESPN is set to produce the first studio show in 3D at the event as well. How did that come together?

Burns: Again, we wanted to be efficient with our resources. With the truck in place on Wednesday, we started to wonder what we could do on Tuesday to allow attendees to experience the ESPN 3D experience firsthand. We approached SportsNation because it’s an aggressive, tech-savvy production and they embraced the idea.

FR: How does an event like CES allow ESPN to really showcase products to consumers?

Burns: In the content business, we understand that there is almost always a device between our content and the consumer. In almost every case, the fan uses a tablet, a television, a smart phone, a laptop, a radio — or some device to enjoy our content, with the exception of our magazine. When our people are engaged in discussions about new and exciting products, we can serve sports fans even better.

With products like ESPN 3D and WatchESPN, both of which will be demonstrated at our exhibit space, I truly believe that “seeing is believing.” Once sports fans experience the product, they have to have it. We continued to hear that the most requested tech zone at the upcoming CES is for 3D. To be in front of those that create, build and bring these products to the market at CES is critically important for us.

CES kicks off Monday, Jan. 9 at the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center.

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