Behind The Scenes

ESPN announces its Indy home for Super Bowl XLVI coverage

ESPN recently announced that Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indianapolis will be its production headquarters for Super Bowl XLVI.

Beginning with Mike & Mike in the Morning at 6 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 30 through the final Super Bowl postgame SportsCenter on Feb. 5, ESPN will present wall-to-wall daily coverage of the country’s biggest sporting event across TV, radio and other platforms.

Front Row catches up with senior coordinating producer Seth Markman, who oversees all of ESPN’s NFL studio shows, to learn more about the companywide production efforts in the Hoosier State that he is spearheading next month.

FR: When did ESPN’s Super Bowl planning start for Indianapolis?

SM: The process actually started a year and a half ago when we made our first visit. We subsequently made a handful of visits after that and spent a lot of time walking around the city looking at potential locations. Pan Am Plaza, which we selected, was one that jumped out at us.

We look for places where we can be in the center of the action and near the most people. We also look for scenics that provide a backdrop for our set that tell fans at home where we are. With Pan Am Plaza, we found both. We have Lucas Oil Stadium behind us, which is the first time I can recall having the stadium actually in our shot for Super Bowl. Also, we are in a square which is going to be a huge meeting place for the fans in Indianapolis, right in the heart of downtown.

FR: How different is planning for a Super Bowl in a cold weather city?

SM: It’s definitely different. We initially looked at some indoor locations. We never really found anything big enough that would allow fans to see our shows. That’s why we decided on an outdoor location. We’re actually going to glass-enclose our set for the comfort of our hosts and analysts throughout the week. Last year in Texas, we had some unexpected weather throughout the week. This year, we expect that Indianapolis will be cold and possibly have some precipitation. The glass will really help without affecting the look or the experience for the fans in Indianapolis or the viewers at home.

FR: This is your first year overseeing ESPN’s entire Super Bowl production. What has the process been like?

SM: I have been on our NFL property for more than a decade now so I’ve had the chance to learn from people like Bob Rauscher [now ESPN vice president, oversees NBA] and Stephanie Druley [now vice president of production, Longhorn Network], who did such a great job on Super Bowl. It has definitely changed for me now to be in the position of overseeing our production efforts for the week. There’s a lot that goes into getting ready — more than people realize.

We meet every couple of weeks as a big group to talk about our plans, and, since October, a smaller group of us has been communicating almost every day. You also have to build relationships. It’s not a situation of just saying, ‘this is where ESPN is going to be,’ and we put a flag down and that’s it. There’s a lot of coordination and discussion with the city, the host committee, and the NFL. The group in Indianapolis has been phenomenal. Interestingly, we already have a pretty good idea of where we will be for the Super Bowl in New Orleans in 2013. That’s how far in advance this process works.

Two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Parcells (l) with ESPN's Lydelle King (c) and Seth Markman (r).

FR: How much has changed in terms of the scope of ESPN’s Super Bowl coverage since you first started working on the event?
My first Super Bowl was exactly 10 years ago. We basically went on the air late in the afternoon or evening for segments on SportsCenter each day and then we got ready for Countdown on Sunday. Now, we start at 6 a.m. with Mike & Mike and we go all through the night with all the shows that didn’t exist then — whether it’s all the radio shows, SportsNation, NFL Live, NFL32. It’s just amazing the transformation that’s happened in a decade.

FR: What do you look forward to most about Super Bowl week?

SM: I love the energy that comes about Thursday of Super Bowl week. When we first get there and start our shows, it’s big in the city and the local fans get involved, but on Thursday there seems to be a huge change. The fans from each city get to town and the energy just ratchets up so much. By Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, it’s really special with the atmosphere and the crowds. The energy our guys get from all the people surrounding the set is just amazing.

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