Behind The Scenes

Travel around the world of sports in 14 hours via ESPN3, home to 86 live events Saturday

Inside the ESPN3 “nerve center,” ESPN Transmission.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

ESPN3 is gearing up for a long day tomorrow, delivering a total of 86 live events from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. ET — more than a third of which are exclusive to the live, multi-screen sports network.

That’s an average of more than six events per hour happening simultaneously, spanning 10 sports categories from more than 20 conferences being delivered live from around the world. On Saturday alone, sports fans will find:

College Sports: Championship Week men’s and women’s basketball, the Whitman’s Sampler Independence Classic for lacrosse, NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship, ACC Wrestling Championship, ECAC women’s hockey, regular season NCAA baseball and softball

International Soccer: Dutch Eredivisie, Liga MX and the Soweto Derby

Tennis: BNP Paribas Open

High School: Iowa Boy’s State Basketball Tournament

ESPN Transmission
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

And with access across multiple screens including computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox, fans will have no problem finding a way to tune into a live game on Saturday. Front Row went behind the scenes to the “nerve center” with Paul Gavalis, ESPN’s senior director, Digital Video Technology & Operations as the ESPN3 team prepares for the big day:

Can you take us through what you anticipate the day to be like on Saturday for you and your team?
Although we are on track to offer more than 5,500 live events this year, handling 86 live events in 24 hours is a significant effort involving teamwork, communication and a focus on the details from everyone involved. Working together with Programming, Remote Traffic, Production and Transmission, the WatchESPN Content Operations and Technical Operations teams are coordinating each event from start to finish.

The teams are monitoring the status of the event itself, the acquisition of the signal from site, ad insertion, encoding, publishing and distribution to fans’ computers, tablets, smartphones, and Xboxes. We also message users in our experiences and via social media of delays, schedule changes or other issues which impact our event schedule.

How many events can you accommodate at any given time and how does a network like ESPN3 do that?
Presently we are scaled to offer 30 simultaneous live events on ESPN3, four 24/7 linear networks — ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the Longhorn Network — and two ad-hoc networks: Goal Line and Buzzer Beater. Handling that volume of live content and maintaining quality simply comes down to people, technology, and the pursuit of improvement. Since the launch of ESPN3 in 2007, we have invested heavily in developing our organization around our mission to create the best live streaming sports experience.

More than a third of the events on Saturday are being carried live exclusively on ESPN3. What goes behind delivering those games to fans through ESPN3?
The exclusive games on ESPN3 are selected and produced to serve fans that would otherwise not be able to see their teams play. Once Programming makes its selections, ESPN’s Remote Production and Remote Operations teams make the necessary arrangements to cover the event and send the live video back to Bristol for inclusion on ESPN3.

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