ARDMORE, Pa. — ESPN was the pioneer in the introduction of a multiscreen interactive presentation to supplement the standard television coverage of the U.S. Open golf championship. In ESPN’s ninth year at the national championship event, the extra coverage has become the standard for golf’s majors and has expanded to the tennis majors.
At the U.S. Open, ESPN is producing extra coverage of two featured groups as well as the 11th and 18th holes at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia. Part of the presentation appears on ESPN3 on the first two days of the event, in line with ESPN’s TV coverage, and on DIRECTV for all four days of competition. ESPN also produces coverage of another featured group that appears on USOpen.com.
Don Colantonio, senior director, production enhancements & interactive TV in ESPN’s Creative Services Group, oversees the project.
“We’re in a new era of second-screen experiences and viewer engagement,” Colantonio said. “We’re providing this for people who want more content to go with the network feed. Each year we try to advance what we’re doing, whether it involves adding social media, additional graphics or enhancements. We now have the capability to deploy Pro Tracer so we can do hole flyovers and ball tracking and we can pinpoint [ball] locations.”
In addition to making use of shots from the NBC and ESPN TV feed, the production has four dedicated wireless cameras to cover the groups on the course and hard-wired cameras at the 11th and 18th greens.
“We’re working in conjunction with the network crew on utilizing resources and leveraging a lot of the network talent, editorial strength and creative resources to create programs that are equivalent in production value to ESPN’s standards,” he said.
The production at the U.S. Open, and at next month’s Open Championship in Scotland, involves some people at ESPN who normally don’t work on golf telecasts. The same happens for tennis’ US and Australian Opens and Wimbledon, where Colantonio’s group also produces the extra coverage.
While the production is limited to two golf and three tennis events now, it could expand in the future.
“Golf and tennis are very conducive to it because there are multiple activities going on,” said Colantonio, who also oversees ESPN’s Video on Demand production. “We’re getting good response from viewers and we have some ideas for other applications. It’s all about serving the viewers.”
ESPN’s Trey Wingo is hosting the 11th and 18th hole coverage, with analysis from veteran PGA TOUR player David Duval. ESPN golf announcers Curtis Strange and Bill Kratzert also are joining the coverage at various times as is SportsCenter anchor John Anderson. Jim Kelly is hosting the featured group coverage with former major winner Tom Weiskopf as analyst and on-course reporter Mark Donaldson.