It’s a full-time job with new challenges every week to produce a sporting event on one network. Thanks to ESPN’s “BCS Megacast” undertaking announced this morning, the production crew for the VIZIO BCS National Championship – No. 1 Florida State versus No. 2 Auburn (Monday, Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET) – will have their responsibilities increased about six-fold. As part of the Megacast, ESPN will provide multiple live presentations of the game across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Radio, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line. ESPN.com and ESPN’s social media platforms also will provide game-specific content.
Ed Placey, the senior coordinating producer of ESPN’s college football coverage, is responsible for bringing the ideas to life. He took time out of the planning to speak with Front Row:
What is ESPN’s history with multi-platform coverage of one game?
We’ve been working on and tinkering with multi-screen coverage approaches for many years, such as the various Full Circle events we did in 2006. We’ve continued these concepts with second platform versions of games on Longhorn Network and ESPNU. Those left us wanting to do more, fine-tune the approaches and try new ones. This one will be the biggest multi-screen project we’ve done but one that will achieve so many concepts we’ve envisioned.
What has the planning process been like with so many moving parts and different variations?
It’s been a tremendous process because it’s explorative and collaborative in ways that only a few projects allow us on this scale. So many different departments have jumped in on this because of the opportunity to do things in ways they’ve not been done before. It’s energizing. The more enjoyable challenges are finding the best ways to maximize every resource. For example, we will have full-time isolated shots of both coaches that will serve six of the networks simultaneously and SpiderCam will serve three of the networks.
How will BCS Megacast benefit fans?
It will open them up to new ways of experiencing a game and provide an opportunity to sample new possibilities for how they consume a big event that might not have occurred to them. We have a first-rate traditional telecast leading the charge, which allows us to explore these new possibilities that would be hard to consider if it were the only manner to watch the game. This allows us to appeal to different tastes and to niche audiences who like non-traditional productions. Since its beginnings, TV has taught audiences how to view sporting events in different ways and that view has constantly evolved over the years. For example, the very first replays took some getting used to (in fact, there used to be a graphic over it that said “replay”), the first full-time mini-board, the first virtual first down marker, the first full-time bottom line . . . As viewers acclimated to new viewing experiences, they learned how to watch in new ways. This gives us the opportunity to explore the next steps in that evolution.
What would you consider a successful Megacast?
The main ESPN telecast is still the priority for us and will still be the standard by which our coverage is judged. We will not allow it to be impacted by BCS Megacast. If we have a great game on the field and nail it on that main coverage, then everything else is icing. But we do want to walk away learning from our various Megacast explorations for the benefit of future production approaches that may even become more traditional someday. We want to monitor viewer reaction and learn more about their experiences, then apply what we learn to future Megacasts.