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ESPN to test Bristol integration on 45 college basketball productions

Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman - November 14, 2014
Soccer play-by-play commentator/studio host Adrian Healey (l) and soccer analyst Taylor Twellman call a match in an ESPN voice-over booth. (Rich Arden/ESPN Images)
We have a new state-of-the-art facility and a commitment to the latest production innovations. Given those resources and the frequency and volume of college basketball, we are able to try something new.
– ESPN Vice President, Remote Operations,
Chris Calcinari

ESPN’s networks have featured thousands of college basketball games, dating back to the company’s first year. As ESPN begins its 36th season, the sport remains a pillar of the program schedule as more than 2700 games are planned across ESPN outlets, a record total.

With a backdrop of a changing landscape and rapidly evolving technology, ESPN plans to experiment with a small number of games by integrating production facilities, staff and resources from its Bristol, Conn. headquarters.

For approximately 45 of the 2700 games telecast this season starting with Stephen F. Austin at Memphis (Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNEWS), ESPN will supplement its on-site event presence with production support originating at ESPN.

The opening of ESPN’s new Digital Center 2 earlier this year helped pave the way for this opportunity.

“We have a new state-of-the-art facility and a commitment to the latest production innovations,” said ESPN Vice President, Remote Operations, Chris Calcinari. “Given those resources and the frequency and volume of college basketball, we are able to try something new.”

Isolating the available days for Bristol facilities played a key role in how the specific games were selected.

Of the actual specific plans, Calcinari noted, “For these select games, we plan to bring a smaller production truck to the event site with our standard complement of cameras, plus other equipment and operations personnel. The live individual camera and audio feeds will be sent back to ESPN in Bristol where a producer and director will be located, along with commentators who will call the action.”

Despite the changes behind the scenes, viewers should receive the same quality production level that they’ve come to expect from ESPN. In short, we will maintain a consistent level of quality in a more efficient way. – Dave Miller, ESPN senior coordinating producer

The upcoming college basketball productions will not be the first time ESPN has experimented with this type of approach.

“We have utilized Bristol-based facilities and staff in the event production process for soccer, tennis, X Games and international basketball, and have done so effectively,” said Dave Miller, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “We tested it on one college basketball game last season and it was a seamless experience.”

Like anything new, there are elements to this that will need added focus and result in learning opportunities along the way. For example, with some production staff and commentators off site, the pregame preparation will need some adjusting.

“A big part of our game planning focuses on research and talking to coaches, players and other key figures,” Miller added. “We will remain aggressive in reaching out to teams and individuals to ensure our team is properly prepared.”

According to Miller, the slightly more complex process comes with a very simple goal.

“Despite the changes behind the scenes, viewers should receive the same quality production level that they’ve come to expect from ESPN,” Miller said. “In short, we will maintain a consistent level of quality in a more efficient way.”

What will be the impact, short and long term?

“Efforts like this will allow us to reinvest in resources to make our overall productions bigger and better,” Miller said. “Innovation has always been a hallmark of ESPN.”

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