PHOENIX – Tonight, ESPN’s Megacast returns for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T (ESPN with main feed, 8:30 p.m. ET) from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The traditional game telecast will air on ESPN, with 14 alternate productions available across networks (full list of viewing options).
Front Row sat down with senior coordinating producer Ed Placeythis weekend to learn how the Megacast concept has grown and changed going into its third consecutive college football championship game.
ESPN’s Megacast appears to have grown year-over-year – how do you decide what feeds to bring back?
A combination of things. Some of the offerings are works in progress, so what we learn from watching it play out in real time, we look forward to tweaking and making better the next time. It’s very much a laboratory for new production approaches which takes time to fully blossom (or wither in some cases). Ratings, digital consumption and social media feedback add to the picture.
In the end, we’re thrilled if people just watch the main ESPN production, but we know that viewers do like to wander at times and sample the other channels. When they do, it’s great to talk to them about their experiences and learn the extent to which their reactions were in line with our intentions.
Anything you’ve wanted to try for a past Megacast, but haven’t been able to do?
To be honest, just about everything we wanted to try thus far, we have been able to try. This year we got into serious discussions about five new ideas, and we ended up adding three of them. There are a few others that I’d say are still in the incubation stage that I’m sure we’ll be discussing further and could see one or two of them as early as next year.
The Megacast has created such a spirit of innovation internally that there is tremendous enthusiasm whenever Programming, Production, Operations, Digital, Creative Services and other departments begin to share ideas and possibilities.
Which of the 14 feeds are you most looking forward to?
Among the new offerings, two of them actually: Pylon Cam and Replay Booth. If nothing else, Pylon Cam will be a unique and visually stimulating experience never before seen on the same screen. The viewer can expect a bit of down time when the ball is in the middle of the field, but when the ball gets inside the red zone, or the offense is backed up inside the 5-yard line, it should be worth switching over to and checking out.
Replay Booth pulls back the curtain on what is largely an unknown and often misunderstood element of a football game. When they say every play is reviewed, viewers will see what that actually means. They will see and hear the depth to which the whole officiating process is observed and reviewed during a game.
What kind of preparation/rehearsal goes into some of the non-traditional feeds like Film Room and ESPN Voices?
We get asked that question by just about everyone who joins us in those productions and the answer is the same: come as you are, there is no preparation. We do a little rehearsal with the coaches in Film Room because we’ve taken their normal coaches clicker and added three more feeds to it, but beyond that, we want them to sit back and immerse themselves in the experience their own way.
Any concern that all of the feeds take away from the traditional game telecast?
We haven’t really worried about that. These are intended to be additive experiences, not in competition to the main broadcast.