Last week, Ed Placey was named to the role of content innovation lead across ESPN’s Event and Studio Production group. Placey is charged with pushing advancements that will enhance the on-screen presentation for sports fans, on both traditional telecasts and multi-screen platforms. He will report to ESPN Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production, Stephanie Druley, and will closely collaborate with ESPN’s remote operations, creative services, production technology, studio operations and programming teams among others.
Placey, who has served as coordinating producer for ESPN’s college football coverage since 2002, will maintain his oversight of that sport. Among the innovations that were introduced under Placey’s leadership are Pylon Cam, Ref Cam, various features within the on-screen scoreboard that have become staples of sports coverage, and the Emmy Award-winning College Football Playoff MegaCast.
Placey shared the following thoughts:
What are your guiding principles to determine if an idea is worth implementing?
Will it have enduring impact or is it just a short-term play? We’ll continue to focus on ideas that will have longevity and ultimately could have a tangible effect on how a sport is covered for years to come.
What learnings have you taken from your past innovation hits and misses?
Innovation takes time, plus trial and error. It’s important to have safe playgrounds to explore new possibilities boldly. ESPN3 and our other digital platforms have been ideal laboratories for us to evolve new approaches.
Why is collaboration across sport categories such an important element of ESPN's content innovation plans?
We are always looking for great ideas developed in one sport to migrate successfully to other sports. Once you know you have a breakthrough technology or approach, the next thing you begin to focus on is where else can we take advantage of it. Sometimes it has even greater impact in sports other than where it originated.
How/why has the MegaCast particularly become a technological playground for your team?
To have an event big enough that can support the number of viewing options we present is invaluable. We had 14 unique productions of this year’s National Championship game. We can roll out the different production approaches side-by-side to get feedback and reaction simultaneously and in real time. It allows us to expand the reaches of our imaginations because we’re comfortable making room for any idea we have. This year’s Blimpcast was an example of that. We’ve talked about it the last two years, and finally worked out the challenges to get it done. The payoff comes when a new approach connects with audiences enough that we want to do it in more places, even outside the National Championship game. A number of productions that started in the MegaCast we now incorporate on big games during the regular season (Command Center, Skycam, Film Room).
What will be your philosophy going forward as you approach this role?
We will focus on what is productive and functional over time, not just what looks cool in the moment. Even the coolest of things stop looking cool after you’ve watched them for a while. It needs to accomplish something productive and meaningful once the coolness factor goes away.
Emily Archacki produced the “CFB Championship MegaCast 2019” & “Ed Placey CFP MegaCast Team Thank You” videos.