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Visual History Dating Back Decades Traces ESPN’s Leadership In Alternative Productions/MegaCasts

Today’s news serves as the latest example of a fan-friendly second screen experience -- this time for a golf event as part of ESPN's new multi-year agreement with Omaha Productions

Innovation, technical achievement and a hyper focus on serving fans have always been at the heart of ESPN’s success, with today’s news of ESPN’s alternative production announcement with Omaha Productions being the latest example. There are countless other examples of ESPN breaking new ground by mixing creative ideas with emerging technology to meet the ever-changing interests of sports enthusiasts. Perhaps the best example to illustrate this inventive spirit has been ESPN’s creation, development and evolution of the alternative production concept and MegaCast executions, where multiple viewing options are presented for a single event or program. Below is a visual timeline that highlights ESPN’s history, key dates and  important moments that tell the story of this impactful category of industry-driving innovation. (EDITOR’S NOTE: If you click on the story headlines or press releases throughout the post, you will be directed to those specific stories or releases.)

In June 2016, MEGACAST became a registered trademark of ESPN, Inc.
Sept 18, 1994

ESPN2 was launched October 1, 1993, thereby providing ESPN’s first 24-hour companion television network and a true second-screen opportunity. The first sample of an alternative side-by-side production came in 1994, less than a year after ESPN2 launched.  ESPN televised a traditional production of an IndyCar race, while ESPN2 presented an all in-car feed with mostly natural sound and little commentary. Utilizing multiple ESPN platforms for different feeds of the same event would become a hallmark in the years ahead.

June 30, 2003

In a creative studio twist, while ESPN2 televised its flagship news and information show, SportsCenter, ESPN showcased a behind-the-scenes, all-access program focusing on the live creation of that very SportsCenter. ESPN would bring back the all-access SportsCenter concept in later years, including an alternate presentation in 2004 and a stand-alone show in 2018.

August 27 & 28, 2004

On back-to-back nights in 2004, ESPN2 provided all-access shows centering around the making of SportsCenter (Aug. 27) followed by a college football game (Aug. 28), while ESPN simultaneously offered traditional feeds of each.

March 4, 2006

This marked the first of what would become an ESPN staple – utilizing a collection of existing platforms to present the same event in different ways. The initial branding for this concept was unveiled as “ESPN Full Circle” for the North Carolina at Duke men’s basketball game, and that ESPN Full Circle moniker later evolved into the ESPN MegaCast title.

April 22, 2006

The ESPN Full Circle initiative was extended to an NBA Playoff Game, when multiple ESPN platforms carried different versions of the same game.

September 4 & October 14, 2006

ESPN’s college football coverage would become the definitive laboratory for the multi-feed presentation, and that began in the Fall of 2006 with one September and one October matchup each receiving the ESPN Full Circle treatment (a college football first).

March 4, 2007

Exactly a year from the day ESPN unveiled “Full Circle,” the concept extended to a NASCAR Busch Series race from Mexico City.

April 3, 2007

The NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship went “ESPN Full Circle” when various ESPN platforms featured different coverage feeds.

June 18, 2009

During coverage of the first two rounds of the U.S. Open Championship, while ESPN offered a traditional telecast, ESPN360.com provided live coverage of all groups from Bethpage Black’s signature Par 3 17th hole. This companion golf coverage — showcasing specific holes or following featured groups — would become a significant element, particularly with the addition of ESPN+ during Masters and PGA Championship action.

December 30, 2013

Longhorn Network (LHN) provided a second screen experience for the Alamo Bowl (Texas vs. Oregon). While ESPN showed the traditional production, LHN featured “Command Center,” a multi-view showcase. Earlier that year, LHN had debuted “Director’s Chair” for the Sept. 7 Texas at BYU game, which gave fans an on-screen mosaic of six camera angles (similar to a director’s point of view).

January 6, 2014

The multi-platform approach to a single live event was taken to the next level with the introduction of the first-ever “ESPN MegaCast” for the final BCS Championship Game (before the sport changed to the College Football Playoff the next season).  The different presentations for the Florida State/Auburn game included six television platforms, plus audio and digital outlets. The ESPN MegaCast innovation was met with rave reviews from fans and media and the term “MegaCast” would become synonymous with ESPN’s fan-friendly barrage of viewing options for a single event.

November 29, 2014

In a fun viewing twist, ESPN televised the Iron Bowl (Auburn at Alabama) while the SEC Network featured a complimentary viewing option with host Paul Finebaum anchoring the “Finebaum Film Room,” with analysts breakdowns, live calls and fan reaction.

 

December 31, 2015 - January 11, 2016

The third consecutive year of ESPN’s MegaCast presentation for the college football title game (final BCS in 2014, first-ever CFP in 2015) provided fans with 14 alternative productions for the College Football Playoff National Championship. ESPN’s coverage captured a Sports Emmy, a MegaCast first. Additionally, ESPN introduced added feeds for the College Football Playoff National Semifinals, including Spanish-language game coverage on ESPN2.

December 31, 2016 - January 9, 2017

In addition to the MegaCast for the CFP National Championship, ESPN utilized “MultiCasts” for both CFP National Semifinals with six different feeds for each game across various ESPN outlets.

August 31, 2017

This year marked the first time that a season-opening college football game would receive the ESPN MegaCast treatment (game was Ohio State/Indiana).

December 2017 / January 2018

ESPN’s fifth college football national championship MegaCast was the most comprehensive to date, offering 20 distinct productions of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Notably, after providing select alternative offerings in previous seasons, ESPN officially added “MegaCast” branding for the College Football Playoff National Semifinals, with a significantly increased number of feeds for the two semis.

July 16, 2018

To align with the statistical focus of MLB fans, a special Statcast-driven option was introduced for ESPN2 viewers of the annual Home Run Derby, while the traditional production aired on ESPN. Months later, a StatCast feed was added for ESPN’s MLB Wild Card game coverage and regular-season StatCasts also debuted in years ahead.

September 3, 2018

The second year for a season-opening, college football MegaCast (Virginia Tech/Florida State), which marked a first for Labor Day, had planned a Goodyear BlimpCast among the offerings, but that feed was grounded due to weather conditions.

December 2018 / January 2019

A new year brought more ESPN innovations to its MegaCast. For the CFP National Championship, ESPN unveiled five new feed options to go along with the dozen or so returning alternatives. The five planned new options included Field Pass, Monday Night Film Room, Thinking Out Loud, TechCast and the awaited debut of Goodyear BlimpCast.

March 1, 2019

While ESPN offered a traditional NBA production of Bucks/Lakers, ESPN3 and the ESPN App provided a Full Court Press Second Spectrum presentation which featured three different viewing modes: Coach mode, Player mode and Mascot mode. That same concept was applied later that season to ESPN’s NBA Playoff coverage. A year earlier, ESPN2 offered a different Full Court Press second-screen experience for Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

April 25, 2019

The NFL Draft expanded its reach with multiple viewing options. While ESPN presented the popular coverage fans have enjoyed for decades, ABC (and anchor Robin Roberts joined by the College GameDay team) added its own distinctive telecast by broadcasting three rounds for the first time. The ABC presentation focused on the journey of the NFL Draft prospects and the role their families played, while incorporating celebrity appearances. The addition of ABC came a year after ESPN2 introduced a College GameDay-led alternate NFL Draft feed in 2018.

ESPN Coverage of Murray’s Selection Focused on the Onstage Activity, While ABC Provided the Murray Family’s Perspective
August 21, 2019

The Little League World Series became an exciting backdrop for ESPN’s next alternative telecast idea with the debut of KidsCast, a viewing experience featuring aspiring kid broadcasters recruited from the Bruce Beck Sports Broadcasting Camp at Iona College. 

December 28, 2019 - January 13, 2020

The College Football Playoff MegaCast returned for its 7th straight year, a few months prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the sports world.

Sept 21, 2020

ESPN extended the multi-network concept to an NFL game, with the first Monday Night Football MegaCast (New Orleans at Las Vegas), commemorating the league’s regular-season debut in Las Vegas. Multiple platforms offered different ways to watch the game, beyond the traditional game on ESPN. No fans were in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 1, 2021 - January 11, 2021

The annual ESPN MegaCast extravaganza was on full display once again for the College Football Playoff National Semifinals and Championship.

January 10 & 11, 2021

The second week of January 2021 showcased two ESPN MegaCast firsts – a first-time NFL Playoff Game MegaCast (Wild Card round) and back-to-back nights of MegaCasts featuring an NFL Playoff on Sunday followed by CFP National Championship on Monday.

April 14, 2021

Given the changing landscape and the growing interest in sports betting content, ESPN+ and ESPN2 followed up an ESPN NFL sports betting-driven feed from earlier that year by carrying an NBA alternate presentation driven by sports betting content (branded Daily Wager, ESPN’s sports betting series).

May 3, 2021

Tapping into the vast resources and distinctive content across The Walt Disney Company, ESPN2 provided a Marvel-themed NBA telecast called “Arena of Heroes,” which supplemented the traditional game presentation on ESPN. The distinct program incorporated Marvel characters, storylines, graphics and more.

May 4, 2021

The very next day came more fan-friendly offerings courtesy of the larger Disney company, when “May the Fourth” Star Wars content found its way to an ESPN2 alternate Star Wars-themed MLB production. Among the many fun features were ESPN commentators dressed as Star Wars characters and Star Wars-related graphics. 

September 13, 2021

The 2021 NFL season brought the debut of the pioneering Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli. The award-winning effort with the Manning brothers, a collaboration between ESPN and Peyton’s Omaha Productions, would help set a new industry standard for an alternative experience. The ESPN2 companion to ESPN’s traditional Monday Night Football telecast mixed expert analysis, humor, fun banter and an incredible guest list. Less than a year later, ESPN and Omaha Productions agreed to a new multi-year extension to continue the NFL series and extend the collaboration to alternative productions for golf, UFC and college football.

December 10, 2021

With the flexibility of the new groundbreaking agreement between Disney/ESPN and the NHL, ESPN+ debuted an alternative NHL feed called “Star Watch,” with isolated cameras and stats on Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin throughout the game. A few months later (March 5, 2022), ESPN+ presented an alternative feed called “Ice Cast,” allowing fans to see how plays develop from above the ice.

December 31, 2021 - Jan 10, 2022

The addition of significant ESPN MegaCast productions for all New Year’s Six games (two CFP National Semifinals and four others) resulted in nearly 40 presentations for those matchups collectively, leading into the annual CFP National Championship MegaCast.

March 5, 2022

Sixteen years and one day after the first-ever “ESPN Full Circle” for a North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball game, ESPN’s coverage came “full circle” with a MegaCast for another North Carolina-Duke matchup, the last home game involving Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski. Among the options was an ACC Network telecast with a dedicated camera on Coach K.

March 16, 2022

Another technological advancement was unveiled during a Mavericks/Nets game when ESPN+ (and ESPNEWS) provided NBA CourtView for the first time on a full game presentation. This innovative view, resulting from cameras tracking player movement and data, plus 3D models, resulted in a unique video game-like look.

April 1 - 3, 2022

Dubbed “The Bird & Taurasi Show” (BTS), basketball legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi took over ESPN2 during the Women’s Final Four, co-anchoring alternative telecasts of the National Semifinals and the National Championship. Their extraordinary mix of great guests, entertaining discussion, expert commentary and hilarious conversation/storytelling led to an incredibly positive reaction from fans and media. This concept was an offshoot of the ESPN alternative production “Smack Talk with Sue and A’ja,” (Sue Bird, A’ja Wilson) which premiered during a February 2019 regular-season women’s basketball matchup between Connecticut and South Carolina.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1510777983652425728?s=20&t=bez1ZZm1q3bx2Q5IrYm-uw

April 6, 2022

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the NBA, ESPN introduced the NBA75 Celebration Game  – a separate presentation of the Nets/Knicks matchup. The unique production mirrored NBA television styles, graphics and presentations of decades past, including the 1960s on ABC, the 1970s and 1980s on CBS and the 1990s on NBC, as well as representation from present day. Guests included several members of the NBA75 player list and Hall of Fame coaches and broadcasters who have been integral to the game through the eras.

 

April 10, 2022

Another ESPN MLB concept was unveiled with the debut of ESPN’s KayRod Cast – a special series of alternative presentations for select Sunday Night Baseball games. Pairing World Series Champion and three-time M.V.P. Alex Rodriguez with iconic New York broadcasting voice Michael Kay, the KayRod Cast included lively discussion and analysis, special guests connected to the game and perspective/stories from Rodriguez’s historic playing career.

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