ESPN on ABC taps Game Creek, NEP for NBA Finals coverage; 32 HD cameras capture action

By Andrew Lippe

Call it a rivalry renewed in high definition. When the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics hit the parquet floor on Thursday night it will be the first time ever that they will play in an NBA Finals in HD. And ESPN and ABC are doing all they can to pump up the jams with 32 HD cameras set to be used during the telecasts. That is double the amount used in regular season telecasts on ESPN and ABC.

Coverage will also feature Sportvision’s player tracking technology and aerial camera views from SkyCam. “We have seen a significant growth across our digital platforms and television ratings,” says Norby Williamson, ESPN Inc. executive vice president of production. Ratings for the playoffs have been up 44% over last year and with two of the league’s historic powerhouses involved in the Final those ratings might even spike higher.

ESPN will use NEP SS25, its Monday Night Football unit, in Boston for game coverage and NEP SS11 for the studio operation (Game Creek Freedom will handle the World Feed in Boston and Game Creek Southern Cross will be on hand for NBA TV). In Los Angeles ESPN will use Game Creek FX HD for the game coverage and NEP SS27 for studio duties.

The Lakers and Celtics will bring a bit of nostalgia to fans that experienced the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson clashes of the 1980s. In fact, ESPN will take a look back at the last game of the 1987 NBA Finals, the last time these two franchises met for the big prize. “We are going to take over ESPN Network in primetime and go back to the past a little bit,” says Williamson.

Many of the technologies employed during the Eastern Conference Finals, including player tracking and the Inertia Unlimited Ultra X-Mo replay system, will be prevalent again during Finals broadcasts. “We have an obligation to track the players, the coaches, and the team journeys editorially,” says Williamson.

“The NBA is back in a big way,” adds John Skipper ESPN executive vice president, content.

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