ESPN Takes Part in Collaborative Effort at French Open
The red-clay courts of Roland Garros welcomed back the French Open over the weekend, with many an eye trained on perennial champion Rafael Nadal. Behind the scenes, though, it’s hardly a one-man show: three networks — ESPN, Tennis Channel, and NBC Sports — are again collaborating to deliver Grand Slam tennis to fans everywhere.
Over the next two weeks, ESPN will present more than 50 hours of French Open coverage on ESPN2. ESPN3 will supplement the linear telecast with coverage of up to seven courts for a total of 330 hours of content.
Beginning yesterday, ESPN2’s schedule continues with an all-live telecast starting at 5 a.m. ET each day through Friday May 30 and again on Monday June 2. The network will air live and same-day quarterfinal action Tuesday June 4 at 1 p.m. and Wednesday June 5 at 8 a.m. ESPN2 will air both women’s semifinals live Thursday June 6 at 9 a.m.
ESPN has, at its disposal, 38 camera sources: 28 from FFT (host feed), including isolated cameras; seven shared with Tennis Channel; and three exclusive to ESPN’s domestic coverage. In addition, ESPN will take clean and dirty feeds from all seven televised courts. Although Tennis Channel has a control room exclusive for its needs, ESPN and NBC share a control room in the Roland Garros compound.
“We share just about everything,” says Terry Brady, director, ESPN Remote Production Operations. “We share the EVS system with [Tennis Channel and NBC]; we have an entire ingest system that Tennis Channel provides that all three partners share in, and we also have several of our own replay devices that we use exclusively. [Sharing a control room] is sometimes a little bit of a scramble when we leave and [NBC] comes in and they do things a little bit differently… but we’ve mastered that over the years so that hasn’t been an issue or a problem.”
While the three-network collaboration has become a well oiled machine, ESPN continues to innovate its approach to broadcasting the French Open. This year, ESPN tapped VER to provide flypacks and technical facilities to cover each of the televised courts at Roland Garros.
ESPN is also streamlining its onsite presence, opting to keep several editors in Bristol, CT, and rely heavily on file transfer via a 175-MB data pipe. Approximately 60 staffers will be onsite throughout the tournament.
“Bristol can see what we’re doing, and, if we need to pull out of archive or out of our Quantel system any clips or anything to bring them back onsite, we can do that,” Brady explains. “That workflow is a little bit different, but that has been quite successful over the last couple years.”
ESPN is also emphasizing its international audience, supplying ESPN International with five outbound transmission paths and an IP-based EVS file-sharing workflow with Bristol.
Brady’s team supports both the linear and digital efforts for the French Open. In addition to ESPN2 and ESPN3, ESPN is once again teaming with Tennis Channel and DIRECTV on the latter’s 2014 French Open Experience, which delivers expanded HD coverage of all the action through the first eight days of the tournament.
Though a collaborative effort with Tennis Channel, NBC Sports, and FFT, the tournament is no less important to ESPN. “Each major in tennis is very, very different in the way they approach it,” says Brady. “The way they do things, what they provide, and how they actually manage the workflow — they’re all different in nature. That’s what makes it really fun, because each one is a new unique challenge.
“We treat each major uniquely and with great importance,” he continues. “Each one has great importance to our company, and we’re just really excited about participating in all four.”