ESPN’s Digital Center 2 Debuts This Weekend With SportsCenter Premier
After more than a half-decade of development, $178 million, and countless man-hours ESPN is finally taking the wraps off its sparkling new Digital Center 2 facility this weekend. On Sunday, Steve Levy and Stuart Scott will anchor SportsCenter’s first show from its new DC2 studio – marking on-air debut of the new state-of-the art facility that will serve as the home of SportsCenter moving forward.
A combined 9,700 sq. ft. of SportsCenter studio space comprises two studios separated by a towering glass wall. The 6,200-sq.-ft. Studio X will serve as the primary live set for ESPN and ESPN2 SC editions, and the 3,500-sq.-ft. Studio Annex will be home to ESPNEWS editions of SC and preproduced SC segments.
Check out SVG’s four-part Special Report on ESPN’s Digital Center 2:
- ESPN’s Digital Center 2 Offers Treasure Chest of Core Technology
- Inside ESPN Digital Center 2’s Glitzy Studios, Powerful Control Rooms
- ESPN’s Digital Center 2 Gives SportsCenter the High-Tech Home It Deserves
- ESPN’s DC2 Scales AVB Large
A 24/7 Studio
The studio space, which is twice the size of the SportsCenter’s current home in Studio F of Digital Center 1 (which debuted in June 2004) and features 114 total LED displays, is designed to support 24/7 programming and distinctly differentiate each show throughout the day. In addition, the two studios now have the ability to produce live and taped segments simultaneously (in the X and Annex studios).
“What’s great about the studio is we finally have a studio that was built to support a 24/7 show, ESPN’s VP, Director of News Craig Bengtson said on a conference call this week. “We’re currently working off a studio that was built at a time when we were live only three hours a day, and now we’re live 18‑plus hours a day. I think it’s going to be initially a dramatic change in the experience for viewers for a variety of reasons.”
Bengston said SportsCenter editions throughout the day will be differentiated by different anchor locations, lighting, music and other elements. Graphics have also been revamped so that fewer numbers appear on elements and those that do are much “bigger, bolder and more colorful to make it easier for people to digest the information,” according to Bengston.
Anchors Seen on Screen More Than Ever
In addition, on-air talent will placed front and center in the new SportsCenter studio, appearing more on-screen and often narrating highlights that are displayed on monitors behind them.
“I would say the biggest change for us is certainly awareness of our surroundings,” said Levy. “The way I understand it in doing rehearsals, we are almost never, never going to be sitting behind the desk. That might be an opening shot, an establishing shot, a shot for a serious story or a serious discussion, but we’re going to be all over the place, and the place is massive.”
Bengston adds: “You are going to see the talent on camera a lot more. I think frankly right now we cover them up too much. Sometimes it’s like radio on television, and these guys do have personalities. We’re not asking them to be more personable, we just want to see them. When you see who’s talking to you, and being able to turn around and point at a screen and see this is the number they want us to focus on when we’re listening to them, that’s just a better way to communicate.”
Social Media Key to New SC Mentality
Social media is at the core – both literally and figuratively – of the new SportsCenter strategy. ESPN has constructed a Social Media Studio inside the Studio Annex, where analysts and guests will be invited to conduct live-streaming or blogging sessions before or after appearing on SC, to help drive fans to linear or digital platforms. In addition, each control room has, for the first time, a social-media producer.
“We’ve tried to adjust with everything that’s happening in the marketplace in terms of new technology and the type of information that people consume, so social media, the SportsCenter app, will be part of the show on a daily basis,” said Bengston. “What’s happening in the Twitter space, which obviously as we all know is really today’s newswire, will be an important part of the show, and we’re just going to be able to deliver that information to people in a way that can help drive the conversation in those spaces, not just on television, but also in the digital space.”
In addition, all of the new SportsCenter graphics and animation will now appear across all SportsCenter platforms, including the SC app, ESPN.com, and any social media content. ESPN will also begin utilizing the SportsCenter app within the program via a touch screen monitor.
“We can use it just like you would use it on your phone,” says Bengston. “It’s not as a gimmick or as a promotion, although it certainly can work that way, it’s really just an option for us to look at some content that normally might not be getting in the show but it on the app or on ESPN.com and give us a chance to bring it to life on the SportsCenter set, either in the touch screen initially, and eventually in these enormous video walls that we have.”