CBS College Ramps Up Hard Knocks-Style College Football Confidential

CBS College Sports Network has been doing Hard Knocks-style features in the college ranks for several years — minus the colorful language. This year, the network teamed with Kitay Productions to produce a series, College Football Confidential. Each week, the production crew joins a college football team to follow preparations leading up to Saturday’s game. The footage is turned around for a 30-minute feature, which airs the Friday after the game. The features have become a hit not just with viewers but with coaches and recruiters as well.

“The University of Wyoming was really open to us coming in to do this show because it’s helpful for them in their recruiting,” says Emilie Deutsch, VP of original programming and features for CBS College. “Kansas State got a whole slew of new fans after we produced this show with them. You also get a really great sense of what that college town is like from these shows. The Wyoming piece gave a look not just at the football field but also at this fabulous band tradition they have, where they march around downtown on Friday nights.”

A Reality Following
The “reality follow shows,” as Deutsch calls them (as opposed to “reality competition shows”), have been a staple of the CBS College lineup since the network was called CSTV. In previous incarnations, several teams were selected each preseason, and the network would follow the team throughout training camp to create 30-minute behind-the-scenes programs. In 2008, CBS College took the show indoors, following Memphis, then under coach John Calipari, 24/7 during the NCAA basketball tournament.

“This past spring, we were lucky enough to get on board with Frank Martin and Kansas State,” Deutsch says. “He really gave us a lot of access. Every night when we were on the air, we could cut a feature to air that night, and we did another hour-long special at the end of the tournament. We decided to take that concept and apply it to football this season.”

With production support from Kitay Productions, CBS College embedded two camera operators, an audio technician, and a producer/editor for a week with each team chosen for this season of College Football Confidential. To pick the teams to follow, Deutsch went to CBS College partner schools in the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA and selected intriguing matchups on the schedule.

“The first obstacle was getting the schools to open up to us and trust us,” he explains. “Then we tried to pick high-profile games for these teams that were on our air, so that we could promote the show during the actual football game, since the show airs six days later. We chose BYU-Washington, to show their opening game; the second episode was with UCF; the third show was Boise State visiting Wyoming; and the fourth, this week, is Mississippi State coming in to take on Houston.”

Thirty Hours to 30 Minutes
During the week leading up to the game, the crew shoots about 30 hours of footage, all in HD, which then must be cut down to a 30-minute program.

“Depending on the producer in the field, we’ll edit some of it on-site, which is extremely helpful,” Deutsch says. “Then we’ll come back and edit Monday through Thursday, we have an audio session Thursday evening, we finish the show Friday morning, and it airs Friday at 7 p.m. It’s quite a quick turnaround for a show like this.”

The production crews had no shortage of storylines to follow, which immediately brought an extra level of interest to the shows.

“This week at Houston, with the top two quarterbacks injured, there was a quarterback battle going on among two freshmen,” Deutsch says. “We were there filming during the week that they were making that decision on a starter, and that was really helpful to the show. We had a great story to tell.”

Keeping It Clean
Although College Football Confidential does have a Hard Knocks-style feel to it, it does not have the Hard Knocks-style soundtrack.

“We made a decision as a company during K-State Confidential that we were going to keep these G-rated,” Deutsch says. “Frank Martin did not edit himself, so we just cut around it. In no instance have we lost any of the essence of what’s being said; it’s just that the swear words aren’t there.”

This week marks the fourth and final episode of College Football Confidential for the season, but the content is certainly reusable throughout football season.

“We’re on our fourth episode, and we’ve just hit our stride,” Deutsch says. “We’ve found that, the more access we get, the better the show. Every coach is going to have their limits, but that’s one thing that we’ve learned. We love having these shows on-air. Any time that we re-air the game, we can follow it up with a show like this. It’s really been fun.”

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