New Locale Means New Look for ESPN’s NBA Draft Coverage
Despite tenuous labor negotiations and a potential lockout looming on the horizon, ESPN will pull out all the stops at this evening’s NBA Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Tonight will mark ESPN’s ninth consecutive year producing the NBA Draft, but it’s the first outside of Madison Square Garden, where it has been for a decade.
“With the new venue, it was necessary for us to do a few things differently just to get around and make sure we could get where we needed to be,” says coordinating producer Pat Lowry. “But the overall philosophy is very similar.”
New Setup for New Venue
The network will deploy a total of 15 cameras (one more than last year), including two jibs and two Steadicams, one of which is an RF Steadicam. One jib will be on the primary set featuring Stuart Scott, Jay Bilas, Jeff Van Gundy, and Jon Barry; the other will capture the action in the green room near the stage (and can also spin around to capture crowd shots). The RF Steadicam will follow players during their trek from the green room to the stage as they are selected.
The wired Steadicam, located at a secondary set featuring a 70-in. touchscreen, will be operated by Bilas, international-prospect analyst Fran Fraschilla, and “cap-ologist” Tom Penn.
“The touchscreen will have players’ headshot and stats, and you can move them to a specific team, similar to what we do in our [Bristol, CT] studio.” says Lowry. “Jay will be able to use it for his mock draft. Fran will be able to look at the top five international guys. Tom will be able to go over a [collective-bargaining agreement] timeline and provide some quantitative analysis with the touchscreen.”
Talent Inside and Out
ESPN will have a total of six locations set up in the Prudential Center: the primary set, the touchscreen location, ESPN writers Ric Bucher and Andy Katz reporting from private suites, Heather Cox interviewing players in the green room, and Mark Jones conducting post-pick interviews with players near the stage.
In addition, Rachel Nichols will be reporting live from the New York Knicks’ practice facility in Tarrytown, NY, while Jeannine Edwards will be in Cleveland with the Cavaliers, holding the first and fourth picks.
Getting the Most Out of Video Conferencing
The coverage will also feature video conferencing from the headquarters of 16 teams, providing immediate access to general managers and coaches throughout the draft. With the exception of the Knicks, all feeds will be delivered via Glowpoint video conferencing.
After each pick, ESPN anchor Kevin Connors will use this video-conferencing infrastructure to conduct interviews with general managers and head coaches from ESPN’s studios in Bristol. In addition to being used for the linear-TV coverage, these interviews will be distributed in their entirety on ESPN.com and ESPN Mobile.
“This will give us a lot of flexibility because it is often difficult to get [host Stuart Scott] available when the GM is available,” says Lowry. “Kevin is dedicated to doing these interviews right after every pick is made. We’re trying to take advantage of our teleconferencing and get more out of it when Stu is not available.”
ESPN will also once again feature the live “Draft Cam” from the war rooms of the four teams holding the top five picks (the Cavs have two of the top four).
The NBA Draft will look similar to fans who tuned in for ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage, the same wider full-screen presentation eliminating the scrolling graphic on the right-hand side of the frame. All information will be overlaid along the bottom of the screen.
The crawling bottom line will display picks, trades, team-by-team summaries, Bilas’s “Best Available” prospects, Fraschilla’s top international prospects, player stats, team needs, and the results of ESPN.com’s interactive polling in real time. The graphics will continue to be seen during commercial breaks.
“You’re going to be seeing the images much larger and clearer,” Lowry says, noting, “The L-shape caused compression, and the video got squeezed back.”
108 Players’ Worth of Packages
Lowry and company has produced highlights packages for the top 108 prospects, with as many as five or six packages for the top players.
In addition, ESPN has brought in the Sport Science crew to produce segments on Derrick Williams, Bandon Knight, Kawhi Leonard, Tristan Thompson, and the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff.