CBS Gives College Football Season the Green Light From Dublin

In just a couple more days, sports fans’ Saturdays will again be filled with the sights and sounds of marching bands, crashing helmets, colorful traditions, and the roar from iconic stadiums packed to the brim.

College football is back, and CBS will get its slate started with a bang with a special live broadcast of Notre Dame-Navy in the Emerald Isle Classic from Dublin.

Despite the game’s being in Ireland, the Fighting Irish are the road team. Because it’s officially a Navy home game, CBS has the American broadcast rights to the game. Live game coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET on CBS; the pregame show kicks things off on CBS Sports Network at 7 a.m.

CBS Sports has its A team in Dublin for the broadcast, the same team that handles the network’s SEC on CBS package. Craig Silver will produce and Steve Milton direct, with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson in the booth and Tracy Wolfson on the sidelines.

The crew will work out of CTV’s OB9, a mobile-production unit that was shipped via ferry to Dublin from the vendor’s London home. A core group of CBS technicians (positions ranging from technical director to sideline-cart–camera operator and lead EVS technician) have made the trip across the pond and will be supplemented with technical crew from the Dublin area and the UK.

CBS has standing relationships with many technology providers and freelancers in western Europe, thanks in part to its having broadcast the NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium in London three of the past four years; the network will do so again this season when the New England Patriots face the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 28.

Aviva Stadium in Dublin gets an American-football look for the Notre Dame-Navy game this weekend.

The site for the Notre Dame-Navy game is Aviva Stadium, a stunning soccer/rugby venue in the Lansdowne section of Dublin that opened in 2010. The facility can seat around 50,000, making it one of the smaller venues that either team plays in all season. Converting the soccer pitch to an American-football field posed a list of challenges for the CBS crew.

“It’s been problematic,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP of Engineering, Operations, and Production Services, CBS Sports. “In Europe, they don’t really have commentary positions like we do, so we have to build out the announce booth for Verne and Gary. We have to build out the 20 camera positions, especially the end-zone positions. It’s things that we take for granted here in the States.”

Some of the camera-position platforms being built will block some seats, he adds. Given the low-lying nature of the front rows of seats in European soccer stadiums, event organizers did not sell tickets in the first few rows on each sideline to prevent those fans’ not being able to see over all the players and equipment typically on an American-football sideline. This was also good news for CBS’s sideline-cart camera, which should be able to work freely without obstructing the view of any fans.

CBS producers are putting emphasis on getting the most out of the unique locale of the game. ENG crews have been capturing footage and filming spots since Monday, and programming around the game has been airing on the CBS Sports Network all week.

For game day, Aagaard says, the crew has positioned a wireless camera on top of the Convention Centre Dublin, a 177-ft.-tall facility located just about a mile to the southwest of Aviva Stadium. The shot promises a tremendous view of the stadium and the surrounding areas, including River Liffey, River Dodder, and Dublin Bay.

“Since we’re going to be in this beautiful stadium, we wanted to be able to show where we are,” he explains. “So, if we don’t have a rainy, yucky day, we should have some really nice visuals.”

Saturday will be a busy day for the CBS family, with coverage of the football game in Ireland overlapping the network’s US Open tennis slate. CBS Sports Network will carry live tennis from the Open until the Notre Dame-Navy game ends. Then, coverage will shift back to the parent CBS network.

Many of CBS’s top tech names will be in place to ensure that all goes according to plan. Aagaard will be in Dublin overseeing the on-site operations at the game. Patty Power, SVP, Operations & Administration, for CBS Sports Network, will be at CBSSN’s newly expanded Chelsea Piers studios in New York City. Meanwhile, CBS Sports VP, Broadcast Operations, Arthur Harris and Director of Engineering Bruce Goldfeder will be stationed at the CBS Broadcast Center in Midtown Manhattan.

All feeds from both events will be sent to the primary CBS Broadcast Center. From Ireland, feeds will travel on two uplink paths to the Broadcast Center and the CBS Sports Network studios. Much of the preproduced content and ENG footage shot by crews earlier in the week will be transmitted over IP and put into FTP. Fiber is not installed yet at Aviva Stadium so satellites will be used to transmit the signal of the live broadcast back to New York.

“Operationally and technically, it is quite the challenge,” says Aagaard, “and we’re gong to have all hands on deck.”

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