The ‘Megacast’: Operations Plans for BCS Championship Game Among ESPN’s Most Complex Ever

When a media operation decides to broadcast a single event over six platforms, one can imagine that the operational logistics can be a bit of a challenge.

Bob Braunlich, ESPN's Vice President, Remote Production Operations is one of the minds making the operations of tonight's BCS Championship "MegaCast" coverage possible.

Bob Braunlich, VP, remote production operations, is one of the minds making the operations of tonight’s BCS Championship Game MegaCast coverage possible.

For tonight’s “Megacast” coverage of the BCS National Championship Game, ESPN is essentially producing eight unique shows, and at the center of lining all those pieces up is the talented ESPN operations team headed by VP, Remote Production Operations, Bob Braunlich and Operations Manager Jay Gleeson.

The compound outside the Rose Bowl for tonight’s game is the largest that ESPN has ever erected for a college football game. Eight production units and eight office trailers are wired up to support 63 cameras, 72 microphones, and more than 200 ESPN production employees.

For Braunlich — a seasoned veteran of the industry — it’s among the largest operations he has ever been a part of.

“This routing infrastructure is right up near the top as far as the size,” says Braunlich, whose career dates back to the glory days of ABC Sports and includes multiple Super Bowls and Olympics. “We are utilizing literally every facility we have. Like many other things that happen at ESPN, you’re talking about the future and then the future is now. Why wait for 2015? If we know we want to do this stuff, why don’t we do some of it now?”

Game Creek Video has six of its production trucks on site, including Victory, Justice, Larkspur, and Gemini.

Game Creek Video has six of its production trucks on-site, including Victory, Justice, Larkspur, and Gemini.

Game Creek Video is helping make it possible, supplying six of its top mobile-production units, including the main game truck, Victory. Game Creek’s emphasis on file-based workflows made their units a natural fit for this type of production.

Transmission includes 12 fiber paths back to Bristol, CT, headquarters for just the Megacast platforms alone. With only six satellite backups, not all of the Megacast is backed up, but, according to Braunlich, enough of it is that, in the case of failure, a solid production could still be aired.

On top, the main game production and the College GameDay studio set inside the Rose Bowl each have two fiber lines to Bristol with their own satellite backups.

“I keep telling my ops crew this is still a concept until we put it on the air tonight,” says Braunlich. “Otherwise, you drive yourself crazy because, every hour, something about this is ebbing and flowing. But that’s one of the great things about working for ESPN. It’s a great place where you can experiment. We’re always looking for cutting-edge stuff and the chance to bring new things to the viewer.”


Game Creek’s Victory is the home to the main game-production control room, but it uses sources from other trucks throughout the compound.

To help support the various platforms, extra gear was naturally needed. Instead of renting additional cameras and replay servers, Braunlich and Gleeson elected to simply rent a second A unit (Justice) from Game Creek and use all the tools and facilities that came with it.

“Rather than renting all of this stuff and trying to combine it all together and put monitoring and intercom for it, we said let’s just get a second A unit and it will be more cost-effective,” says Braunlich. “Plus, it’s all from [Game Creek] so it will marry up nicely.”

Many of the trucks are being used for multiple productions. For example, the BCS Command Center — on ESPN Goal Line — includes isolated cameras and its own window dedicated to rolling live replays. Its control room is inside Justice while its EVS servers, audio boards, and camera feeds are sprinkled throughout other trucks in the compound.

Many on the ESPN crew have stressed that they expect the Megacast to be “a little rough around the edges.” It’s still an experiment in the works but one that promises to offer a college-football-championship experience unlike anything ever seen before.

“Some of the things we do on this Megacast may be huge successes, and some things we may look at next week and say, ‘You know what, that didn’t play out the way that we thought it as going to,’” says Braunlich. “So we’ll see what happens. But we’re very excited!”

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters


The Latest in Sports Video Production & Technology
in Your Inbox for FREE

Daily Email Newsletters Monday - Friday