Live From CFP Championship: Megacast Puts Innovations Front and Center

ESPN’s efforts around the CFP Championship Game on Monday night may start with coverage of the big game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers, but it certainly doesn’t end there. The network will deliver 14 additional programming channels during the game via ESPN and WatchESPN as part of its Megacast presentation.

(left-to-right): Part of the ESPN Megacast Team that will help deliver 14 channels of CFP Championship content to viewers on January 11: Christoper Damian; Patricia Lowry; Ed Placey; Patrick Donaher; Seth Madway ; and Matthew Sandulli

Part of the ESPN Megacast Team that will help deliver 14 channels of CFP Championship content to viewers on Jan. 11; (from left) Christopher Damian, Patricia Lowry, Ed Placey, Patrick Donaher, Seth Madway, and Matthew Sandulli

“The beauty of the Megacast is its ability to share various resources, like cameras that are being used by the main production but will also be part of three or four Megacast offerings,” says Ed Placey, senior coordinating producer, college football, ESPN. “For example, because of the Megacast, we will have cameras on both of the head coaches, and those are available to the main production.”

In many ways, the Megacast production harks back to an earlier era at ESPN, an era when every production was an experiment and every effort was an attempt to convince viewers that something they had never experienced before was worth experiencing.

“Back in the day, we were just trying to get people to notice us and that we were doing a good job, as the main networks then had been doing college football for a long time,” explains Placey. “So this brings back that sense of doing something that has never been done before and the opportunity to test things that could fail. But the fear of failure isn’t the same concern it was then, and we can focus on the possibilities that could emerge.”

For more from the 2016 CFP National Championship Game:
ESPN’s Massive Efforts Eclipse Super Bowl Benchmarks
Pylon Cam Gets Full Deployment in Glendale
Van Wagner, Arizona Cardinals Unite To Rock University of Phoenix Stadium
SportsLabs Powers In-Stadium Mobile App
Fletcher Sports Supports ESPN With Robotics

Here’s a look at all the possibilities that viewers will be able to experience tomorrow night. WatchESPN, for example, will offer the Film Room (in-depth analysis by Brian Griese and Chris Spielman); ESPN Voices (ESPN personalities in Los Angeles watching the game in a living-room–like atmosphere); a Homers Telecast (featuring two former Clemson and Alabama players serving as quasi-analysts); the Finebaum Film Room (Paul Finebaum and SEC Network analysts providing analysis from a location near the stadium as well as taking live calls and tweets from fans); a Command Center with live game action, replays, isolated coach cameras, enhanced stats, and more; and a Spanish-language call.

ESPN3, meanwhile, will offer the Sounds of the Game (a special audio mix without announcers, designed to give the viewer a feeling of being in the stadium); a Mock Replay Booth (whereby an ESPN team will re-create any on-going replays); Pylon Cam (a continuous stream of camera angles from the eight pylon cameras surrounding the field); Home Town Radio (broadcast feeds and a customized view of coaches and star players); DataCenter (on-screen graphics, win probability; curated social-media reaction); Spidercam (a continuous feed from the aerial camera); and the Taco Bell Student Section (cameras focusing on students, bands, mascots, and cheerleaders).

Patrick Donaher, ESPN coordinating producer for the Megacast, says that the fun part is that ESPN’s team gets to show off some of the bells and whistles. The Pylon Cam Channel, for example, will let viewers see views from all 16 Pylon Cam angles in the end zone that the offensive team is driving toward.

“There’s been a great positive reaction to the Pylon Cam, but, within the broadcast, the viewer may only see it once in a while,” says Donaher.  “Now they can choose to watch and then scoot around to other channels.”

The channel featuring the separate Mock Replay Booth promises to be worthwhile for the large number of college-football fans who want to have greater insight into how the replay review process works.

“It’s an exact replica of what happens in the replay-review booth, and it will have exactly the same feeds that come in to the actual booth from the cameras at the stadium,” says Donaher. “It reinforces how precise and buttoned up the replay process is and lets people understand why the process takes the time it does.”

In an age when most viewers will have the opportunity to watch multiple devices at the same time, to watch the main game on the HDTV and then tune into various Megacast offerings on a laptop, tablet, and cellphone, an offering as broad as this year’s Megacast should resonate with viewers, especially younger ones who enjoy taking in multiple events at once.

“Viewers are no longer dedicating themselves to the pure game experience,” adds Donaher,“so we are giving them everything they want.”

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