College Football Preview: Busy Weekend in Atlanta Preps ESPN for the Long Haul to January

Kickoff games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium offer look ahead to CFP Championship Game

The college-football season kicks off in a big way on ESPN this weekend. After a quick stop-off featuring College GameDay and a “mini” MegaCast in Bloomington, IN, for Ohio State-Indiana, ESPN’s top crews will make their way to Atlanta for an extended stay with a pair of Chick-fil-A Kickoff Games pitting Florida State against Alabama on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and Georgia Tech vs. Tennessee on Monday at 8 p.m.

These broadcasts are also of note in that they are only the third and fourth events ever to take place at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and are, arguably, the first broadcasts of major significance to take place inside the much hyped new stadium.

“We’ve had the chance to see the stadium through its development, and, just recently, you are out of the safety need for a hard hat and a vest,” says John LaChance, director, remote operations, ESPN. “It’s come along nicely. It’s gorgeous. It’s state of the art, and we’re excited.”

This weekend also offers a first for ESPN in the College Football Playoff era: the opportunity to work a broadcast in the stadium that will play host to the CFP National Championship Game in January.

Game Creek Video Spirit is in the compound in Atlanta for this weekend’s big games, for which ESPN will deploy a healthy camera complement including SkyCam, Pylon Cams, and a collection of super-slo-mos.

The five-day-long Labor Day Weekend college-football fest will also see other nationally ranked teams on ESPN air. Seventeen Top 25 teams will play across its networks, with two games pitting ranked teams against each other.

At-Home Productions To Expand This Season
Although most football games that air on ESPN are done from onsite mobile production facilities, ESPN will look to expand its at-home (or REMI) efforts for smaller games that may appear on ESPNU or ESPN3 this season.

According to LaChance, as many as five or six football games on any given Saturday throughout the season will be produced with ESPN’s at-home model. Many midweek games will also be handled this way.

Sprinter vans will be deployed to those games and will use control rooms in Bristol, CT; Charlotte, NC; and Orlando to produce the final show.

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