After Hot Start to NBA Season, ESPN Ups the Ante With Busy Christmas Day, New Second-Screen Experience

In addition to producing four games on Christmas Day, ESPN will unveil a new 'Full Court Press' experience tonight on ESPN App, ESPNews

ESPN is off to its second most-watched NBA regular season ever and the fireworks on the hardcourt are just beginning for the network’s production and operations teams. After averaging 1,811,000 viewers through Dec. 15 — up 18% from last year — ESPN will tip off what has become its NBA regular-season tentpole with four games on Christmas Day. In addition, ESPN is launching a unique “Full Court Press” second-screen experience for tonight’s Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Lakers matchup that features non-traditional camera views of the action and includes business-focused analysis from a parade of ESPN NBA commentators.

‘Full Court Press’ Offers Unique New Second-Screen Experience for Fans
Before the Christmas Day action tips off on Monday, ESPN is offering up a new “ESPN Full Court Press” second-screen experience on the ESPN App and ESPNews for the Warriors-Lakers game tonight. The alternate line cut will be from the Above the Rim cameras (though hard and handheld cameras will also be used) and feature a variety of ESPN analysts addressing the game in a two-box screen. On the graphics front, the ESPN Full Court Press feed will have constant on-screen graphics and a social media feed in addition to talent on-camera and the game feed.

ESPN’s second-screen experience will integrate unique camera angles, plenty of on-air talent, and constant graphics.

“With the increase in viewership this season on the NBA, we felt it would be an added enhancement to also welcome our viewers to a second-screen experience,” says ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Tim Corrigan. “This feed will provide an alternate line cut of the game plus a unique focus on the business of the game through our experts narrative. In addition, there will be enhanced statistical and social media interaction.”

Back at its Bristol, CT, campus, ESPN will have a dedicated control room with TD, switcher, audio, video, graphics and EVS operators, and production staff to support the feed. A separate production and technical crew will integrate all the elements being fed back to Bristol from Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA.

Cassidy Hubbarth will lead an ongoing conversation with analyst Jalen Rose, NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski, front office expert Bobby Marks, sneaker expert Nick DePaula, and NBA Draft expert Mike Schmitz. The Hubbarth-led team will also periodically kick to the NBA Countdown team – host Michelle Beadle, and analysts Paul Pierce and Chauncey Billups – from ESPN’s Los Angeles Production Center (LAPC) for insight. Hubbarth will also kick to the ESPN game commentators Dave Pasch, analyst Doris Burke, and reporter Israel Gutierrez at the Oracle Arena for further discussion.

“The focus will be on the talent and their unique skill set,” says Corrigan. “This production will be a full integration with Bristol, LAPC (Los Angeles Production Center), the HSAN [NBA’s High-Speed Arena Network], and Oracle arena. The game will be cut in a non-traditional fashion [using] Above the Rim cameras and the narrative will be driven by our experts talking trades, free agency, team management, scouting, drafting, shoe fashion… Nothing left untouched. There has been terrific coordination between a number of different departments to pull this off.”

Ringing In the Holidays on the Hardcourt
Three days later, ESPN and ABC will combine to televise four games across more than 11 consecutive hours of cross-platform NBA coverage. The Christmas Day NBA extravaganza is always challenging for ESPN’s ops team, which must schedule mobile units around college bowl games and ship extra equipment, such as high-speed cameras. In addition, the crewing team must coordinate schedules for everyone traveling between all the events ESPN covers during the week.

“On Christmas Day, the NBA team moves into high gear,” says Wendell Grigely, senior director of event operations, ESPN. “It’s a banner day covering four games this year (one on ESPN and three on ABC) and the logistics of moving trucks and crews takes immense planning and dedication. The operations and technical staff make sacrifices by traveling and working on this holiday and everyone embraces the challenge knowing this will be one of the most watched NBA days of the year before the playoffs.  Christmas marks the start of the meat of the season.”

The highlight of the day takes place on ABC at 3 p.m. ET with an NBA Finals rematch of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, which will be produced out of Game Creek’s Spirit truck and feature 14 cameras (including two high-speed cameras and two Sony P43 POV cameras), and nine EVS replay systems.

“We will be taking advantage of additional super-slo-mos and also adding the Sony P43 high-speed cameras behind the glass at the Golden State game,” says Grigely. “We will be adding player mics to all games along with an added player ISO camera.”

ESPN’s New York Knicks-Philadelphia 76ers opener (Noon ET), along with ABC’s Boston Celtics-Washington Wizards (5:30 p.m. ET) and Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder (8 p.m. ET) coverage will each feature 11-12 cameras, 6-7 EVS’s and utilize Game Creek Video’s Yogi mobile unit, Game Creek Peacock, and NEP EN2, respectively.

In addition to big ratings, one of ESPN major behind-the-scenes storylines has been the use of its GREMi hybrid-at-home-production model. When using this model on NBA coverage, ESPN’s Vizrt graphics unit is located in the mobile unit onsite but controlled by an operator in Bristol. In addition, two or more EVS replay systems are controlled in Bristol — although the lead EVS operators are still in the truck. The operators at home and the production team in the truck are tied together via an IP Unity comms network.

“The GREMi model has been very successful this year,” says Grigely. “The more we do, the more everyone is getting comfortable and much of the credit goes to our staff in the field and our people in Bristol. The teams in each location focus on communication early and often which is key to our success.

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