ESPN Closes Out Busy Fortnight at Australian Open With Championship Weekend
Production team will have delivered more than 100 hours of TV, 1,400 hours of streamed content
Heading into Championship Weekend at the Australian Open, ESPN has been blessed with a pair of compelling storylines: Sofia Kenin’s improbable appearance in the Women’s Championship (the first American who wasn’t a Williams sister to appear since 2005) and a red-hot Novak Djokovic’s defense of the Men’s Championship (after defeating fan-favorite Roger Federer). The weekend will mark the culmination of an eventful two weeks for the ESPN operations team, which is once again out in full force at Melbourne Park to help deliver more than 100 hours of television plus 1,400 hours of content streamed across ESPN platforms.
ESPN has a full set situated on a gantry bridge overlooking the main entrance’s Garden Square, with the main court, Rod Laver Arena, in the background.
Commentary is done from several areas, allowing a variety of pairings and coverage by the large pool of announcers. Rod Laver Arena has a court-level position for two looking out from the baseline, as well as a booth in the upper “Super Box.” Margaret Court Arena has yet another booth overlooking the court, and each of the top three courts has a “whisper” position for courtside presence.
“Our infrastructure is designed with versatility so that different commentary positions can call a variety of courts, following the best action and supporting fans,” says Dennis Cleary, director, remote operations, ESPN.
DirecTV also has a three-person host position from the terrace of a Rod Laver Arena concourse restaurant, looking back over the Garden Square from an alternate angle showing the picturesque Court 3, painted with a graffiti mural with the Melbourne skyline in the background.
ESPN is once again working with host broadcaster Tennis Australia and technical-facilities provider Gravity Media at the Australian Open. As at other tennis majors, ESPN has an agreement in place with Tennis Australia to provide program feeds from all broadcast courts. In the broadcast compound, ESPN has control rooms where all feeds are integrated to produce ESPN U.S. domestic programming, Tennis Channel U.S. domestic programming, DirecTV programming, and ESPN International programming.
In terms of on-court coverage, specialty camera systems like Netcam and Spidercam are back at the Australian Open.
“As a unilateral broadcaster,” notes Cleary, “ESPN receives coverage integrated into the program feed provided by the host broadcaster. Additionally, the host broadcaster provides access to the Spidercam as a discrete feed with the ability to give camera direction upon proper coordination.”
Sadly, one of the biggest headlines coming out of Melbourne this year has been the effect of the rampant bush fires on air quality at the Open. Although events at the Qualifying Tournament were delayed for players, construction of the broadcast continued under supervision.
“Brush fires in Australia have been devastating to the nation and impactful to the Australian Open,” notes Cleary. “Air Quality Index reports are quickly accessed through a SmartSheet Dashboard link, as well as other health and safety links. N75 and N95 masks are available for use, and we have made an effort to cover outdoor needs on clearer days, to allow more time indoors on days with higher AQI numbers. ESPN Global Security is onsite and liaising with local partners to help the team stay safe.”
ESPN’s Australian Open coverage concludes this week with the Women’s Championship on Saturday and Men’s Championship on Sunday (both beginning at 3:30 a.m. on ESPN with an encore at 8 a.m. on ESPN2).