ESPN could MegaCast ‘Monday Night Football’ the way it does college football

first_imgWhat if I told you ESPN could give you a choice where and how you watched “Monday Night Football” in the future?Instead of going with the traditional game telecast, you could pick your poison among multiple announce teams and camera angles the way ESPN covers the College Football Playoff/national championship game. With this MegaCast approach, hypothetically, you could watch coaches film room versions of the game on ESPN2. If unique camera angles are your thing, you could watch games from the SkyCam above the field on ESPN3. Or you could watch the same way players and coaches study game film, with an all-22 angle showing all players on the field at the same time.Increased use of the MegaCast approach for “Monday Night Football” and other big events is not some 30 for 30 ad pitch. It is a real possibility being discussed as part of ongoing conversations between ESPN and rights partners such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, UFC and tennis. Look for MegaCast to potentially become an intriguing option as ESPN negotiates its next NFL TV contract for 2022 and beyond. The network’s current Monday night deal expires at the end of the 2021 season.MORE: How ESPN can fix “Monday Night Football”There’s an old Hollywood saying: Everybody wants to direct. Sports fans are increasingly taking charge of their viewing experience, and giving them the freedom to choose their own announcers and camera angles “satisfies so many different curiosities,” according to Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN’s vice president of programming and scheduling.”You can appeal to the diehards with one feed; the more casual people with the other,” Ben-Hanan told Sporting News. “You can really try a lot of different things. As long as it’s additive, it’s a win.”The MegaCast is not designed to replace the traditional game telecast, he said. But these alternative telecasts give viewers options they never had before. MegaCasting could be the wave of the future as, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, the future of sports becomes more interactive, immersive and intense.”We’re not trying in any way to take away from any fan’s experience,” said Ben-Hanan, who oversees strategic scheduling direction for ESPN’s linear TV networks. “If they want to watch the game as normally presented? Fantastic. We’ll give that to you. But something like the MegaCast can provide alternatives. And be purely additive. If someone wants to experience it a little differently, if you want to watch the game and hear your hometown radio guys call it, we can try that. If you want to watch it from the SkyCam, we can give you that.”If you want to pretend you’re a student and (watch it) from the student section-cam as we’ve done in past iterations, you can do that. As long as its always additive, it’s something we really love experimenting with. It’s a way to serve fans.”ESPN is always on the lookout, Ben-Hanan said, to try something new and different with what it calls “premium content.” That brings us to the network’s most premium content of all: “Monday Night Football.”The network was roasted mercilessly last season for the shaky performance of rookie announcer Jason Witten and questionable “innovations” like the “BoogerMobile” sideline crane. But what if ESPN were to try a real innovation like MegaCasting “Monday Night Football?”ESPN already uses a second, Spanish-language announce team on ESPN Deportes for Monday night games. What if ESPN offered viewers separate announce teams on sister Disney channels such as ABC, ESPN and ESPN Deportes? There could be a coaches film room version on Monday night. Or an NFL insiders version. Or a “Sounds of the Game” telecast with no announcers at all.Would the NFL consider it? Given the recent direction of the nation’s most powerful and popular sports league, the answer seems to be yes.MORE: ESPN ditches “BoogerMobile” contraptionThe NFL already “Tri-Casts” “Thursday Night Football” on broadcast TV (Fox Sports), cable (NFL Network) and digital (Amazon Prime), noted spokesman Alex Riethmiller. This year, the league will also telecast the 2019 NFL Draft across three different networks: ABC, ESPN and NFL Network. Each will have its own announce team, with Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” joining Rece Davis and the rest of the popular “College GameDay” crew on ABC.”We are always looking at ways to evolve and enhance the game experience for our fans,” said Riethmiller. “If you look at ‘Thursday Night Football’ last season, our digital partner Amazon produced an alternate audio feed using decorated sports journalists Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer that was very well received on Prime Video.”A Monday night MegaCast is pure conjecture at this point. But ESPN has been MegaCasting college football’s biggest events for years. One memorable early moment came in 2014, when Kevin Sumlin and others in the coaches film room accurately predicted a fake punt by Florida State against Auburn in the championship game. The video went viral. The MegaCast has been a staple ever since.A closer look at ESPN’s MegaCast coverage of the CFP semifinals and national championship game could be a roadmap for the future.This season, ESPN offered viewers a choice of a dozen different presentations across different channels and the ESPN App. Aside from the two traditional game telecasts, with Chris Fowler-Kirk Herbstreit-Maria Taylor-Laura Rutledge calling one game and Sean McDonough-Todd Blackledge-Holly Rowe-Tom Rinaldi calling the other, there was a coaches film room version on ESPNews, SkyCam and all-22 telecasts on ESPN3 and a hometown audio feed, pairing ESPN’s telecast with local radio voices for Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.For the Clemson vs. Alabama national championship game, ESPN offered a dizzying 17 MegaCast options, including a Goodyear BlimpCast with anchors Elle Duncan and Matt Barrie, plus a “Sounds of the Game” option with no announcers at all.But ESPN has been experimenting with MegaCast-like approaches for other rights partners like MLB and the NBA, too.MORE: Browns are suddenly must-see TVDuring the 2018 National League wild-card game, ESPN took a dual approach. There was the main telecast of the Cubs vs. Rockies with the “Sunday Night Baseball” crew of Matt Vasgersian, analysts Alex Rodriguez and Jessica Mendoza and reporter Buster Olney. But for the first time, ESPN2 offered baseball fans interested in analytics an alternate version of the game, with graphics, data and information from Statcast. The Statcast version even had its own announce team of play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti, analyst Eduardo Pérez and Statcast writer Mike Petriello. It drew rave reviews, according to Awful Announcing. Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina and Jacob Feldman named it the “Best Broadcast Innovation” of 2018.Said Ben-Hanan: “If you were watching that night, you had two completely different ways to watch the game. You could flip back and forth as you wish. Try something a little different. Certainly sports like baseball, that have all this really cool next generation statistical information, being able to show in a new and cool and innovative ways is something we’re excited about.”After just five minutes of watching this StatCast broadcast, I’m ready to say it’s leagues above ESPN’s regular broadcast.— Jason Foster (@ByJasonFoster) October 3, 2018For NBA and college basketball coverage, ESPN has been showing players warming up in layup lines before tip-off. That might sound like a small thing, but fans are ravenous to get any shot of budding superstars like Zion Williamson of Duke. It’s another way to bring viewers closer to their favorite stars. “It’s not necessarily an alternate presentation of the game. But just something that surrounds the game — and gets people excited before the game,” Ben-Hanan said.In February, ESPN unveiled its “Full Court Press” option for an NBA telecast. Utilizing Second Spectrum technology, ESPN3 and the ESPN App offered fans a second viewing option with four viewing modes: coach mode, player mode, mascot mode and analyst mode.MORE: Why Jason Witten made the right call Now that ESPN is in business with the UFC and Top Rank Boxing, look for MegaCasting to come to combat sports, he added. Can the TurnbuckleCam be far behind?”I think we’ve seen from both Top Rank and UFC a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about experimenting. Just by the nature of the sport, you’re in fairly close quarters. Whether that’s what you’re able to see from the corner in boxing or what you’re able to see when people are coming into the octagon.”I think the intimacy of those sports kind of lends itself to the opportunity to be able to see things pretty up close.”last_img read more