CBS Sports Expands Tech Tools for AFC Championship; Super Bowl on Horizon

This Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Indianapolis represents CBS Sports’ final stepping stone to Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, and the network has added plenty of new toys for coordinating and lead NFL game producer Lance Barrow to play with.

“I wish I could do every game like we do the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl,” he says. “All the equipment we have just gives you a lot better looks than you would have in a regular-season football game.”

The New York Jets-Indianapolis Colts matchup will serve as an “in-between,” as Barrow calls it, that will allow the CBS Sports team to segue from a typical NFL broadcast into the epic production that will be Super Bowl XLIV. This Sunday, CBS will build on its already heightened coverage of the Divisional Playoffs, which featured 22 cameras, 14 playback devices, and two graphics machines at both games, as well as prep for the Super Bowl grand finale that will feature 50 total cameras, 22 playback devices, and three graphics machines.

However, Barrow warns that an influx of equipment will not change the way he runs the broadcast. “When the game starts, as [director] Mike Arnold will tell you, you’re really waiting for it to come to you,” he says. “You can’t always be trying to invent something by showing this special camera that you added for the Championship game or the Super Bowl, because you might not have anything on that camera to show.”

In addition to more total equipment, the telecast will add Steve Tasker as a sideline reporter, marking the first time all season that a CBS NFL broadcast has featured a reporter on the field. Solomon Wilcots will join Tasker as a sideline reporter for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

“During the regular season, we’ve de-emphasized the role [of sideline reporter] and allowed Jim [Nantz] and Phil [Simms] to provide those stories. We still talk to the PR guys, and, if there’s an injury, then we have Jim give updates,” says Harold Bryant, VP of production for CBS. “As the games get bigger, though, we want someone down there in case there’s a big injury or something that happens where we need someone to actually go back into the locker room and be a reporter and get that information.”

When the final second ticks off Sunday, it will be on to Miami, where Barrow will produce his first Super Bowl since 2007, when the Colts defeated the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI.

“Everybody in our crew did the Super Bowl three years ago and has done football together for nearly six years,” says Barrow. “So we all know what our tendencies are and the things that we need to get done.”

The faces in the truck won’t be the only familiar ones.  Nantz and Simms will once again man the booth as they did in 2007, and, depending on how Sunday’s game shakes out, the veteran producer may catch his second Super Bowl featuring Peyton Manning and Company.