Eagles Television Network Soars with Preseason Coverage

As the NFL lockout stretched from weeks to months, Chris Johnson treated this offseason as he would any other. For the Eagles Television Network (ETN) crew in South Philadelphia, preparing to produce the team’s preseason could be summed up in three words: “business as usual.”

“The Eagles were one of the teams that kept fully staffed [during the lockout],” explains Johnson, manager of broadcast production for ETN. “I guess they really felt that [a deal] was going to get done and that, come training camp, we were going to have to be up and ready to roll, so that’s the way we approached it. We started producing elements for our preseason broadcast back in February.”

With less than three weeks between the lockout’s end and the team’s first preseason contest, ETN’s attitude certainly paid off. True, the production crew had to scramble to organize headshots and create graphics for a constantly changing team in that three-week span, but in terms of their preparation to produce preseason football, ETN emerged from the lockout ready for kickoff.

On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles face the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field for the first of four preseason games, three of which will be produced by ETN and broadcast on 6ABC.

In order to bring Eagles preseason action to the fans, ETN partners with Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate, 6ABC. For each locally broadcast preseason contest (the Eagles visit the Steelers in a nationally broadcast preseason game on Aug. 18), 6ABC contributes pregame, halftime, and postgame specials to the Eagles telecast, taking the signal of the in-game elements that ETN produces in-house. ETN rolls the commercials from its truck, creates the team graphics, and provides the broadcast team.

Since 1993, PMTV has been supporting the ETN production with trucks, crew, and uplink. For each preseason broadcast, PMTV contracts Game Creek Video’s FX HD mobile unit, 14 Sony HDC 1500 Multi-format Cameras, 11 EVS 6-Channel HD XT[2] replay servers, and a Calrec Alpha audio console with Bluefin, and coordinates transmission of the broadcast with 6ABC.

Seven hard cameras will be placed throughout the stadium, including two low end zone, one high end zone, and far sideline camera cart, with a handheld cam on the near sideline. In addition, PMTV provides a SportVision 1st and Ten Line imaging system, HD clock and score units, telestrator for color commentary, redundant C-band digital satellite transmission, and a freelance crew.

By teaming up with 6ABC and PMTV, the ETN crew gets the network exposure necessary to draw viewers to the telecast while concentrating on what they do best: cover football. With a broadcast team that combines local focus with national perspective (the newest addition to the booth is NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger), ETN strives to provide comprehensive game coverage to a very passionate, knowledgeable fanbase.

As 6ABC balances the NFL preseason alongside baseball’s regular season, NBA lockout news, and NHL trades, ETN’s attention remains solely on the Eagles. ETN’s singular focus has enabled them to develop a strong relationship with the team and unmatched access to the Eagles.

“We want to tell the story lines,” says Johnson, who serves as executive producer for the telecasts. “Preseason is all about those story lines – those individuals, that roster, and how it’s going to be whittled down to finally become a team. It’s about Eagles football and presenting what we feel our fans want.”

Throughout the regular season, as the national networks take over broadcast duties, ETN continues to follow the Eagles, producing original content for 6ABC, including Eagles Confidential, The Eagles Players Show, and Eagles MashUp. In addition, ETN will produce Eagles GreenZone, a half-hour program that will air weekly on NFL Network, as well as the Eagles’ weekly radio broadcast.

With the Eagles looking to position themselves as a media property, ETN is currently in the process of merging with the team’s web production departments in order to generate content across all platforms.

The TV and Web departments will team up this season to produce season-long weekly web programming, including Eagles Live, Eagles Nightly, Eagles After Hours, The Kickoff Show, In Game Coverage, and The Post Game Show. The shows will combine elements from television broadcasts, unique video content, and audio, and offer opportunities for fan interaction through social media, live chats, and a call-in line.

According to Johnson, each member of the ETN crew is, at heart, an Eagles fan, committed to producing the game telecast the way they would want to see it.

“We want the broadcast to be fun for our audience,” says Johnson. “We want it to be upbeat and we want our fans to get excited about this season, because we’re excited about it.”