ESPN ITV Team Powers DIRECTV U.S. Open Mix Channel

For golf fans looking to get more out of their U.S. Open experience, DIRECTV returns for the sixth consecutive year with its U.S. Open Mix channels offering four viewing options: the main ESPN or NBC feed, two featured groups, and a dedicated look at holes 8 and 18.

The multiscreen, interactive sports experience continues to grow as viewers become more accustomed to multitasking their sports consumption. As a result, DIRECTV has seen a continued rise in consumption of the mix channels typically offered during major golf and tennis tournaments.

“What I really think is that the marketplace is catching up,” says Don Colantonio, senior director, production enhancement and executive producer, ITV, at ESPN. “People are conditioned to engage in multiscreen experiences. People are using bigger displays; they are savvier to both Internet and ITV applications. So there’s more interest and more familiarity with the product and opportunity to experience a major event in a multiscreen format.”

The first two days of the U.S. Open offer very interesting group pairings that both DIRECTV and the USGA’s official Website, usopen.com, look to take full advantage of. Throughout the morning and afternoon on Thursday and Friday, the Featured Group channels (DIRECTV Channel 703, 704) follow Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson-Bubba Watson; Dustin Johnson-Ricky Fowler-Ryo Ishikawa; Luke Donald-Rory McElroy-Lee Westwood (the top three golfers in the world rankings); and Keegan Bradley-Webb Simpson-Adam Scott.

Each of the feature groups is followed by two unilateral RF handheld cameras that the ITV crew can use to enhance coverage. Former golfers Tom Weiskopf and David Duval will also serve as analysts exclusive to the DIRECTV featured channels.

The 8 and 18 channel has three unilateral cameras, including one stationed behind each of the greens. The reasoning behind selecting holes 8 and 18 is that, at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, 8 and 18 are adjacent to each other. Because of the layout of the course, the “turn” is actually at 8 instead of at 9, which is the case at most other golf courses.

In the production compound at The Olympic Club, ESPN’s ITV team, headed by Colantonio, is working out of Game Creek’s FX multitruck unit, which is typically used by Fox Sports during its NASCAR coverage.

In order to produce three original shows, the truck has been configured into three separate control rooms. The main front desk serves as one main control room; the sub-switch room, typically used for iso shots during NASCAR telecasts, is a second hub; and the tape/graphics area has been converted into a third control room with the addition of a switcher.

The ITV unit is fully networked with all the main units, which makes all the elements and assets being used by the main broadcast — highlight packages, features, press conferences, interviews — available to the ITV team. Each of the three control rooms also has its own routing and communications systems.

“When you think about workflow and networking, we would never be able to do these kinds of things in the standard-definition days or in the analog days,” chuckles Colantonio. “But now everything is networked between ESPN and NBC’s media assets to give us all of the production tools we would have and need if we were doing this show standalone.”

DIRECTV’s U.S. Open Mix Channel offers the interactivity that viewers have come to expect from its other mix offerings. The interactive red button on a DIRECTV remote control allows access to various content, including the leaderboard and individual player scorecards.

“Now that we’re in an IP space with connected TVs,” says Colantonio, “I think there’s a lot of opportunities to push this forward.”