Fox Sports College Football Goes Over the Air, Under the Lights

When Hawaii met USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sept. 1, the two kicked off not only Fox Sports Media Group’s college-football season but Fox Sports’ first-ever regular-season over-the-air college-football package. A year removed from inking multiyear deals with the Pac-12, Big 12, and Conference USA, this primetime package is further proof that Fox Sports is serious about college football.

“I think the decision to go to Fox broadcasting was rather easy, with being able to split this package with ESPN and get the quality games that we have,” says Bill Wanger, EVP, programming and research, Fox Sports Media Group. “It’s a great sales tool; it’s a great vehicle for us to really make a statement in primetime with college football [and] something that we’re looking forward to.”

Fox Sports’ over-the-air package comprises 12 primetime games and seven doubleheaders over the 13-week regular season. The network will air more than 165 national games across Fox, FX, Fox regional sports networks (FSNs), Big Ten Network, and Fox College Sports, featuring teams from the Pac-12, Big 12, Conference USA, and Big Ten. Regional coverage will include the ACC, SEC, Big East, Big Sky, WAC, and Southland Conferences.

The schedule culminates with coverage of the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, Big Ten Football Championship Game, and AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, all airing in primetime on Fox.

An NFL Approach
Although over-the-air matchups will certainly increase the profile of Fox Sports’ college-football package, the production philosophy remains largely unchanged. The network has long viewed its NFL and college-football packages as a singular Fox Football package and will continue to take an NFL approach to college-football production.

“I think it’ll be close to what we’ve done all along,” says Mike Davies, VP, field operations, Fox Sports Media Group. “The college network games will have some sort of flying camera, whether it’s Skycam or Cablecam — that’s probably the biggest difference.”

Fox Sports’ coverage of the USC vs. Hawaii season opener, UCLA vs. Nebraska on Sept. 8, and USC vs. Stanford on Sept. 15 originated from Game Creek Video’s Patriot and Patriot B. Patriot returns to Fox college football after nearly $1 million in improvements, which included replacing the routing switcher with a large format Evertz router, upgrading the monitor wall, and upgrading the Calrec audio console.

Last year, Fox Sports added on-board editors to its college packages. They traveled with the production crew, shot video using a DSLR camera, and quickly turned around packages that went straight to air.

“We end up getting video in these packages that you potentially haven’t seen on air before in a very different sort of way,” says Davies. “Those are some of the things that we’re doing on the college network games, and we’re also expanding that workflow to NFL as well.”

To handle the increased over-the-air workload, Fox Sports has added a few trucks to the mix. CBC Mobile Productions’ Évolution will roll out for Fox Sports’ Pac-12 games, and Dome Productions’ Trillium will cover the Big 12.

“It’s been nice to have those guys in the mix,” says Davies, “The setup that we have for college really approximates and takes a lot of its underpinnings from the way we do NFL, and there’s very few differences actually between what we’re doing in NFL coverage — in terms of cameras, equipment, and graphics — [and what] we’re doing in college. That’s how we’re expanding it.”

Mobile TV Group rounds out Fox Sports’ fleet, covering national games for the various FSNs.

“What we try to do is, regardless of whether something is on the network or on the [FSN], [we] in operations try to treat it the same way and put it all under one umbrella,” Davies explains. “When Fox comes to town, … there are certain things that the school can expect from us in terms of communication and personnel.”

New Show, New Crew
Fox Sports’ has debuted College Football Pregame Show, featuring Heisman Trophy winner and college football Hall of Famer Eddie George, former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, and host Erin Andrews.

The new studio team will handle live pregame, halftime, and postgame studio coverage from Fox Network Center in Los Angeles.

“There’s not just one way to do a studio show; there’s plenty of other entities that do it and do it well,” says Fox Sports Media Group EVP/ Executive Producer John Entz. “We found, going through the process of who was available and who fit with the Fox brand, that we couldn’t be more excited about these three together. A lot of times, when you’re building a show, you have to wait to get chemistry, and you’re hoping that things get better. You see a ceiling, and you hopefully can reach it. But we saw an almost immediate impact when we put Erin and Eddie together. … We’re really excited because we think we’re at a really good base point and it’s only going to get better.”