2013 College Football Preview: NBC Sports Group Plays Like a Champion with Notre Dame On-Site Pregame Show

Earlier this year, NBC Sports Group extended its long-running partnership with the University of Notre Dame through 2025. Although the 10-year extension does not begin until 2016, NBC Sports Group plans to up the production ante this season with a new on-site pregame show.

NBCNotreDameNBC Sports Group will produce the live, half-hour pregame show from Notre Dame Stadium prior to each of its seven home-game telecasts, including the annual off-site Shamrock Series game. The show will debut on NBC on Saturday Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. ET prior to the Fighting Irish’s home opener against Temple; for the remaining six games, it will move to the recently rebranded NBC Sports Network, now NBCSN.

“We’ve designed a really state-of-the-art set that sits flush within the stadium at field level; [it] looks like it’s part of the wall,” says NBC’s Notre Dame Football Producer Rob Hyland. “This year, we’ve gone to great measures to design something that looks and feels like it belongs, and it’s going to look great.”

Hyland worked alongside NBC Sports Director of Studio Operations and Staging Tom Popple and Cheshire, CT-based Creative Dimensions to create a set that would fit both the sideline constraints and the aesthetic of Notre Dame Stadium. In addition, the team designed a set that could be assembled and disassembled quickly: the finished product can be set up and taken down in approximately two minutes.

“It was a challenge; we had multiple surveys because the sidelines at Notre Dame are pretty tight,” explains Hyland. “We don’t even have room for a sideline vehicle to go from end zone to end zone due to how narrow the sidelines are. So creating a set with enough depth for cameras, talent, [and] a desk was a challenge, but they used every available inch to do so.”

Hyland’s game-production crew will produce the pregame show for NBCSN, as well as a postgame show after three NBC broadcasts, out of its game-production units: NEP’s SS20 and ST41. The halftime show, broadcast on NBC, will originate from the on-field set at Notre Dame Stadium but will be produced from NBC Sports Group’s headquarters in Stamford, CT.

NBC Sports added two dedicated cameras for its pre-, half-, and post-game shows. In addition, the on-site production crew will also have access to the ActionCam aerial camera system to show players warming up on the field.

Liam McHugh will host the show from the field at Notre Dame Stadium, joined on-site by 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and two-time Super Bowl champion Hines Ward; the three will also handle half-time coverage.

“It should be a lot of fun,” says Hyland. “Having the energy of the studio guys on-site and one of college football’s greatest atmospheres is going to add a whole level of excitement and energy to the broadcast.”

The Main Event
NBC will broadcast seven Notre Dame home games using 10 hard cameras, including two super-slow-motion cameras and an ultra-slow-motion unit, which can be used in the live broadcast. In addition, NBC will deploy three handhelds, a jib, ActionCam, a blimp camera, and various POVs covering Notre Dame’s iconic “Play Like a Champion Today” sign, the players’ tunnels, and other locations.

When the Fighting Irish travel to AT&T Stadium for their off-site Shamrock Series game against Arizona State on Oct. 5, NBC Sports will transport the on-field set to Arlington, TX, for its pre-, half-, and post-game coverage, and the camera coverage will largely remain the same — with one notable exception.

Prior to the NFL season, NBC Sports and the Dallas Cowboys partnered with Replay Technologies to install the 360-degree freeD (free dimensional video) for red-zone plays during NBC’s two Sunday Night Football broadcasts at AT&T Stadium. Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli made certain that Hyland and his crew would have access to this technology during the Notre Dame-Arizona State game.

Taking another page out of the Sunday Night Football production playbook, the Notre Dame production team will incorporate talking starting lineups for several of the key players on offense and defense.

SNF definitely is a giant influence on this production,” says Hyland. “I worked for Fred Gaudelli for three years as replay producer, so there are a number of similarities with what we’re doing and what they’re doing. Obviously, they are the standard, but a number of production techniques have been adopted based on Sunday Night Football, so, if the games look alike, there’s a reason behind it.”

Dan Hicks, NBC Sports Group’s longtime golf and Olympics commentator, will lead NBC Sports’ Notre Dame Football coverage for the first time this season as its play-by-play voice. Hicks will join analyst Mike Mayock and sideline reporter Alex Flanagan for NBC’s 22nd season broadcasting Notre Dame Football home games.

In addition to Notre Dame Football on NBC, NBC Sports Group will air 11 college football games featuring teams from the CAA and Ivy League, all on NBCSN.