Live From the US Open: ESPN ITV Expands Reach, Improves Booths

ESPN’s ITV production continues to expand its reach. This year, the team is creating content that is seen on DIRECTV U.S. and Latin America, ESPN3, USOpen.org, and TSN, the Canadian sports network in which ESPN has a minority stake.

“TSN is taking three courts a day because they just launched three new networks,” says Don Colantonio, senior director of production enhancements and interactive TV, ESPN. “And they decided to take ITV feeds because they are self-contained and fully produced.”

ESPN ITV's front bench in the NCP VIII production truck which is once again home to the production efforts.

ESPN ITV’s front bench in the NCP VIII production truck, which is once again home to the production efforts

The DIRECTV content stream continues to evolve. It now includes not only the coverage of individual courts via a mosaic but also integration of Twitter feeds, biographical data, updated draws, and more.

“Technically, we are covering five of the seven TV courts, and we have a common announce booth in Arthur Ashe Stadium that we use for courts 11, 13, or 5. With a common position, it is easier to manage technically, but we can also have LED lights, a robotic camera, and creature comforts like air-conditioning,” says Colantonio. “So we can put our announce teams on camera at various points in the match.”

The big change from a programming standpoint is that ITV coverage wraps up on Sunday instead of Monday.

“We added a day at Wimbledon so we could have eight days of complete coverage through the round of 16. Here, on Labor Day, the outer courts are traditionally juniors and doubles,” Colantonio explains.

The team is also once again calling NCP VIII home for the week of coverage, and it also has 16 announce teams involved. The world feeds from Arthur Ashe Stadium, Armstrong Stadium, the Grandstand, and courts 17, 11, 5 are all available, and the ITV announcers will call three of the matches at any one time, with the USTA providing world-feed commentary for Ashe and Armstrong. A bottom-line ticker is also added to the coverage as well as ITV’s own Vizrt to provide graphics and other elements.

“We also have press conferences and interviews, and we are networked to the mothership [ESU unit with all camera and audio signals] so we can use all the EVS elements like bumpers and teases,” adds Colantonio. “We benefit from being able to use those assets, and they get more mileage out of the hard work done on them.”

This weekend, ITV’s efforts will also be branded for the last time, and then efforts will turn to just how the service will evolve when ESPN has the complete rights package here in the U.S.

“Everything is still being determined,” says Colantonio. “The broadcast infrastructure will be reinvented.”