ESPN Says ‘Aloha’ as NFL Pro Bowl Returns to Hawaii

Sunday’s annual showcase of the league’s top talent kicks off with live Pro Bowl Draft show tomorrow night

As the Eastern seaboard shovels out from Winter Storm Jonas, ESPN has its sights set on sunny Hawaii. The NFL Pro Bowl returns to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu this Sunday, and, though producing a game outside the Continental U.S. presents its own set of challenges, ESPN’s crew is more than ready to trade parkas for palm trees.

pro bowl 1“The Pro Bowl is always unique and a special game, because it has a different feel to it and different atmosphere,” says ESPN Senior Operations Manager Steve Carter. “That’s what I always like about the Pro Bowl, and, especially because it’s the only game of the year in Hawaii, the fans have a different sense about it as well. It’s a lot of fun to do this game. … It’s good to be back doing the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.”

Last year’s game took place at University of Phoenix Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLIX. Because it was within the continental U.S., ESPN was able to drive its NEP EN1 unit — the network’s Monday Night Football fleet — to Glendale, AZ, for the Pro Bowl. EN1 then remained there to handle NFL Network’s production of the Super Bowl world feed the following weekend.

For this year’s Pro Bowl, ESPN will float NEP’s ND4/Double Eagle from Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaii, where it covered the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, to Honolulu on Oahu. The truck will park at Aloha Stadium tomorrow afternoon and begin setting up Thursday morning.

ESPN will deploy 14 manned cameras for the game, including Spidercam and a wireless RF Steadicam. The network will also outfit the referee with Ref Cam; a wireless camera on the bill of his cap.

The focus for this year’s game, however, is on audio. “This type of a game is more about audio: miking the quarterbacks, miking the coaches,” Carter explains. “And we’ll have the ability to interact with the coaches and talk to them throughout the game.”

In addition, ESPN’s game coverage will include telestration, player tracking, and next-gen stats. Approximately 120 staffers will be onsite, including ESPN’s Monday Night Football team of play-by-play voice Mike Tirico, analyst Jon Gruden, reporters Lisa Salters and John Sutcliffe, producer Jay Rothman, and director Chip Dean.

Primetime Pro Bowl Draft
ESPN kicks off the Pro Bowl festivities tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET with the 2016 Pro Bowl Draft, live from Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii. The two-hour show on ESPN2 will feature Tirico and Gruden seated at a table with Hall of Fame wide receivers and NFL Legends captains Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice as they discuss which players to select for Sunday’s Pro Bowl. The setup, intended to resemble an NFL Draft team meeting, will allow fans to listen in on the decision-making process and see how this year’s “unconferenced” teams are formed.

While the Draft Room roundtable takes place in one hangar, the Pro Bowl players will watch the proceedings from an adjacent hangar, where they will be joined by service members from all five military branches and their families. Salters and Sutcliffe will conduct interviews of the players and military members.

For the show, ESPN’s staff of 80-plus will operate out of NEP’s SS14 and ND2, deploying 11 cameras and four EVS replay servers to cover the action.

“Our goal is to put a brand-new spin on this Pro Bowl draft show; we want fans to feel like they’re eavesdropping on a production meeting,” says Rothman, who will produce the 2016 Pro Bowl Draft alongside director Dean. “We also feel it’s important to showcase where we are, so we’ll sprinkle in scenes from Wheeler and Pearl Harbor and pay tribute to those who served and serve our country.”