College Football Kickoff 2016: ESPN Shoots Out of the Gate With Jam-Packed Labor Day Weekend
ESPN kicks off an ambitious slate of college-football games this Labor Day Weekend, highlighted by seven marquee games in three days. In total, the network will broadcast more than 45 games across eight platforms for a total of 100 consecutive hours of college-football programming in Week 1 of the new season.
“ESPN college football returns in full this week with one of the most loaded opening weekends anyone has seen in a long time,” says John LaChance, director, remote production operations, ESPN. “Now, that’s certainly a tall order when you consider the sheer volume. It’s our department’s collective responsibility to support this terrific lineup, not just one person or one group.”
Beginning today and continuing through Monday, ESPN has quite the Week 1 planned and an impressive logistical plan to support its schedule. Games will be played in six NFL stadiums, 22 states, and two countries (three, counting last Saturday’s college-football opener between California and Hawaii at Sydney, Australia’s Olympic Stadium, which ESPN broadcast in cooperation with Fox Sports).
“The location of these games adds another layer of challenge and intrigue to this week’s lineup,” says LaChance. “Lambeau Field hosts its first college game in more than 30 years, and ESPN kicks off our weekend coverage on Saturday morning from Dublin, Ireland, on ESPN2 at 7:30 a.m. [ET].”
ESPN will deploy 36 mobile-production units this weekend, with trucks from Game Creek, F&F Productions, Lyon Video, NEP, Dome Productions, Kodiak Mobile Television, and YES Productions. More than 30 uplink trucks will be on the ground, and 20 fiber/IP transmission-service loops will deliver more than 300 hours of content on satellite, fiber, and IP transmission paths. Nearly 600 remote technicians will be involved, along with more than 50 remote-operations–management personnel.
However, Labor Day Weekend is only the beginning of ESPN’s college-football season, which will feature more than 800 games and 20 conferences across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network, ACC Network Extra, and ESPN3. The network promises several enhancements, particularly for its marquee matchups.
“While most viewers will enjoy a similar on-air look and feel from our college-football telecasts on ESPN in the past, there are numerous behind-the-scenes enhancements that will be injected into this year’s productions,” says LaChance. “Our collective team has layered in 4K/1080p replay workflow, more super-slow-motion cameras, multiple pylon-camera-systems deployments, several Skycam units, and advanced graphics packages. As in past years, we continue to grow options within a fiscally responsible environment.”
The regular season will conclude with six conference championship games on Dec. 2-3, leading into College Football Playoff Selection Day on Dec. 4. Following the regular season, ESPN kicks off its bowl schedule of 38 games on Dec. 17 and continuing through Monday Jan. 2. The season concludes with the College Football National Championship Game in Tampa, FL, on Jan. 9.