With U.S. Audience in Tow, ESPN Gears Up for Women’s World Cup Final
Judging by the ratings windfall over the past week, the nation is officially enveloped in the United States’ quest for a Women’s World Cup. Although it will be up to Abby Wambach and company to take care of business on the pitch, ESPN will make sure than American viewers get everything they expect during Sunday’s telecast.
”One of the things we recognize is that we’ve got a very solid production plan that has been deployed throughout this tournament,” says ESPN SVP/EP Jed Drake. “You always want to make sure that, anytime you’re going into an even bigger event, you don’t try to overdo it. I think one of the things that we try to adhere to is staying in the groove that you’ve set and to be appropriately understated.”
That said, ESPN will increase its already sizable camera complement to 22 for the U.S.-Japan final and expects to have live feeds from Times Square, a military base in Afghanistan, and Japan.
“We are still working on a live component out of Japan, even though it will be the middle of the night,” says Drake. “Let’s not forget that the story of this Japanese team is equally remarkable, if not more so, given the struggles that that country has gone through recently. We are very mindful of that aspect of our coverage, that there are two teams playing.”
After a three-week marathon that included six cities and several historic locations throughout Germany, ESPN’s mobile studio — nicknamed “Big Blue” — is now in Frankfurt for the Final. The set, an updated version of the pit studio used for ESPN’s NASCAR Countdown, has been used for live prematch, halftime, and postmatch shows, as well as for SportsCenter, First Take and ESPNEWS World Cup segments throughout the tournament.
“In terms of the mobile set being something that is a completely different production approach, it’s been just great,” says Drake. “We’ve been able to bring to our viewers a wonderful sense of place throughout the coverage as a result of the mobile set, which has been a great success, and I think one that has provided these viewpoints and vantage points that really have helped enrich our coverage and make it look that much more special.”
Big Blue has also brought home a few souvenirs from its many travels over the past three weeks.
“I’ve lost count, but I think we have 12 signatures on Big Blue from U.S. players that have come to be interviewed on the set,” says Drake. “They’ve adorned it, at our request, and it makes it that much more special.”
It was only five years ago that the men’s World Cup was held in Germany, but, according to Drake, the size and scope of the production for this year’s event is light years ahead of 2006’s.
“There is no comparison; this is at a completely different level,” says Drake. “And compared to 2010, it is a different type of production in some respects, [in terms of] the cultural aspect that we brought to bear in South Africa. But, in terms of actual event coverage, I’m as pleased here as I was in South Africa.”