ESPN ITV, DIRECTV Multiscreen Experience Continues To Grow

At sports events like major tennis and golf championships, the multiscreen experience has grown, for many sports fans, into the viewing option of choice. As a result, the productions of supplemental match coverage continues to mirror more and more that of their primary-broadcast counterparts.

Last week, DIRECTV again offered the US Open Experience, which included the US Open Mix Channel, a six-screen mosaic providing live network coverage plus five outer-court matches simultaneously.

“With bigger screens and high definition, we’re finding more people are comfortable watching a six-channel mix and setting the audio to the channel they want to hear,” says Don Colantonio, executive producer of ITV at ESPN.

As a result of the continued interest in the Mix Channel, ESPN ITV and DIRECTV added enhancements to each of the broadcasts to make them as much like a network broadcast as possible. To help the production team accomplish that, the ITV production was moved this year into a full-fledged mobile-production unit for the first time, F&F Productions’ GTX-14.

“Having a full-blown switcher, audio, routing, and signal-path setter permanent, it just facilitated our whole operation,” says Colantonio. “Electronically, in terms of establishing routing and intercom, things were a lot more consistent with the way we normally work [in a network broadcast setting]. That worked out well, and it was a nice upgrade.”

A year ago, the ITV product received a significant boost when it was linked to the primary production units of CBS, ESPN, and Tennis Channel. Media networking through EVS servers allowed the Mix Channels to access everything available on the network, including graphics, teases, bumps, and feature and packaged programming.

“We’ve utilized every workflow innovation we could to advance this coverage to the point where it’s network quality. That’s been our objective, to have people visit these outer-court channels and give them a reason to stay or to get a richer experience versus a world feed, where you’re on a static shot between matches.”

The producer/director team of Rick Phillips and Rick Clifford also added cameras in the announcer’s booths for the Grandstand and Court 17 to help enhance the coverage.

“That added a nice dimension to the coverage and really personalized it, where you can actually see the guys that have been calling a match for you for four hours,” laughed Colantonio.

John Leland, VP of global media operations for streaming-video-services provider Origin Digital, again worked with the ITV team as tech manager.

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