ESPN, WABC-TV Surround the New York City Marathon With CP Communications
John Anderson can’t wait to see who crosses the finish line in 25,743rd place.
The ESPN anchor will co-host the New York City Marathon alongside Hannah Storm when it returns this Sunday, winding its way through the Big Apple’s five boroughs for a daunting 26.2 miles. One of the most complex events in all of sports, the race blends elite competitors with casual runners crossing “marathon” off their bucket lists and celebrities raising money for charity. And although the first-place finishers will certainly be celebrated, this year’s 25,743rd finisher will be the 1,000,000th finisher of the New York City Marathon.
“For us, it’s the 50,000 stories that are not going to break the tape first,” says WABC-TV sports anchor Rob Powers, echoing Anderson’s sentiments. “It’s the people that you run next to on the treadmill in the morning; it’s the people that you see running in Central Park on their lunch hour. Those are the stories, some of which we don’t even know until race day, until we actually get there. We’ll have our team of reporters along the racecourse to tell us what those stories are. That’s the thrill of the New York City Marathon.”
After Overhaul to HD, Broadcasters Stay the Course
On Sunday, the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon will air live in New York on WABC-TV and in the rest of the nation on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET. The 44th running of the race will also be available to fans in the New York area on WatchABC and beyond the city on WatchESPN. ESPN Deportes+, which is accessible via ESPNdeportes.com, will carry the race in Spanish.
After last year’s transition to Full HD, ESPN plans to maintain many of the same production elements this year. The network will deploy 38 cameras, including 11 at the start line in Staten Island and 19 at the finish line in Central Park. NEP will deploy its ND6, SS17, and ESU production trucks. A fleet of six motorcycles, two lead trucks with gyro-stabilized Cineflex HD cameras, and three helicopters — some carrying a dedicated reporter — will cover the 26.2-mile course.
“We’re covering the race from Staten Island all the way to Central Park, but we have reporters throughout, and we’re capturing every inch of the story,” says ESPN producer Steve Mayer. “Unlike last year, where the return from Hurricane Sandy and also the first major marathon after the Boston bombing were so much of our storyline, this year, we’re really focusing on the race. We’ve got some great profiles on Meb [Keflezighi], Karen Goucher, Stephan Shay, and others.”
While ESPN’s Anderson will be stationed in a booth, co-host Storm will report from the start and finish lines. The two will be joined by Powers, WABC-TV anchor Laurie Behnke, reporter Lewis Johnson, and analysts Tim Hutchings and Carrie Tollefson. John Del Giorno (helicopter), Lee Goldberg (weather), Paula Radcliffe (lead women’s reporter), Toni Reavis (lead men’s reporter), David Willey (on-course reporter), and WABC-TV reporters Anthony Johnson, Kemberly Richardson, and Joe Torres will provide updates throughout the race.
Enhanced Security Boots RF to New Band
Behind the scenes, CP Communications returns with a completely revamped infrastructure, necessitated in part by the increased security that has blanketed marathons since last year’s Boston bombing. Previously, CP Communications operated its RF video, audio, and communications within the 2.2-2.4 GHz band. In recent marathons, that band has been taken over by Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, among others, leaving CP to find new a new band in which to operate.
“We worked hard with New York Road Runners and IMG, and we came up with a planned solution and moved to the 3.5 GHz band,” says Kurt Heitmann, SVP, CP Communications. “It’s the first time we’ve done anything in 3.5. We had to buy a completely new infrastructure and redesign all the receive infrastructure — antennas, everything — from the ground up, and we had to do it, basically, in six weeks.”’
CP Communications’ staff of 48 will maintain the same receive sites as last year — Bloomberg Tower at 731 Lexington Ave. and Bay Ridge Apartments in Brooklyn — and add a local receive site at the start line. ABC’s two ENG vans — located in Brooklyn and Manhattan — as well as CP Communications’ HDRF1 in Central Park round out the RF workflow.
In addition, CP Communications overhauled its radio communications. “Basically, there’s a server that is sniffing all of the different locations and determining where the best audio coming in is, and then it’ll take that audio and distribute it over an IP-based system back down the microwave link to us here in the truck,” explains Communications Manager Mark Elinson. “We have eight different receive modules here in the truck. The server is constantly sniffing the different sites, and then it sends them down to these eight clients that are connected to the server here.”
CP Communications also added a switch between HDRF1 and NEP’s mobile production units so that each crew will have access to the other’s AV, edit, communications, and more.
“Because of what happened in Boston and [then experiencing] start-line interference in Chicago this year, we’ve taken a completely different approach to marathon coverage on the video, audio, and comms side,” says Heitmann. “Last year, we started the process of trying to extend the finish-line truck out to the field through the air. This year, we perfected that in Chicago, and, now in New York, we’ve doubled the size of it.
Tracking the Field
This year’s coverage will again place heavy emphasis on enhanced graphics and GPS mapping, which will be particularly helpful to fans, family, and friends of the 50,000-plus runners. Every runner is pinpointed on a Google map shown throughout the telecast, and names will scroll across the screen as they cross the finish line.
After beginning in Staten Island, the New York City Marathon travels through Brooklyn and Queens before entering Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge. It continues up through the Bronx and back down into Manhattan before finishing in Central Park.
“One of the things that we’re featuring this year, much more in terms of GPS mapping and showing where runners are, [is] also giving everybody a flavor of New York through graphics,” says Mayer. “Again, we’re super excited. We’ve got an amazing all-star team to bring it to the country, and we’re ready to go.”