ESPN Goes All Out In Surrounding New College Football Playoff Semifinals
Bringing viewers extensive coverage of the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl is nothing new for production and operations crews at ESPN, but make no mistake about it; this isn’t just any other year in Pasadena and New Orleans for the “Worldwide Leader.”
The long-awaited College Football Playoff is finally here, and even though the semifinals don’t kick off until New Year’s Day — Oregon vs. Florida State at 4:30 p.m. ET and Alabama vs. Ohio State at 8:30 p.m. ET – you may have already noticed that ESPN is on the scene with on-site sets at both games making live hits for SportsCenter throughout the week leading up to game day.
Tech Toys On-Site
The historic day begins at 5 p.m. ET at the Rose Bowl, where ESPN will have 32 cameras sprinkled throughout the legendary venue. A whopping 400+ ESPN staffers will be in Pasadena, filling out the game crew, GameDay staff, and SportsCenter personnel.
Inside the bowl, ESPN has rigged up two aerial cameras with a FlyCam and a SpiderCam both in place. There will be a strong 4K presence as well, with two 4K robotics, and four Sony F55 4K hard cameras. The network has also brought along eight super-slow-mos. The compound is loaded with Game Creek Video support: five mobile units and two support vehicles.
The night caps at 8:30 p.m. at the Sugar Bowl where ESPN will deploy a total of 28 cameras and 382 credentialed employees representing the game crew, SEC Network personnel, GameDay staff, and on-site SportsCenter help.
Inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, ESPN has some special toys, including a SpiderCam, two robotic 4K cameras, two Sony F55 4K hard cameras, and two super-slow-mos. The production compound features four Game Creek Video mobile units and two support vehicles.
The network learned a lot of valuable lessons from last year’s successful “MegaCast,” which saw the ESPN family of networks offer a buffet of various alternative viewing options across its many channels. Those experiments opened the door to the Finebaum Film Room which debuted to rave reviews and strong ratings on the SEC Network during the Auburn-Alabama Iron Bowl matchup in November. That program will return on New Year’s Day and will air alongside the Ohio State-Alabama national semifinal.
Inside the trucks, the Rose Bowl will be produced by Bill Bonnell and directed by Derek Mobley. The Sugar Bowl will feature producer Phil Dean and director Scott Johnson.
From ESPN’s official release:
The Rose Bowl Game
Host Rece Davis will anchor ESPN’s studio coverage from inside The Rose Bowl beginning December 29 through New Year’s Day and will be joined by analysts Mack Brown, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard, Danny Kanell and David Pollack, and reporters Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi, and Gene Wojciechowski.
In addition, SportsCenter will be live on site with anchors John Anderson, Neil Everett, Jay Harris, Stan Verrett, and Sara Walsh. On New Year’s Eve, Pasadena will serve as the host for Championship Drive (11 a.m.-12:20 p.m. ET) leading into the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (12:30 p.m. on ESPN). The next day, College GameDay Built by The Home Depot will hit air on ESPN 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. with contributions from both semifinal sites.
In New Orleans, starting December 29 through New Year’s Day, host John Saunders will anchor ESPN’s set presence with analysts Butch Davis, Joey Galloway, Lou Holtz, Mark May, Robert Smith, and Tim Tebow, and reporters Kaylee Hartung and Marty Smith from outside Manning’s Restaurant (519 Fulton Street, New Orleans) before moving to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for pregame, halftime, and postgame hits.
On December 30 and 31, the entire 11 p.m. SportsCenter will be live from outside Manning’s Restaurant, while the post-Sugar Bowl SportsCenter will be live from the floor of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with all three shows anchored by Matt Barrie, John Buccigross, and Steve Levy.
SEC Network’s SEC Nation will also be live in New Orleans, airing twice on New Years’ Day from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (10 a.m.–noon and 7:30-8:30p.m.), host Joe Tessitore and analysts Paul Finebaum, Marcus Spears, and Tim Tebow. For the second show, Finebaum will be in Charlotte preparing for SEC Network’s Finebaum Film Room: Allstate Sugar Bowl Live, an alternate production during ESPN’s presentation of the Sugar Bowl at 8:30 p.m. Finebaum will be joined by Greg McElroy and Booger McFarlane to discuss the game live and take viewer calls. Following the game, SEC Now will be live from outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.