ESPN’s Multipronged Wimbledon Production Goes Above and Beyond Linear Telecast
The ryegrass along the baseline may still be lush and green and the silver-gilt cup and Venus Rosewater Dish will not appear at Centre Court for nearly a fortnight, but the action at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club already is very much underway for ESPN. Now in its fourth year as the sole U.S. rightsholder at Wimbledon, ESPN has once again rolled out a production that mixes world-feed content with a large arsenal of unilateral production elements to service the ESPN/ESPN2/ABC linear telecasts, ESPN3 streaming, ITV multi-viewing experience (for DirecTV and other rightsholders), Canada’s TSN, ESPN International rightsholders, ABC’s Good Morning America, ESPN.com, and more.
“All the organizations that [operate] the majors do things a little differently, so it’s very important that we are in step with all of them and that we have great pre-event communication so that, when we arrive on-site, we know all the rules and regulations,” says Terry Brady, director, remote production operations, ESPN. “That is definitely the case here. We have developed that relationship over the past few years [with AELTC] and that familiarity and consistency is very important to the operation.”
Their Own Version of the Pyrenees and Alps
In all, ESPN will present 140 hours of Wimbledon coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, as well as record 1,500 live hours from 15 courts streaming on ESPN3 (including the return of ESPN3 Surround for Semis and Championships featuring the primary TV view and dedicated feed focusing on each player).
ESPN VP of Production Jamie Reynolds has often analogized Wimbledon to the flat and mountain stages of the Tour de France. ESPN’s early round coverage opens with a week of 10-plus hours of live match coverage per day, before letting up over the first weekend for the more laid-back Breakfast at Wimbledon telecasts. Come the following Monday, however, it’s back to the mountain stages as ESPN and ESPN2 present simultaneous “Cross Court Coverage” for three days (July 6-8) with ESPN focused on Centre Court all day and ESPN2 delivering a “grounds pass” with matches from No. 1 Court and elsewhere. Then it’s down the homestretch as ESPN moves from an all-encompassing, multi-court mode to focus solely on key players during the Semis and Championships.
Home Sweet Home at AELTC
ESPN and its ancillary operations are once again located in a quartet of control rooms on-site at AELTC: an A and B control room for the domestic products, as well as a small control room for ESPN International and another for ESPN’s ENG team. NEP Visions is back serving as the technical equipment provider and integrator, building the A and B control rooms around Grass Valley Kayenne switchers and Calrec audio consoles. In addition, ITV operations are located at Stockley Park – 17 miles west of AELTC.
“In addition to the linear programming on ESPN and ESPN2, we also service Good Morning America, TSN in Canada, ESPN Argentina, ESPN Brazil, ESPN Caribbean, as well as ESPN3, ITV, ESPN.com, and social media,” says Brady. “So here, we truly are ‘The Worldwide Leader’ when it comes to sending signals all over the world.”
In addition to the live operations, ESPN also has five editors rotating daily on three Avid Media Composer suites on-site producing original content.
ESPN has also brought back its signature studio set locations, including Studio 3 — its primary that looks out on Court 18 and Court 1. In addition, ESPN has erected sets on the roof of the AELTC broadcast center and its bunker position on the ground at center court where commentators are privy to “the best view in tennis”.
‘Smart Production’ Courts Means More Live Content Than Ever
According to manager of remote production operations Joalin Goff, ESPN is taking a total of 70 camera feeds from the host, as well as feeds from all of the televised courts and all six of the “smart production” courts, which rely on Sony Hawkeye automated camera systems. In addition, ESPN has deployed 14 unilateral cameras throughout AELTC, including a roving wireless RV camera.
“We added more volume to the mix with ALTEC coming in and producing six Hawkeye smart production courts,” says Brady. “It’s truly 16-court coverage across the board. That leads into what we do to feed our other family members like ITV, ESPN3, ESPN.com, and ESPN International. This operation feeds into all those groups.”
Transmission Comes In-House
For the first time at Wimbledon and only the second time at a major (following this year’s French Open), ESPN designed and engineered its own transmission scheme to deliver the 15 outbound transmission paths and three inbound paths coming to and from the broadcast center. This transmission network is also the backbone for the single inbound and 16 outbound paths (one for all 16 courts) coming from Stockley Park where the ITV and ESPN3 operations are located.
“It’s completely designed and engineered by our ESPN transmission group,” says Brady. “We have more sources than ever around the grounds and more pipelines heading out that ever before. This is the second major tournament where we are doing that, so it’s been very successful.”
Stay tuned to SVG Europe for more live coverage from Wimbledon.