ESPN Deportes Unveils Its Own State-of-the-Art Production Facility in Mexico City
With a nod to the design of ESPN's new DC2, the Mexico City operation is fully integrated with ESPN centers in Bristol and Los Angeles
When ESPN Deportes hit the airwaves in 2004, the 24-hour channel welcomed Spanish-language telecasts of ESPN-produced content while producing 30 minutes of studio programming — its own episode of SportsCenter — each day. Fast-forward 12 years, and that 30 minutes has exploded into 10 hours of content a day and earned ESPN Deportes a much-needed studio overhaul.
Last month, ESPN Deportes unveiled a state-of-the-art production facility in Mexico City. The 2,690-sq.-ft. space features four versatile studios that will enhance the network’s wide range of Spanish-language studio programming — such shows as Futbol Picante, Futbol Center, Golpe a Golpe, Los Capitanes, NFL Live, and SportsCenter — to better serve Hispanic sports fans in the U.S., Mexico, and Central America.
“Over the last 12 years, we were able to grow a lot in this market,” says Rodolfo Martinez, VP, production, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International. “We had to go to a better facility [in order to] satisfy the demands for content, not only of ESPN Deportes but also of Latin America, where we have a number of channels.”
A Chip Off the ESPN Block
The redesign of ESPN Deportes’ production facility follows completion of ESPN’s massive Digital Center 2 facility in Bristol, which opened in June 2014. The designers of the ESPN Deportes facility toured both DC2 and ESPN’s Los Angeles production facility prior to constructing the Mexico City facility. Although the building features a similar look and feel as its Bristol and Los Angeles predecessors, its studio spaces were designed with Deportes’ unique programming in mind.
More important, ESPN Deportes’ Mexico City facility is fully integrated with and connected to both Bristol and Los Angeles, enabling seamless file-sharing among the three locations.
“We have two digital centers in Bristol — DC1 and DC2 — so I tell people you can think of this new building as DC3,” says Martinez. “We are connected: to give you an idea, on Day 1, we moved 95 files from Bristol servers to Mexico. We were able to drag and drop in any of the production-control rooms that number of files on that day. The access from one server to the other, the connectivity between fibers, even things that may seem silly but are so important for communication, such as the telephone extensions, are interconnected.”
With a Look All Its Own
ESPN Deportes worked with Jack Morton Worldwide and MPK Scenic Designs to designed the facility with four unique studio spaces, each with the flexibility to be configured with its own color palette, LED displays, and furniture. The studio features a custom-made curved HD screen in the SportsCenter set and a multi-screen display and touchscreen monitor in the set used by Futbol Picante.
The network even added a boxing ring to its Golpe a Golpe set for use in analysis and demonstrations. The ring can be assembled and disassembled in less than 60 seconds.
“We started doing that show about three years ago in Mexico. We use very relevant experts in the world of boxing, so we hired Juan Manuel Marquez,” says Martinez. “We feel we needed to do analysis the right way. We needed the appropriate space, so in the studio we built a ring. In that ring each week, Marquez is able to tell the audience how this boxer moves or how this boxer should move in the next fight.”
In addition, ESPN Deportes launched a new lineup schedule of its studio shows.
The Gear To Make It Happen
To support the various studio spaces, ESPN Deportes built four control rooms: two large production-control rooms, a smaller control room with approximately two-thirds the capabilities of the larger rooms, and a Grass Valley Ignite-based automated production-control room.
The two large rooms feature Grass Valley switchers and routers, Vizrt graphics engines, and a Quantel infrastructure. Each studio is equipped with four Grass Valley cameras; in addition, two studios have JimmyJibs while the other two have Steadicams. ESPN Deportes also installed a dedicated Liberovision station and 10 editing rooms, including four voiceover booths. Because the Mexico City facility is used exclusively for production, ESPN Deportes opted not to install a dedicated asset-management system; all assets are managed and stored in Bristol.
Within the same facility, ESPN Deportes integrated its newsroom capabilities for the linear-television personnel with digital, dotcom, and radio.
“Our people are extremely happy because you can imagine how hectic it was to produce all that amount of content out of one single studio. Now we went to four,” says Martinez. “It changed completely our workflow for better, so we’re getting used to the new workflow. The challenge will be over the next six months to adapt the people to these new workflows, which is much improved. … It’s almost like going from manual to automatic.”