NFL Kickoff 2016: CBS Sports Isn’t Letting Down After Wildly Successful 2015-16 Season, Super Bowl 50
EyeVision 360, pylon cams, two-point 4K replay keep CBS on the cutting edge
The 2015-16 NFL campaign was a banner one for CBS Sports. You could make the argument that it was the best NFL season in the network’s storied history. Not only was its coverage of Super Bowl 50 the third-most-watched event in television history, but CBS Sports also received the Live Sports Special Emmy for that coverage, in addition to claiming the prestigious George Wensel Technical Achievement Award for deployment of its EyeVision 360 technology. So what could CBS Sports possibly have up its sleeve for an encore? Lots.
“We don’t want to have a letdown,” says Harold Bryant, executive producer/SVP, production, CBS Sports. “That’s been our theme [heading into this season]. We want to go into this year stronger than we were last year. We’ve got to keep that momentum going. Everyone is very excited, and we’ve kind of doubled down a bit on our efforts.”
On Sunday, CBS Sports will kick off its 57th year broadcasting the NFL, and, with the combination of its Sunday-afternoon slate and the first half of the Thursday Night Football package, the network is slotted to air more NFL games than any other of the league’s network partners.
Among the production and technological highlights for the new season are an added third camera in the pylon cam at each corner of the end zone, the return of EyeVision 360 (CBS’s 360-degree replay offering, powered by Replay Technologies), and a refined version of the network’s two-point 4K camera system, which offers 4K shots of both the main and the reverse angle of the line of scrimmage.
“I honestly thought that was one of the bigger innovations that we brought to the Super Bowl,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, innovation and new technology. “EyeVision 360 got a lot of attention, but the truth is, that was really huge. It gives you a great position over the line of scrimmage for that reverse shot. I’m glad that we’re keeping that in and developing it further.”
Out in the compound, NEP’s SSCBS is back to anchor the network’s production truck fleet. Only minor changes have been made to the D unit, which is used as the edit truck, expanding it a bit.
The flashy graphics package that CBS debuted at Super Bowl 50 is now a regular part of the NFL on CBS rotation.
“It’s bigger and bolder,” says Bryant. “We thought about the digital-media platforms as we developed this look: how’s it going to look on a phone or a tablet? That’s the first time we’ve ever done that. Big, simple colors. It still looks very classy. A little less 3D and more 2D.”
Thursday Night Football will be back on CBS this season, although the schedule will be split with NBC Sports, CBS taking the first half of the season and NBC taking the back half. CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus says he is pleased with the TNF negotiations with the NFL, noting that he accomplished his three goals for the talks: retain the package, retain it in a way that’s fiscally responsible, and get the early portion of the season.
CBS executives have always been very up-front with the fact that they love using the NFL games to promote the network’s successful primetime lineup of comedies and dramas that come later in the year.
“We felt so strongly that having the promotional weight and the incredible platform of the NFL at the beginning of the season was very important to us,” McManus explains. “We also didn’t want to have the end of the season, quite frankly, because we felt it might disrupt our primetime schedule.”
There’s also the much hyped added element of Twitter this season. The social-media giant will offer a simulcast live stream of all Thursday Night Football productions done by CBS and NBC. CBS Sports execs are positive on the prospects of an additional distribution method.
“I think Twitter will truly be a second-screen experience for the viewer,” says McManus, adding that those live streams carry CBS advertising on them. “We are not at all worried about cannibalization. If anything, we look at it as being additive.”