Bleacher Report’s Marc Kohn Looks for Live Coverage of High School Football on Facebook Live To Define Perfect Millennial Broadcast

Kohn: ‘The time is now to take some chances to see what … a millennial really wants to watch over a two- to three-hour event.’

The future of live sports production may very well be on display tonight in … Little Rock, AR?

Earlier this week, SVG reported that Bleacher Report will produce live coverage of three high school football games this fall, with the goal of building an inherently social broadcast designed to directly engage with a millennial audience. That effort begins tonight: B/R will stream a broadcast of a game between Little Rock’s Sylvan Hills and Pulaski Academy to Facebook Live.

B/R will offer a live broadcast of the game, incorporating strategically placed GoPro cameras; live microphones on coaches; potentially, drone cameras; integration of producer- and fan-generated content from Instagram; live interaction in the comments section with on-air talent, fan polls, and even live player tracking and statistical data displayed in real time.

Marc Kohn, senior director, video programming, Bleacher Report

Marc Kohn, senior director, video programming, Bleacher Report

“When you look at how millennials consume content, we thought hard about how we might produce a game for 15- to 25-year-olds,” says Marc Kohn, senior director, video programming, Bleacher Report. “You look at what we do across our social-media platforms and say, can we, over two to three hours, create a lot of fun and interesting moments that will keep a millennial involved in the broadcast?”

He notes that much of what makes Bleacher Report so successful is building content that excels in the rapid-fire world of social media. Making that work over the course of a full game is a new challenge that will require some experimentation.

“Can we clip those things out; spread them across Instagram, Facebook, and other B/R properties; and continue to drive people to watch something that is incredibly interesting for them?” he asks. “I think the time is now to take some chances to see what it is that a millennial really wants to watch over a two- to three-hour event.”

Of the many elements in store, integration of Instagram’s ‘Instagram Stories’ feature in the broadcast is especially interesting to Kohn. Producers will be roaming the sidelines and in the stands, capturing moments using enhancements such as filters and Face Swaps to create fun content that can be sent to the truck for integration into the live broadcast to show an even deeper experience of what it’s like at the game. Bleacher producers are also working with the schools to encourage students and fans to create their own content that can be submitted and screened for inclusion in the live production.

“If you could sit back and imagine what that could look like in 12 or 24 months and think about the possibility of having all of those, essentially, extra cameras among the fans and on the sidelines, it makes for a completely different broadcast long term,” says Kohn. “We’re not going to have all of those elements on day 1 here, but, when you close your eyes and envision this long term, every single person in the crowd basically has the ability to interact with and be incorporated inside of a broadcast. That’s tens of thousands of different cameras that you can integrate, and that can be really special and dynamic.”

Behind the scenes, much of this work will actually look like a traditional live production. B/R is working with a live-production partner (Paragon 360), will have a crew of 25-30 people, will roll in a full-size production truck, and deploy a typical complement of hard, robotic, and RF cameras. From there, Bleacher Report will be layering technology and programming ideas on top of what one might expect from a classic football broadcast.

According to Kohn, these productions will be about answering the question, “How do you create more of a millennial experience from a visual standpoint while still using high-end television production to get you to that level?”

Such elements as the traditional 50-yard-line A camera will be deployed, but Kohn hopes that the team can get to a point where that isn’t necessarily the primary viewing angle for the entire game.

“We’re going to have to go to that camera many times during the game to give people perspective,” he says, “but expect to see a lot of stuff from the [aerial] camera and other handhelds throughout.”

Bleacher Report is slated to produce two more games like this on Oct. 21 (Antioch-Deer Valley from Antioch, CA) and Nov. 19 (IMG Academy-Bishop Sullivan from Virginia Beach, VA), and viewers can expect the broadcasts to evolve significantly over that time.

“It’s more about the journey here,” Kohn says. “What will we learn about what works and what doesn’t work and how we are able to take creative risks? We’ve got all of these different elements together, and it’s going to be interesting to see how we assemble two to three hours. After three broadcasts, I’d really like to be able to say that … we’re a lot closer to figuring out what the pixie dust is for creating that great millennial broadcast.”

He declines to disclose whether Bleacher Report will pursue projects like this beyond these three games. He’s optimistic but knows that it remains to be seen how the future plays out.

“We’re going to be involved in this space for some time to come,” he explains, “but, right now, we are really focused on being able to zero in on these three games, learn a lot, and then figure out where we are going to take this next.”

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