NFL Kickoff 2017: CBS Sports’ Coverage To See Changes in Front of the Camera, Behind the Scenes
Looking toward Super Bowl LIII, the Eye will try out innovations, new technology
With a little over a year to go until its next Super Bowl, CBS Sports plans to use the 2017 NFL season to test out innovations and challenge vendors to push the technological envelope in preparation for Super Bowl LIII, which will be played at the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3, 2019.
“This year is more about testing for next year,” says Harold Bryant, executive producer/SVP, production, CBS Sports. “Next year is our Super Bowl year, so we’re looking at what’s out there and talking to all the different manufacturers and software companies and saying, Let’s try something. We want to experiment, we want to try new things. I think that’s what we’ll see a bunch of this year: experimenting with high-frame-rate cameras, virtual graphics, anything we can get our hands on.”
Now in its 58th year broadcasting the NFL, its fourth partnering with NFL Network on the Thursday Night Football package, CBS Sports is no stranger to technological innovation. During last season’s AFC Championship Game, it introduced virtual player-tracking graphics on SkyCam and the high-angle all-22 camera position. Bryant plans to test the technology throughout the season, with the intention of using it again during the playoffs.
CBS Sports will rely on SSCBS as its main truck and, depending on the game, deploy between 25 and 30 cameras (for each game in a Sunday doubleheader) or upwards of 40 cameras (for Thursday Night Football). The network will continue to experiment with its Eyevision 360 and, in particular, tap into stadiums that have their own 360-degree replay systems.
Inside the truck, CBS Sports has switched its on-screen graphics from Vizrt to the ChyronHego Duet with Lyric software for full screens, lower thirds, and more. SMT will provide scoreboxes. “That’ll be fully integrated to go on-air,” says Bryant, of the SMT equipment, “and it’s a robust device that we feel can provide more than just scores: we can add other stats and information coming from that.”
Also new in the truck this year will be Jim Rikhoff, who takes over lead producing duties from longtime producer Lance Barrow. Rikhoff will join longtime director Mike Arnold on CBS Sports’ top NFL games; Barrow will continue to serve as coordinating producer for the Eye’s golf telecasts — including The Masters — and selected football games.
In front of the camera, Tony Romo joins Jim Nantz as lead game analyst, becoming only the fifth NFL on CBS lead game analyst in the network’s history. Phil Simms moves to The NFL Today, currently celebrating its 50th year on television, after nearly two decades as lead game analyst.
Later this month, Beth Mowins will become the first woman to call play-by-play for CBS Sports NFL coverage, when she calls Cleveland vs. Indianapolis.
“I’m really excited about welcoming Beth Mowins to the CBS Sports family,” says CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus. “I think it says a lot about what CBS is all about. Beth was hired not because she’s a woman; Beth was hired because she’s a terrific play-by-play personality and is really going to be a great addition to our team.”
The NFL, in conjunction with its broadcast partners (including CBS Sports), tweaked its commercial format for this season. As a result, the network will have four — instead of five — slightly longer commercial breaks per quarter. “I think it’s going to make for a better viewing experience for the viewer at home,” says McManus. “It’s going to be a real improvement to the way the game is presented on television.”
For the fourth consecutive year, CBS Sports — along with its OTT offering, CBS All Access — will televise more NFL games than any other network between its NFL on CBS and Thursday Night Football packages.
“I’m as excited about the NFL on CBS as I’ve ever been,” says McManus. “We’ve made a lot of changes. One of the hallmarks of CBS Sports and the NFL on CBS has always been consistency: we’ve tried to keep our teams in place, and we’ve tried to consistently put on the best team in sports. But, this year, we made a lot of changes. … It’s shaping up to be a very, very exciting year.”