ESPN Serves Up Full Menu of Alternative Viewing Options for 2019 Women’s Final Four
Three enhanced video feeds will be available on the network’s digital platforms
After a thrilling ending at the buzzer in the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship Game, ESPN is back in the thick of it for this year’s Final Four at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. With four competitive teams vying for the chance to lift the hardware as victors on the hardwood, the network is adding digital flavor by producing a second-screen broadcast and three enhanced video feeds for alternative viewing on ESPN3 and the ESPN app.
“The fact that we’re offering three enhanced feeds is fantastic,” says Donna Capone, operations manager, ESPN. “It gives the fans not only game action but also things that they haven’t seen all season. Fans should expect vantage points that you haven’t seen of action on the court, backstage, and outside [the arena].”
Digital Takes on the Action
Expanding its digital footprint, for the semifinals, ESPN will offer Championship Talk With Dee and Bird, an exclusive, second-screen experience featuring WNBA and University of Connecticut legends Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird. The duo will share tidbits of basketball knowledge, in-game banter, and analysis of the game’s events.
“We tried something similar earlier in the season at a UConn game, and it was extremely successful,” says Capone. “We’re trying to cater to our non-linear audience, so it isn’t necessarily just a call of the game. It’s adding insight that you wouldn’t necessarily hear if you were watching it on-air.”
In addition to Taurasi and Bird, ESPN’s three enhanced feeds will expose fans to unique aspects of the game. Over the program feed, “Smack Talk” will allow up to four talents to simultaneously speak, joke, and poke fun at one other. Piggybacking on the audio feed used for the main linear broadcast, the network is offering variations of the telecast with two dedicated camera angles. “Beyond the Rim” will access consistent Spidercam coverage of the game with a split-screen feature that integrates replays seen on the main telecast. With the help of a camera mounted on the stanchion, the “Below the Rim” telecast will showcase the battle in the lane and the paint.
Eye in the Sky: Spidercam Makes Its 2019 Debut
A grand total of 36 cameras will be scattered across the venue. For the first time in 2019, both linear and digital viewers will be treated to aerial views via a two-point Spidercam system last used during the 2018 Final Four in Columbus, OH.
On the ground, two Sony HDC-4300 super-slo-mo cameras will allow enhanced replay coverage. On those replays, the ART system (advanced telestration) will be incorporated for the eighth consecutive year. Outside the traditional camera complement, 11 Marshall POV cameras will facilitate the “Below the Rim” stream and accentuate elements occurring courtside and backstage.
With a portion of the 230 onsite staffers inside NEP EN1’s A, B, D, and E units, two Avid Symphony edit systems will streamline the entire operation in the compound.
Studio Show Hits the Road
A full squad of talent will join the fun as the network’s studio coverage temporarily sets up shop in the Sunshine State. On the call for all three games will be Adam Amin, Kara Lawson, and Rebecca Lobo, alongside reporter Holly Rowe. To set the table, Maria Taylor, Nell Fortner, Andy Landers, and Lobo will present a slate of onsite programming throughout the weekend. In Section 122, three handheld cameras will anchor the 30-minute NCAA Women’s Final Four Special Presented by Capital One on Friday, April 5 and the hour-long NCAA Women’s Championship Special Presented by Capital One on Sunday, April 7. Two jib cameras will also be deployed, including one capturing exterior shots and fan festivities outside the building.
On Sunday, social-media users can tune into Title Game Tip-Off by heading to ESPN’s Twitter page. Before the final two take the court, Sarah Spain and Chiney Ogwumike will break down the storylines surrounding the eventual runner-up and national champion.
Along with U.S. fans of women’s college-basketball, ESPN International television and streaming networks will reach fans worldwide with live coverage in Australia, Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico, Spanish-speaking Central and South America, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands, as well as ESPN on BT Sport in the UK and Ireland, Kwesé Sport channels in Africa, and TSN in Canada.
A Fitting Ending for All Fans
As ESPN puts a stamp on its overall college-basketball productions, Capone and company want fans of every kind to enjoy this weekend’s conclusion of the tournament.
“We have viewers that are really technical and want that Spidercam view to watch the plays unfold from one end to the other, but [we also] have the average fan that just wants to watch [a regular broadcast] at home,” she says. “We’ve been extremely creative [all year long]. I’m extremely proud because it’s been a great season of basketball on both the operations and production side.”
The 2019 Women’s Final Four begins tonight on ESPN2 with No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 1 Baylor at 7 p.m. ET and No. 2 UConn vs. No. 1 Notre Dame at 9 p.m. Coverage concludes on Sunday when the two semifinal winners square off for the national title at 6 p.m. on ESPN.