NBA Tipoff 2021: ESPN To Deploy Onsite Talent, REMI Integration for Coverage of League’s 75th Season
The broadcaster will also field an all-female production team
After the NBA season’s official start tonight on TNT, ESPN begins its coverage tomorrow with a double dip featuring the Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks in the Big Apple at 7:30 p.m. ET and the Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns in Arizona at 10 p.m. For the league’s 75th year, the broadcaster is mixing onsite talent with a handful of REMI and REMCO (remote-controlled) resources offsite.
“For the first time in two years,” says Mike Foss, senior director, remote production operations, ESPN, “we will be entering the NBA regular season in October in arenas operating at full capacity. What could be more exciting than partnering with the NBA and its tremendous fan base to honor its 75th anniversary?”
Remote Technologies: REMI, REMCO Power Productions
ESPN’s NBA team is making significant strides toward a return to onsite productions, but, throughout the 2021-22 calendar, remote workflows will still handle the bulk of each broadcast’s on-air elements. Regular REMI-powered workflows, like EVS replay and Clock and Score, and REMCO workflows, like Vizrt graphics, will be housed at production facilities in Bristol, CT, and Charlotte, NC. REMCO is the broadcaster’s remote-graphics solution formerly branded as GREMI.
“Our REMI-based executions will feature producer and director teams to integrate production assets,” says Foss. “REMI executions will allow us to produce our NBA content with fewer production personnel and fewer technical assets located onsite.”
Along with offsite resources, ESPN plans to use its normal camera complement and extend use of the shallow–depth-of-field camera.
For the onsite team, including main production crew and on-air commentators, the broadcaster is still proceeding with an abundance of COVID-19 caution. In the pandemic’s 19th month, health and safety are still high priorities.
“What we’ve witnessed over the past 19 months has been an ever-evolving environment complicated by multiple variants,” Foss explains. “The availability of vaccines to the general public earlier this year, along with Disney’s and ESPN’s requirement for all personnel to be vaccinated, has placed our teams in the safest position possible. We’re continuing to implement a disciplined approach to masking and social-distancing protocols, and our ongoing partnership with the NBA and its teams remains focused on creating a safe working environment for all personnel.”
Pre/Postgame Coverage: NBA Today Highlights 2021-22 Storylines
One of the additions happening away from the court is ESPN’s new flagship NBA show, NBA Today. The show will have a similar structure to that of the discontinued The Jump, reflecting on recent activity in the league and interviewing special guests. Host Malika Andrews will be joined by analysts Kendrick Perkins, Chiney Ogwumike, Vince Carter, and ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe. ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN NBA Insider/Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne will be familiar faces.
Deriving from the Los Angeles Production facility, the show will air Monday-Friday at 3-4 p.m. As the season progresses, it will travel to high-profile NBA events, including the NBA Finals.
“NBA Today will provide in-depth, comprehensive daily coverage of all aspects of the NBA,” said David Roberts, SVP, NBA and studio production, ESPN, in late September. “Malika, who is a phenomenally talented commentator, will run point on a show that will feature a vibrant cast of expert analysts who all offer distinct perspectives on the game. Through the contributions of our wide array of NBA reporters, the show will be both newsy and timely with an eye towards the biggest games around the league that day.”
Special Features: All-Female Team, Alternative Broadcasts Are Planned
Aside from onsite and offsite technologies, NBA games on ESPN’s networks will include numerous production highlights. With history being made in Major League Baseball (at both ESPN and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain), motorsports, golf, and other sports, professional men’s basketball on ESPN will be covered by an all-female on-air and production team at a to-be-determined date this season.
In addition, the broadcaster will once again dive into alternative broadcasts after the success of its Daily Wager Special between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets on April 14 and Marvel’s Arena of Heroes between Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans on May 3. All these new initiatives are testament to the hardworking staffers who work not only on these NBA games every night but on all basketball productions at ESPN.
“We’re incredibly lucky to work with so many talented, committed, and accommodating professionals,” says Tim Corrigan, senior coordinating producer, ESPN. “Everyone has been willing to make personal and professional sacrifices, and our team understands the responsibility that comes with covering the NBA, Summer League, G League, FIBA, and the WNBA.”
Diamond Anniversary: ESPN Takes Lessons From the Past
A 75th anniversary is an occasion worth celebrating, and ESPN’s NBA schedule is filled with marquee matchups, including five games on ABC and ESPN on Christmas Day. There’s a lot to be excited about, but, before the network gets going on this schedule, production and operations teams are relying on experiences from the year since the Lebron James-led Los Angeles Lakers lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy in the Orlando bubble in October 2020.
“We’ve been reminded that an innovative, collaborative, and energized team is capable of accomplishing incredible things,” says Foss. “With a variety of new technologies and production approaches, including partnerships with ESPN personnel in Bristol and Charlotte that are led by courageous and disciplined teams in the field, we were able to deliver exceptional value to the global NBA audience.”
With these lessons in mind, ESPN is eyeing an impressive slate of contests with sure-fire technologies to match.
“It’s always great to look back on the accomplishments of others,” says Corrigan, “but to celebrate 75 years will be special for everyone involved since we’re all fans of the NBA. We can’t wait to relive, reimagine, and debate over the top players, coaches, and teams while also commemorating so many memorable moments.”
ESPN’s NBA schedule continues with a doubleheader on Friday, Oct. 22: Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers at 7:30 p.m. ET and Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers at 10 p.m.