ESPN Brings Fresh Take, Innovations to Premier Lacrosse League Broadcasts
Ross Production Services is packaging the broadcaster's inaugural 47-game PLL slate
The Premier Lacrosse League officially entered the ESPN era over the weekend, kicking off its first season of a four-year TV-rights deal (reportedly with an eight-figure price tag) with the network. Although the North American pro league is new to ESPN, the broadcaster is among the most well-versed in the sport, thanks to its long-running NCAA lacrosse coverage. And ESPN is looking to bring the same level of storytelling and innovation seen on its NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championship coverage to its PLL coverage.
“We’re thrilled to have ESPN as the home of lacrosse with nearly year-round coverage,” says ESPN Coordinating Producer Ericka Galbraith. “The PLL is a natural extension and next level for NCAA athletes. While the ‘look and feel’ of the broadcast will be different, storytelling will still be at the core while leveraging unparalleled coverage enhancements in the years to come.”
The PLL, which comprises eight teams, travels to a new city to play four games each weekend en route to the PLL Playoffs in September (to be held in Boston; Washington, DC; and Philadelphia). ESPN’s inaugural PLL schedule includes 12 games on its linear platforms (three on ESPN, three on ESPN2, and two regular-season games and the Championship on ABC), with all 47 games — the most in PLL history — to be streamed live on ESPN+.
ESPN has partnered with packager and facilities provider Ross Production Services for its first season of PLL coverage. All productions will originate from each weekend’s host city with a Ross Production Services truck and full crew onsite.
As it did for opening weekend in Albany the past two days, ESPN is looking to bring a new level of on-field access never before seen in live lacrosse coverage to its PLL broadcasts.
“Balance is going to be key for us,” says Galbraith. “We’re hoping to capitalize on the unfettered access to players and coaches; leverage innovative mics, cameras, and technology while ensuring we don’t lose sight of storytelling and humanizing players throughout the game.”
Having deployed either a Skycam or Spidercam wired aerial system for NCAA Lacrosse Championships coverage for several years, ESPN is looking to bring angles rarely seen by lacrosse fans, using a variety of robos, Marshall POVs, pole cams, and net cams in its coverage. Galbraith adds that the broadcaster will look to enhance its coverage of high-profile games: the ABC regular-season broadcasts (June 18 and Aug. 13), PLL All-Star Game on ESPN (July 16), Championship Game on ABC (Sept. 18).
“Our plan is to continue to add, enhance, and adjust along the way based on the venue, capabilities, and production exploration,” says Galbraith. “I’m really looking forward to untapped potential in this space.”
In addition to the visual side of the broadcasts, ESPN hopes to take audiences inside the sound on the field via on-field microphones.
“Audio is one of the areas I’m most excited about,” says Galbraith “Under-the-helmet talkbacks, live mics, and inside the huddle with coach’s audio — the access to these players and coaches is next level.”
In terms of on-air talent, play-by-play duties will be handled by lacrosse regulars Anish Shroff, Chris Cotter, Jay Alter, Drew Carter, and Jake Marsh. Game analysts include the mainstays of ESPN’s college-lacrosse coverage: Quint Kessenich, Paul Carcaterra, Ryan Boyle, and Sheehan Stanwick-Burch. And reporters will include familiar faces from across ESPN properties: Katie George, Roddy Jones, Chantel McCabe, and Dana Boyle, along withStanwick-Burch.
Following whirlwind back-to-back weekends featuring the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships and PLL opener, the lacrosse production team is looking to build on that momentum and use this PLL season as a way to further grow the game.
“The lacrosse team is truly one of the most selfless, dedicated, authentic, and passionate teams I’ve been part of,” says Galbraith. “Working with the amazing team of talented people from the PLL, Ross Production, and ESPN has been invigorating on every level. The growth potential for this sport is right in front of us, and we’re going to do everything in our power to deliver high-quality, thoughtful broadcasts to new and existing lacrosse fans everywhere.”