Live From Super Bowl LVII: NFL Media Finds New Partners, New Efficiencies for Massive Effort
Working closely with Fox Sports, NBC, and Apple eases production burden
Super Bowl LVII hasn’t even kicked off, but the NFL Media team has already had a busy week. It’s working not only on the NFL Network’s 85 hours of broadcast content but also on such events as Opening Night, Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference, and the increasingly important NFL Honors and its red carpet. In addition, working with Apple to distribute Rihanna’s halftime press conference has had the team busy both here and at NFL Network’s production center in Inglewood, CA.
Last year’s Super Bowl was at SoFi Stadium, located next to NFL Network’s production facility. This year’s game, in Phoenix, means a return to a compound or convention center far from Inglewood, but, as in recent years, the team back home has been busy all week with four control rooms cutting a wide variety of shows.
For example, Super Bowl Sunday GameDay Morning’s pregame show will bring in video and audio signals from a 32- x 32-ft. set outside State Farm Stadium. Feeds from inside the venue will be part of 30 outbound signals from Phoenix to Los Angeles, along with TeamCam feeds from team hotels and Super Bowl Experience.
“We also have some isos from Fox that we can use in our pregame show,” says Adam Acone, senior director, media operations, NFL Media. “And then there are the 11 postgame podium feeds, which are provided by Freeman. We’ll send those as well. But those 30 feeds are supporting an 8½-hour pregame show on Sunday as well as a 90-minute postgame show.”
Tuesday was the big setup day for NFL Media. Game Creek Video RiverHawk rolled in at the Convention Center to serve as the center of NFL Honors red carpet (NEP Denali handled the actual show) on Thursday, and Game Creek Celtic arrived at the international compound at State Farm Stadium.
“We had our trucks parked, and our sets came in,” says Acone. “We started working with Apple on the commissioner’s press conference and were loading in for the Honors Red Carpet, all while continuing our programming from Radio Row. It was a big setup day getting ready for Wednesday and Thursday.”
To Dave Shaw, head of media operations, NFL Media, the event has been marked by working with partners in new ways, beginning with Opening Night on Monday. Historically, the NFL Network has produced a host feed for Opening Night, but, because both NFL Network and Fox were doing Home Run Productions, it made sense for Van Wagner to produce a world feed and distribute it to the NFL and Fox.
“We had our own talent and then shared the cameras with Fox, who had their own talent,” Shaw points out. “We also shared the Game Creek RiverHawk truck with Fox, which we haven’t done before. It worked out well, and we were also both doing Home Run Productions with limited resources. We both had a couple of RF cameras from CP Communications.”
During common moments, such as player introductions, the two networks shared the same feed, but, when the media sessions began, each would use its own cameras.
“RiverHawk was a central hub for Fox and for NFL Network,” says Shaw. “Basically, all resources came into River Hawk. It was really good efficiency.”
For the remote feed to NFL’s primary headquarters in L.A., VP, Studio Operations, Jessica Lee coordinated NFL Media operations onsite, working closely with all teams in the new Inglewood facility, including support of all NFL Network, NFL+ (direct-to-consumer product), and NFL’s digital-production and -content teams.
New this year, Apple Music, which is sponsoring the Halftime Show, produced the Rhianna press conference on Thursday instead of the NFL Network.
“Apple wanted to build it out, and NFL team suggested they produce it so they can do it the way they want,” says Acone. “They brought in a flypack. It was a terrific collaboration: they brought in the technical infrastructure, and we brought in the transmission infrastructure. And we built in some efficiencies, which is fantastic.”
Another big collaboration was with NBC for the NFL Honors on Thursday night. Because both NFL Network and NBC did a simulcast, the challenge was to ensure that each network had its own direction with its own bugs and graphics.
“NFL Network also produced an eight-camera show on the red carpet produced in RiverHawk,” says Acone. “There were two jibs, two RF cameras, and a robo from Fletcher; AVS was our partner for wireless on the red carpet. We had one RF partner on the red carpet and Honors, which was another efficiency.”
The NFL Network has always had a presence at the Super Bowl Experience, although this year’s was more modest than is typical. The efforts support Super Bowl Live, the network’s flagship program during Super Bowl Week with around six hours of programming a day, and Total Access.
“We’re using our L.A. facility and our studio and control room there for those shows,” says Acone. “And we have a two-camera setup in the Experience, where we shoot some segments. We’re using our TeamCam infrastructure with Azzuro to get signals to L.A.”
Shaw says the onsite technical team — led by Rhett VanBuskirk, senior manager, technical operations — coordinated each venue with NFL’s engineering team — led by Bruce Goldfeder, VP, broadcast engineering, and Lorey Andres, director, engineering — on coordination and timing of all signals whether using direct fiber, TeamCam, or satellite feeds. Mike Cunningham, director media operations, has been instrumental in the convergence of signal management in coordination with partners and vendors.
Super Bowl Sunday marks a transition in NFL Network’s efforts. The team will fire up a 32- x 32-ft. outside set at Tillman Plaza near State Farm Stadium and a desk inside the stadium with three cameras in the southeast corner of the stadium (every hour of coverage also has a 15-minute window when NFL Films takes over to give the crew and talent a break).
“We’ve got a great spot,” says Shaw.”About a quarter of the fans come in via that entrance. It’s going to be a great spot to showcase the people.”
After the Big Game, NFL Network’s desk and technical support will be carted around to the north end zone to have the trophy presentation in the south end zone in the back of shots.
“We’ll do our 90-minute show from there,” adds Shaw, “getting players and just having fun.”
After the Super Bowl, it’s Combine season and time to prep for the Draft. In one week, there will be an HBCU Combine and, a week after that, the regular Combine and the HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans. The NFL Draft will be in Kansas City at the end of April.