With two years of primetime NFL Draft coverage under its belt, ESPN enters year three with a surefire formula to producing the telecast. The network will televise 16 hours of live NFL Draft programming from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and, for the first time, the first hour of Round 1 coverage will be presented with limited commercial interruption. Kicking off at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight with Round 1, live coverage will continue tomorrow night with Rounds 2 and 3 and wrap up Saturday with Rounds 4 through 7.
“From a ratings perspective, it’s been a really good move,” says Steve Carter, ESPN’s senior operations manager for the NFL Draft. “It shortens our day considerably: we’re not doing a 20-hour day; we’re probably doing a 15-hour day. I think [stretching the Draft over three days] makes for more exciting coverage, and so I think it’s been very successful in that regard.”
After last year’s move to provide additional fiber for audio and video monitoring, ESPN has not made any major changes to this year’s setup. However, the network does plan to test several new technologies during the telecast, involving transmission, fiber, data, and video circuits in an effort to increase bandwidth capabilities and reduce costs. Although the Bristol, CT, headquarters operation will essentially treat Radio City Music Hall as a remote site, the New York crew will control many aspects of the telecast.
“We’re able to, on two 1.5-gig fiber circuits, actually bring in 10 feeds from our Bristol headquarters, plus we can control the router, so we can switch the feeds ourselves and not ask Bristol to do it,” says Carter. “We’re also doing some testing where we’re taking ESPN’s server in Bristol and connecting it with the small server that we put in the truck. Because of the time frame that we have here in New York and the proximity to Bristol, people can come down here and help set it up.”
Once again to cover the Draft, ESPN will deploy NEP Supershooter 25 — the network’s Monday Night Football unit – and 23 cameras, including two RF Steadicams supplied by CP Communications at three jibs. Two jibs will be equipped with sensors used for inserting virtual graphics, such as creating the illusion of banners or other signage hanging from the mezzanine.
ESPN will position cameras in and around Radio City Music Hall, covering the red carpet, on-stage interview area, main set, podium, and more. Several cameras will be shared with NFL Network, including the podium camera, beauty camera used for wide shots from the rear of the building, stage jib, and Steadicam. From the NFL Network, ESPN will take the feed from the robotic cameras located in the Green Room.
ESPN’s 2012 NFL Draft coverage will also dispatch HD Glowpoint cameras for HD video conferencing from all 32 NFL teams, which will be controlled and integrated from Bristol. More than 250 player-highlight packages have been prepared, a dip from last year’s 300-plus but more than 2010’s 200. More than 100 draft prospects were photographed at the NFL Scouting Combine in March for use throughout the telecast. Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis will appear in a special opening video for ESPN’s coverage of the Draft.
Live From New York
Chris Berman will host Round 1 from the main set with analysts Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter will report from an additional set, and reporter Suzy Kolber will be on-site to interview draft prospects at Radio City. Analyst Bill Polian will offer his insights from Bristol.
On Day 2, Berman, Kiper, and Gruden will remain at Radio City on the main set and will be joined by analyst Todd McShay for Round 3. Polian will accompany Mortensen and Schefter on the additional set.
Day 3 will feature Trey Wingo alongside analysts Trent Dilfer, Kiper, and McShay. Mortensen, Polian, and Schefter will provide news and analysis from a second set within Radio City.