ESPN's BCS Megacast Was Awesome: 5 Other "Casts" I Would Add

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With Megacast this successful, why NOT try some others?
If we ever sat back and thought about how much of our sports thinking is shaped by ESPN and its programming, it would be a little bit frightening.

The facts are, by and large, when people need sports news, they go to SportsCenter. When they want to get ready for a Saturday of college football, they watch College Gameday. When they think of sports documentaries, they now call them 30 for 30 (even when they're not).

And when ESPN does stuff that is infuriatingly self-gratifying (like last weekend's Trent Dilfer-Tim Tebow fluff piece on NFL Countdown), they are at their worst. But then they put together the Megacast for this past Monday's BCS Title Game, and ESPN is at their cutting edge best.

In case you missed it, here's the gist of the Megacast...

With multiple channels as part of its platform, ESPN decided to unleash the hounds of television hell on all other sports outlets for the night, and deploy its three primary channels on the BCS Title Game between Auburn and Florida State. The feeds consisted of the following:

ESPN: The main feed of the game, with Brent Musberger on play by play and Kirk Herbstreit on color analysis. Obviously, this is the channel that got the most viewers by far.

ESPN2: A split screen consisting of the main game feed taking up about two thirds of the screen with three smaller feeds down the right hand side, largely consisting of a rotating cast of characters ranging from hosts/journalists (Michael Smith, Jemele Hill) to former players (David Pollack, Tim Tebow) to former coaches (Lou Holtz) to current players (Johnny Football!) and current coaches (James Franklin). The style was very free flowing, open commentary, and for so many voices being available, they all did a pretty good job of not stepping on one another.

ESPNNews: A film room format with Tom Luginbill and Matt Millen essentially loosely mediating a panel that included coaches Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Paul Chryst (Pitt), and Steve Addazio (Boston College), along with Chris Spielman (former college/NFL linebacker and current ESPN analyst). The six of them watched the game on All-22 film and just commented as if they were all watching in a meeting room or in someone's living room. (Highlight of this format: when all the coaches called the Florida State fake punt right before it actually happened in the second quarter when the Seminoles were down 21-3, the turning point in the game. Pretty damn cool.)

The incremental bump in carrying the game on three channels as opposed to one was negligible, an additional 0.4 to take the total rating across the three channels to 15.7, which was the same as last season's one channel broadcast of Alabama's 42-14 blowout of the University of Notre Dame (proving that, above all else, the nation loves watching Notre Dame get its ass kicked).

The aesthetic bump, though, that the network got from carrying the game on three channels was significant, in my opinion. The multiple feed format was groundbreaking, and I found myself glued to the film room format for much of the second half, surprising because I'm far from a film junky or X-and-O nerd. I just found the interplay between the coaches to be educational and entertaining.

Obviously, resource-wise, it would be prohibitive (one would think) to do this multi-channel format all the time, but for big games, it absolutely works. That said, with my creative juices always flowing and with a handful of additional outlets available, I would have liked to have seen ESPN add a few more feeds for this year's BCS Title Game.



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