Love it or hate it? The ESPN Megacast

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Monday night’s BCS National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn certainly lived up to the hype on the field. Ultimately, when all was said and done the BCS system got it right again. For as much criticism as it’s taken, it almost always has ended up putting the two most deserving teams in the championship when all was said and done.

That being said, this was one of those games that I ended watching less for the game and more out of intrigue with this new Megacast that ESPN was debuting.

I wasn’t overly interested in the celebrity-cast that was on ESPN2. Not really sure why people interested in football would choose to watch that over the actual game. But I was interested in the angle that they were taking with coaches on ESPNews. If you didn’t see it, they had a six-person panel, comprised of three ESPN personalities (including Christ Spielman and Matt Millen) and three current NCAA coaches: Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), Paul Chryst (Pittsburgh) and Steve Addazio (Boston College). They were basically watching the game with you and conversationally breaking it down.

Overall, I thought that it was a really interesting change of pace as a viewer. The coaches were insightful and it was really neat to listen to them talking about what they would be doing in certain situations. They even correctly called out Florida State’s fake punt before the play was even run, and then were quick to point out how Auburn was oddly unprepared for it. They also weren’t shy about calling out FSU for it’s slow start. It made me kind of feel like I was back in a high school football film room.

Other things that I liked:

  • Sumlin in particular did a great job I thought, and Chris Spielman, while not a coach, fit right in with the group and did a good job leading the panel of coaches down certain roads that made for good discussion.
  • They gave the panel the ability to access all of the different camera angles and tiled the video that the coaches could roll back the previous play in the main box, but the live video was still in the upper left corner. At times it was a lot to look at, but it mostly worked.
  • I actually feel like I learned a few things watching a game for once. It definitely was not commentary that was aimed at a casual fan. Much more geared towards the more hardcore football fan.

Room for improvement:

  • Six people felt like a bit much. There were definitely moments where people were talking over each other and it felt a bit disorganized. That being said, it was organic conversation, so that was bound to happen.
  • I thought that there really needed to be a way to better distinguish who was talking at any given moment. When they were showing full screen video, like they were for a majority of the broadcast, it was really tough to tell who was saying what unless you were paying very close attention. Obviously the coaches aren’t ESPN personalities who you instantly could recognize by their voices. If you jumped in for a short stretch, I think it would have been impossible to know who was speaking when they weren’t on camera.
  • With both live video and the panel’s replay video on the screen at the same time, there were a lot of times that they were showing replays from the primary game camera in the one window, while live video from the same exact camera angle was showing in the other window. This, to me, was disorienting. It’s kind of the same reason that when producing live sports you try not to come out of showing a replay to the exact same camera shot that the replay was just from. It not only looks awkward, but it can be confusing to the viewer. Perhaps next time the panel could try to stay away from breaking down so many replays from that primary game camera, and instead try to use other, more unique angles. At times, it was just tricky to tell at a quick glance what was live and what wasn’t.
    All in all, I thought that it was a great concept and something that we’ll definitely be seeing more of for big games. Did you have a chance to check it out? If so, let me know what you thought in the comment section below.

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  1. I like to learn things about the sports I watch, so naturally I enjoyed the coach analysis. Still, I missed the play-by-play, so I watched most of the game via the traditional delivery. Might be a way to combine the two, but it would have to be a two-screen experience, I would think.

    January 9, 2014
    • I definitely know what you’re saying. In fact, while I watched basically the whole game on the ESPNews channel, I turned over to the primary ESPN feed for the very end just because I also wanted to experience it the way I’m used to experiencing a game. Brent and Kirk are a great announcing team to have on a big game too.

      January 9, 2014

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