ESPN Creative Studio and production teams continue to innovate on various initiatives
The NHL, ESPN, Disney Entertainment Television and Beyond Sports are partnering in early 2024 to present the second edition of the NHL Big City Greens Classic alternative broadcast. Executive Vice President of Creative Studio and Marketing at ESPN Tina Thornton, made the announcement during the ESPN Edge conference last week in New York. The animated alternative broadcast will once again leverage NHL Edge tracking data from Sony’s Beyond Sports AI-driven data visualization platform to recreate the action on the ice in real-time, featuring The greens of big cities characters skating alongside animated versions of NHL players.
“The greens of big cities is going to come back, which is amazing,” Thornton said. “We are excited to continue to advance this fan-facing opportunity.”
The first one The greens of big cities Classic production was led by ESPN Creative Studio in collaboration with ESPN Edge Innovation Center and NHL EDGE innovation partners Verizon, Beyond Sports and Silver Spoon (who provided motion-captured animated versions of ESPN commentators).
The return of NHL Big City Greens Classic follows the success of ESPN and Disney’s Toy Story Funday Football alternate cast on ESPN+ and Disney+, which was produced during the Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars match at London’s Wembley Stadium last month.
“(In terms of) collaboration, you also have to collaborate within Disney,” Thornton added. “We had to get permission to use Disney intellectual property in a lot of these areas, whether it was The greens of big cities Or toy story. For Disney and Pixar to trust us to use that brand and take their assets and build this off of it was so special. And it’s been the same thing ever since The greens of big cities. This is truly the essence of collaboration at the Walt Disney Company.
Thornton added that next year NHL Big City Greens Classic is just the latest chapter in ESPN’s long history of alternative presentations. Although much attention has been focused on Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli In recent years, Thornton has been careful to note that ESPN has currently been active in the alternative broadcasting business for nearly two decades.
“If you think about alternative shows on ESPN, a lot of people think it started with ManningCast. No, it’s not,” Thornton said. “We had our first alternative TV show in 2006. It was called ESPN Full Circle, and that was the Duke-Carolina game where we put different looks of that game on different linear platforms. And then later it evolved into Megacast… and it kept evolving… And then all of a sudden we got into this volumetric business where we take tokens and put them into players and we are able to make the transition to an animated world. .”
Thornton was joined on stage at the ESPN Edge conference by Event and Studio Production Manager Dave Roberts And Executive Vice President of Executive Vice President, ESPN BET, Business Development and Sports Innovation Mark L. Walker to discuss “innovation in ESPN Creative Studio, marketing, production and talent integration.” Other key innovation initiatives on the discussion agenda included ESPN’s powerful daytime lineup, headlined by the recent addition of The Pat McAfee Showthe new NBA In-Season tournament, the launch of ESPN BetAnd First Take’s HBCU Homecoming shows on site last month.
The row of daytime murderers: Get up, first take And McAfee
Roberts pointed out that ESPN’s daytime programming — which now includes a six-hour block of Get up with Mike Greenberg, First take with Stephen A. Smith and The Pat McAfee Show weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET – aims not only to provide the latest news and opinions to fans, but also to have fun. He also explained how this programming resonates with sports fans beyond linear television.
“What you have in the morning with Greeny, Stephen A and McAfee is distinctive content and distinct personalities that will translate not only to linear platforms, but also the innovation that is happening on all other platforms- shapes. And I can tell you that our YouTube numbers are exploding. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but they are setting records every month. And the reason they do it is innovation through distinctive content created by unique personalities. And that’s the key.
In-season NBA tournament ‘ripe for innovation’
Roberts also expressed a lot of excitement around the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournmanet, which kicked off earlier this month and saw viewers on ESPN increase by 55% compared to previous comparable windows season (1.7M average viewers versus 1.09M average viewers).
“You’re going to see unique courts in every city, you’re going to see unique access and you’re going to see every player on the court committing to making half a million dollars per person to win this championship,” Roberts said. . “And ESPN is going to lead the way with coverage…for the next month.” It’s a clean slate, conducive to innovation and big ideas.
First take kicked off the first week of November with back-to-back roadshows to two HBCUs with a special connection to the show. First Take’s HBCU Homecoming on-site performances brought iconic alumni Smith and Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe back to their alma maters, Winston-Salem State (Nov. 7) and Savannah State (Nov. 6), respectively.
“The idea came about once we hired Shannon Sharpe, both (he and Smith) went to HBCUs and someone had the idea to find a way to bring them back to their alma maters, which we did,” Roberts said. “And it turned out to be one of the proudest moments of my career because (we) had a great idea and (we) executed it through the essence of teamwork, collaboration , communication and cooperation in all aspects of ESPN.”
ESPN makes a big bet
The ESPN Bet app has also been a big topic of conversation with its planned launch today. This is a significant moment in the rapidly growing sports betting market as ESPN becomes the first traditional media company to list its name directly on an online sports betting site. The network is partnering with PENN Entertainment, and while the app will closely resemble ESPN in its branding and design, the product itself leverages PENN’s proprietary in-house technology stack.
“ESPN Bet, both on the creative studio side and the marketing side… (we’re creating) a whole brand identity that is very bold and unique and young and interesting, and it looks a little different from ESPN and yet it “It’s still the ESPN brand, which makes it special. We’re just super excited about it. And when you look at the teams and the collaboration that had to happen to bring all these things together, and when you think about the production group and to the statistics group and all the groups that are putting things together for this, including the Penn team and how great they are and what collaborators they are, I’m telling you, it’s going to be amazing.