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NFL Playoffs 2023: ESPN Wraps Up Inaugural Season of Buck/Aikman-Led Monday Night Football With Wild Card Showdown in Tampa


NFL Playoffs 2023: ESPN Wraps Up Inaugural Season of Buck/Aikman-Led Monday Night Football With Wild Card Showdown in Tampa NEP's revamped EN1 mobile unit will also be completing its first season By Kristian Hern ndez, Senior Editor

Friday, January 13, 2023 - 2:40 pm

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After a benchmark year in which the broadcasting duo of Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Joe Buck and his longtime partner in the booth, analyst Troy Aikman, made the leap to ESPN in the offseason, the broadcaster is embarking on its second-ever NFL Wild Card version of Monday Night Football with No. 5 Dallas Cowboys vs. No. 4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium (Monday, Jan. 16 at 8:15 p.m. ET). With plans to air on ESPN, simulcast on ABC and ESPN+, and supply the highly popular alternative ManningCast on ESPN2 and ESPN+, the production and operations crews look to benefit from the hard work done in the regular season.

We're always pushing the implementation of new technologies, says Steve Carter, senior operations manager, ESPN. The upgrades that were made to NEP's EN1 in the offseason have allowed us to constantly demo new workflows and plan for the future.

Reimagined Broadcast Home: NEP's IP-Capable EN1 Mobile Unit Pays Dividends Before the start of the 2022-23 NFL slate, ESPN made major commitments to its production and operations infrastructure. Working alongside the expertise of NEP Group, the broadcaster gave the newly remodeled EN1 mobile unit a significant IP upgrade. Taking the enhancements to various venues throughout the country, director Jimmy Platt, producer Phil Dean, and the team at the front bench needed some time to get used to their new production environment. Over time, the entire crew saw improvements to behind-the-scenes workflows.

ESPN's 2022 season of Monday Night Football will conclude with Cowboys-Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

We had to work through some of these new changes that came with the new infrastructure, says Platt. As we went through the season, we continued to build on it each week to get to a comfortable spot.

For this playoff tilt in Tampa Bay, EN1 will once again be parked outside in the television compound. Aside from the mobile unit, NEP Group's footprint is quite extensive throughout the live-broadcast complement. the company's various divisions are providing essential equipment for the 59 camera show, which is being produced in 1080p HDR.

From Fletcher, ESPN will receive two Sony HDC-4800 high-frame rate 4K robotic systems for the two goal lines, two Sony HDC-4800 high-frame rate 4K hard cameras for two sideline carts, two Sony 4800 high-frame rate 4K hard cameras for positions at both 20-yard lines, four Sony PWS-4500 servers for Pylon Cam replays and 4K signal distribution, and a Sony Media Gateway. From Aerial Video Systems, the show will deploy two RF cameras with a shallow-depth-of-field Sony PXW-FX9, video returns, talent monitors, comms, and aerials. RF transmission of each Pylon Cam will be controlled by Broadcast Sports International.

Operationally, ESPN is working with closely with Bexel. The fiber cable, fiber transport, and monitors will be similar to the regular-season setup for Monday Night Football. Also included will be fiber cable for all onsite studio shows (First Take, NFL Live, and Monday Night Countdown) and full support for ManningCast.

Overall, the show will feature 19 high-frame-rate cameras that provide 2X-8X super-slow-motion capability.

From an operational perspective, working with a reliable partner like NEP has relieved some of the stress that come with a massive playoff production.

We always have a great working relationship with NEP, and that will certainly continue in Tampa Bay, says Carter. There are so many moving parts, but our jobs become a lot easier when we know that NEP is handling all of our technological needs for us.

Away from the venue, ESPN's robust REMI production model will be deployed for the season finale. One graphics operator, four EVS replay servers, and clock and score operation will be located at its headquarters facility in Bristol, CT.

A Waiting Game: Ops Team Plots Scenarios for Incomplete NFC Playoff Picture A look at the broadcaster's full day of NFL programming on Monday, Jan. 16.

With the NFC-side of the NFL Playoffs not finalized before the final weekend of games, Carter and his team didn't have a definitive answer of where they, and NEP EN1, would be going for their Wild Card broadcast. The uncertainty prevents the crew from setting up shop, but, with the final regular-season game being played on Saturday instead of Monday, preparing for Week 18 presented the operations team with a lot more challenges.

We had more notification about [the location] for this playoff game than we did in Week 18, adds Carter. Granted we're adding more gear [to this show], but this has been a little bit better to plan out.

From a production standpoint, the on-air team needed time to prepare for the appropriate storylines. Not necessarily knowing which two teams would be playing in the Wild Card, the production crew operated on a shortened schedule once the matchup was announced.

You can't plan for storylines about a game that you don't know about, says Platt. Instead of planning for a number of different games, we've w
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