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WNBA Tip-Off 2024: With All Eyes on The W, ESPN Ups Its Game To Spotlight Class of New Stars, League's Increased Popularity

14/05/2024

WNBA Tip-Off 2024: With All Eyes on The W, ESPN Ups Its Game To Spotlight Class of New Stars, League's Increased Popularity Disney+ will simulcast coverage of tonight's season opener By Kristian Hern ndez, Senior Editor

Tuesday, May 14, 2024 - 12:02 pm

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Nearly three decades of the WNBA have been broadcast by ESPN, and no other season in those 30 years has felt as energized as the one tipping off tonight. From the introduction of legit star power and chartered flights for all 12 clubs to the integration of more tech workflows and personnel on the production side, the broadcaster is taking yet another step forward to showcase the best professional women's basketball players.

We're coming out strong with enhanced coverage of our games from a technical standpoint, says Sara Gaiero, VP, production, ESPN. We will continue with REMI productions for a majority of the season, but we're looking for ways to supplement some of our top-level broadcasts to document the terrific athletes that we have.

Basketball Fever: Preparations for Caitlin Clark Debut, Las Vegas Aces Ring Ceremony The league is holding nothing back for its opening-night doubleheader on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, and, for the first time, Disney+.

ESPN begins the 2024 WNBA season with Fever-Sun at 7:30 p.m. ET and Mercury-Aces at 10 p.m.

In Game 1 at 7:30 p.m. ET, the Connecticut Sun will face No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever in her WNBA debut. It's one of the most highly anticipated games in recent memory, and rightfully so: Clark is the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history and has brought the league a ton of media and fan attention. With more eyeballs on this game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT, ESPN is increasing its camera complement to a WNBA Finals-level of production.

We're going to roll out our basic complement, which is normally a seven-camera show, but will also add above-the-rim and below-the-rim robos and a shallow-depth-of-field RF handheld [from Faction Media], says Gaiero. [We'll] focus on Caitlin when she comes onto the court as well as on what she's doing during pregame. We've had conversations with the venue, and we understand that they're at capacity, so we feel that it's important to document everything we can.

In addition, the crew is enhancing the coverage with super-slo-mo cameras for cinematic replays, more player and coach mics, live player interviews during quarter breaks, and an uptick of 75 onsite staffers from the typical 30 for the onsite game production and an onsite edition of the broadcaster's premiere pregame show, WNBA Countdown, in its second full season. From an operations perspective, the high-end production will be easier to do because ESPN's facility in Bristol, CT, is only 65 miles from the Suns' home arena.

Having opening night in Connecticut has helped us throughout the planning process, notes Catherine Chalfant, remote production operations supervisor, ESPN. It's easy for us to get to the venue for planning visits. On Tuesday, with both venues having AT&T as their primary form of transmission and our enhanced coverage in Connecticut, we have had to get creative with how and when we are sending paths back to Bristol to accommodate both shows.

In Game 2 at 10 p.m., the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces will host the Phoenix Mercury at Michelob ULTRA Arena. It'll be a special night in Sin City, with the players receiving their championship rings and raising their second banner to the rafters. For ESPN, Tuesday night's doubleheader will be the first of two in a five-day span. The second, on Saturday, May 18, will feature the Fever vs. the New York Liberty at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, at 1 p.m. and the Los Angeles Sparks vs. the Aces at 3 p.m., both on ABC. There are challenges in producing multiple primetime games in Week 1, but there are positives in working from the same production facility.

With two games during opening week in Las Vegas, Chalfant explains, we're able to efficiently secure and keep resources in place for both games. Our teams are ready, and we've been working since March to put resources in place to bring us the best coverage.

When the Fever and Aces meet in their second matchup of the 2024 campaign, the game will take place at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday, July 2, airing at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. The change in venue represents a 50% increase in seats to match the ticket demands from fans.

The Ops Piece of the Puzzle: REMI Workflows, Bolstered Technology Throughout the season, ESPN is opting for a hybrid production approach. The crew responsible for WNBA broadcasts will mostly deploy REMI to maximize time and resources, but, for a handful of games, upgrading production quality requires an onsite operation. That will be the case for Fever-Liberty this Saturday.

To be able to do these productions in somewhat of an old-school way, says Gaiero, it speaks to the level of enhancements we made and the internal support we've had behind the scenes. We'll be thinking about other opportunities for broadcasts as the season progresses.

WNBA Countdown has become a staple in ESPN's programming, including an onsite edition during the 2024 WNBA Draft.

As part of the broadcaster's commitment to tech innovation, with Chalfant and her team leading the way, selected games will bump up some mid-court handheld cameras to 4X super-slo-mo via the AWS Cloud system that has been built in Bristol. Viz Libero integration is used on the graphics side, and, to efficiently work with the broadcaster's WNBA partners, Brand Brigade will be deployed for on court virtual signage and Hawkeye for official replay.

To mix more real-time data into live broadcasts, the WNBA inked a deal with
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/05/14/wnba-tip-off-2024-with-all-eyes...
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