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Amanda Gifford: ESPN Hopes Technology Will Remain Big Part of College Football Broadcasts

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A photo of Amanda Gifford
(Photo: Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

As more technology enters sports broadcasts, networks will try to find any way they can to bring the viewer closer to the game. That holds true for ESPN and their college football coverage each week.

This week, Amanda Gifford, the Vice President of Production and the leader of college football/XFL productions for ESPN, was a guest on the Sports Media With Richard Deitsch Podcast. Deitsch asked Gifford where she sees the future of college football broadcasts going and the big thing she was talking about going into the year was access.

“One thing that we went into this season talking about is access and that’s something that we are really pushing with our crews this year. How are we taking our viewers behind the curtain of what happens during a typical college football game? We’ve had some success with the pregame speech from Dan Lanning at Oregon….That was a great example of access. But, what’s the next step of that?”

“It would be great to have even more access in four years. Can we hear the conversation between the coordinators and head coaches? Can we hear the conversations between the head coaches and players? Can we put a camera on the quarterback in some way? How we push for access I think will be interesting and see how that evolves over the next couple of years.”

Gifford brought up the point that technology is a big innovator for college football and one of the things she is hoping for is that the camera angles continue to evolve for the viewer.

“I think technology is always going to be a big part of our college football broadcasts. How are we innovating the main things like the pylon cam, the 1st and 10 line? How are we getting past the chains and human part of it? Camera angles, I really hope we can continue to push different camera angles. We’ve done things like the pylon cam, (and) the ref hat cam. I feel like the view of the game hopefully will continue to get even more intricate as we evolve over the next few years.” 

As the network gets set for the first set of College Football Playoff Rankings to be revealed on Tuesday, the viewership of college football has been up for ESPN this year and Giffords did say that Deion Sanders has played a small part in that now that he is coaching Colorado.

“I think the first thing is probably some of the big brands of college football are doing really well. A lot of the traditional powers are having really good years. Deion Sanders can not be denied as a storyline and why there has been such an upswing of viewership especially in the PAC-12. Every game we have done of his has performed really well from a ratings perspective and he has brought a new element to college football that expands beyond the traditional college football fan.”  

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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NBA Finals Game 3 Up 2% on ABC and ESPN

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Game 3 of the NBA Finals series which saw Boston take a three games to none lead in the series was up 2% from last year’s Game 3. The game averaged 11,426,000 viewers and peaked at 13,926,000 at 10:45 p.m. ET.

The game was the top draw in all of television for the night and took the top spot in all of the key demographics. So far through three games, the series is even with the television numbers from 2023.

NBA Countdown, the show which airs right before the game begins, was also up two percent compared to the same show a year ago. NBA Countdown averaged 4,330,000 viewers. Through three games, the show is up five percent from last season’s pregame shows.

The Celtics will look to secure their 18th NBA Championship when the two teams meet again for Game 4 tonight at 8:30 ET. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be played on Monday, June 17.

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