SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Media

SkyCam gets its shot

ESPNU will air the entire Nov. 5 Virginia Tech-Miami football game using the SkyCam for all live play shots.

A regular telecast of the ACC matchup will air simultaneously on ESPN, using the SkyCam sporadically and mostly for replays. But viewers watching on ESPNU will see all SkyCam, all the time, when the ball is in play.

The overhead camera will show all live plays in ESPNU’s Virginia Tech-Miami coverage.
It will be the first time a game has been shown exclusively with SkyCam.

ESPNU general manager Burke Magnus compared it to when ESPNU did its own coverage of the NFL and NBA drafts while ESPN had primary coverage.

“It’s a different perspective on the same event,” Magnus said.

SkyCam has been around since the 1980s but has become more popular among broadcasters in recent years. The company that owns the device and related patents was sold to Tulsa, Okla.-based Winnercomm in July 2004. Winnercomm President Jim Wilburn said SkyCam use has more than doubled since then. It will be employed about 125 times this year.

Suspended from four cables, the SkyCam hovers over the field and can literally follow the action. The effect can be dizzying, and therefore it generally is used for replays.

For the Nov. 5 game, ESPNU will pick up the regular ESPN feed between plays. It will cut back to SkyCam each time the ball is snapped. If the telecast is well received, Magnus said, ESPN will likely try something similar with college basketball, perhaps an entire game shown from the cameras suspended above each rim.

ESPNU will still send its own production truck and team of technicians to the Virginia Tech-Miami game, spending about as much on this telecast as it would for any original production, Magnus said. The most basic college football production costs at least $30,000 a game.

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