SBJ/March 25-31, 2013/Colleges

Van Wagner helps NCAA keep fans informed

A trip to the NCAA tournament in the past meant sacrificing updates from other games and instant replays, video elements that are commonplace inside most venues. But that wasn’t the case after the first weekend of games in the new-look NCAA tournament.

This season’s tournament is taking a more fan-friendly approach to improve the experience for those in attendance with a full array of video, including updates, game highlights and — perhaps most importantly for those there — replays.

Working with Van Wagner Big Screen Network, the NCAA is running more replays inside the
game venue, and they’ve created “March Madness Central,” a hub for highlights and score updates from other tournament games.

Those video updates are being presented under the “March Madness Central” banner on video boards that are either permanent in the venue or have been added by Van Wagner BSN. The company also is constructing a 150,000-pound center-hung video board in the Georgia Dome for the Final Four, as well as LED scorer’s tables at arenas and stadiums
Van Wagner and the NCAA have created “March Madness Central,” and Van Wagner is building an eight-sided board for the Final Four.
Photos: VAN WAGNER
that don’t already have them.

“This year, ‘March Madness Central’ just adds another layer for the fans at the game,” said Paul Kalil, CEO of Van Wagner BSN. “It really ties together the tournament into one experience for the fans, no matter where they are. Fans don’t have to get scores off their phone or wait until they get home to see highlights.”

In addition to the updates, Van Wagner BSN is producing music videos for each team with integrated highlights, texting and polling questions, flashbacks, classic moments and features on prominent athletes.

“When we first started working with the NCAA about eight years ago, we were not allowed to use our own cameras and there was no replay unless it was completely clean of anything controversial,” Kalil said. “Now we select our own replays. It’s gone from this ultra-conservative way of presenting a game to now, which is much more progressive.”

During the 30 minutes between games, producers in the venue can go to “March Madness Central” for updates, live game action at other venues, sponsor presentations or community announcements. It’s going to be done without any announcers this year, but in the future “March Madness Central” could become a full-blown studio show.

The NCAA always has taken a conservative approach to using replays inside the venue because “there are some sensitivities to being there in front of the student athletes and refs,” Kalil said.

But Mark Lewis, the NCAA’s executive vice president for championships and alliances since last April, has spearheaded an effort to make the tournament games more like the experience that fans have on campus, which includes more video.

That also will give the NCAA more opportunities to integrate sponsors into the video presentation. Previously, only Powerade had any presence inside the venue, through its red-and-black courtside coolers.

At the Final Four, Van Wagner BSN will be constructing the eight-sided video board for the second time. It built a similar structure for the Final Four last year in the Superdome.

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