SBJ/Dec. 4-10, 2017/Media

The only (camera) direction to go was up

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L
istening to NBC Sports Executive Producer Fred Gaudelli speak about his network’s SkyCam games, it seems clear that NBC will use that unique view as its main camera angle for more NFL games at some point, even if NBC Sports executives say they haven’t made any firm decisions.

“We’re still talking about trying to do another game,” said Gaudelli during an SBJ/SBD podcast that was taped before his Thanksgiving night Giants-Redskins game. “We’re not sure if we’re going to or not. It’s in the discussions of trying it again. You never know without trying how much you’re going to learn.”


NBC Sports stumbled into using the SkyCam as its primary camera by accident. Conventional cameras were rendered useless during the Oct. 22 “Sunday Night Football” game between the Patriots and Falcons. As a heavy fog rolled into Gillette Stadium, Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff realized the SkyCam was the only camera that could deliver shots of the action. As the game headed into the fourth quarter, Gaudelli and Esocoff liked the live pictures so much, they came up with an idea to test it on a “Thursday Night Football” game.

After meeting with NFL and NBC executives, they decided to use SkyCam as the primary camera for the “TNF” game between the Titans and Steelers 3 1/2 weeks later.

Part of the reason Gaudelli was so energized about the SkyCam view, which gives the quarterback’s view of the field, is because it seemed to be especially popular among younger viewers. After all, that’s the view they see when they play EA Sports’ Madden NFL game.

“If you were born in 1990 or after, that’s probably the camera angle you most associate with football because a great percentage of football fans grew up playing the Madden video game,” Gaudelli said. “That’s the angle people play it from.”

Fog forced NBC to rely on SkyCam for the Patriots-Falcons game; execs liked the results.
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Gaudelli and Esocoff set up rules for NBC’s SkyCam game about when to use SkyCam and when to use a conventional camera. NBC used a conventional camera on all third downs and all plays in the red zone. It also used a conventional camera angle for two-minute drills and during a one-score game with four minutes remaining.

“Every down other than those, we decided that we were going to be on the SkyCam,” Gaudelli said. “We were going to commit to the SkyCam to those other plays. It’s probably about 60 percent of the plays.”

The game offered a view of live football that had never been seen. Gaudelli referenced two passes from Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger that showed the power of this new angle.

“The first touchdown of the game, you see Roethlisberger move that safety, and you see Antonio Brown coming free on the post — that was pretty cool,” Gaudelli said. “There was one other great play where you saw Roethlisberger throw it well before Martavis Bryant ever turned around. Then when he turned around, the ball was there. [Mike] Tirico even incorporated that into his call of the play.”

SkyCam also allowed for a unique change in the way TV networks produce NFL games, a style that has not changed much since the first football game was televised in 1940.

“It’s been pretty much the same play-by-play angle,” Gaudelli said. “There’s enough football on these days that you can give something else a try as long as you approach it intelligently.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.



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