ABC, Fox To Cover XFL With Innovative, Yet Familiar Techniques
ABC and Fox producers insist that they will cover XFL games "much like they cover every other football telecast," ahead of the league's reboot on this weekend, according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL. However, viewers will "notice new production elements almost immediately." Network execs predict that the XFL will "lead to several production breakthroughs in audio." Telecasts will have "much more access to players and coaches, and the sounds of the game will be amplified." ESPN VP/Production Seth Markman said, "There hasn't been one idea that we've come to the league with that they've said no to." Players and coaches will be interviewed "immediately after touchdowns or turnovers." There will be "cameras in the replay review booths," and replay review officials can be interviewed "immediately after" a decision. However, execs from both ABC/ESPN and Fox "insist their telecasts will not be filled with gimmicks." Meanwhile, the telecasts will "embrace gambling much more than a typical NFL or college football telecast." Fox Sports Exec Producer Brad Zager said, "We'll show lines -- over-under and point spread -- before the kickoff of every game." (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/3 issue). ESPN producer Bill Bonnell said, "If you're a gambler, we're going to talk about gambling. We're not going to hide the fact there's a point spread (on the game) or odds on who's going to win the championship" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/7).
READY FOR THE MOMENT: In DC, Scott Allen notes ESPN's Steve Levy will be the net's lead XFL play-by-play voice this season, and part of his job will be "explaining the eight-team league's various quirks to viewers during the course of an up-tempo broadcast featuring all sorts of bells and whistles." At the XFL's preseason training camp in Houston last month, Levy and color analyst Greg McElroy "called a scrimmage from the booth to get used to the faster pace and familiarize themselves with the production enhancements that will bring viewers close to the action." Levy said, "It's made-for-TV football with extra audio and access. They'd love to have the stands full, but we'll have to wait and see on that. The television product is first and foremost in terms of importance" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/7).
STAYING AWAY FROM PREDICTIONS: SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL's Ben Fischer notes the XFL is "avoiding any public expectations for TV viewership on rights holders Fox and ABC/ESPN." Sources said that the broadcasters will be "content with a 1.5 million average on broadcast and 800,000 on cable" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/3 issue).