ESPN the BCS winner with Megacast broadcast experiment

Side by side ESPN Megacast screens during BCS

Side by side ESPN Megacast screens during BCS

My favorite moment from Monday’s stupendously good BCS championship game came during a break at the start of the fourth quarter, when FSU quarterback Jameis Winston told his offensive teammates, one by one, that “you want it more” than Auburn. If you were watching the game on TV on the main ESPN feed, you missed this extremely cool exchange. But I saw it, and heard it, courtesy of the ESPN Megacast experiment.

My guess is that the Megacast experiment — in which ESPN used multiple broadcast channels to air different views and commentators on the game — was probably only experienced by a small amount of hard-core fans with digital chops. (And purported sports-site editors who call Jameis Winston “Wilson” in Twitter-speed error.) But I think it’s the wave of the future for big-event broadcasts, since it addresses the too-common problem of boring or annoying announcers and one single view of the action.

The bit where Winston was talking to his teammates came courtesy of the “Spidercam” channel, which simply showed fans what the robot camera that hovers above the field was seeing. What was unadvertised was the fact that that camera also has a microphone — in addition to the Wilson pep talk the spidercam caught coaching conversations on the sidelines during breaks, and also gave you a real in-the-arena feel of crowd noise. My new favorite digital sports moment came when I realized I could open more than one Megacast window and had the main feed running next to the spidercam feed on my desktop Mac. Nirvana. I felt like I was in the broadcast truck, deciding exactly how much info the audience of one — me — wanted to see.

Screen shot 2014-01-06 at 8.45.47 PMSome of the people I follow on Twitter really liked the channel that provided a panel of coaches watching and commenting on formations and things like that, a kind of chalk talk in real time. I wasn’t that thrilled with it because the coaches were all “aware” and tried to act too scholarly. A roundtable discussion channel had participants with a bit more life, but the “Fan Cam” channel was a fail, especially the FSU fan who looked like Zach Galifianakis — dude, you wore a red vest and texted for all of us to see?

Some other parts were hit and miss as well — the Goal Line channel had the excellent radio feed audio with Mike Tirico, and an instant replay after every play, which was great. But it also had two cameras that remained focused on the coaches, something I never need to see again in my lifetime. There was also a Spanish language feed and the home team radio feeds for each team, which I didn’t spend a lot of time on. Still, the breadth of choices was for me the amazing part and I hope it gets copied often and improved on.

I mean — imagine the possibilities! ESPN blew it by not having Jason Dufner and Charles Barkley, two Auburn alums who are hilarious, on some kind of screen or feed. Dufner’s Twitter feed during the game was 10 times more entertaining than the Fan Cam, and he was spot on in calling out the refs for missing multiple holding infractions on FSU. I also nominate the SB Nation crew to do a live commentary on their hilarious Brent Bingo if Musberger comes back for one more year on the title game crew.

You’ve also got to think that beer companies will get in on this act soon, showing R-rated commentary from sports humorists from some sponsor tent on site. The beauty of having multiple audio or complementary video feeds online is the cost of producing them has got to be a fraction of the cost that is already sunk for the main TV production. ESPN could pull this off for TV since it has multiple channels in ESPN2, ESPNU and the like. But any broadcaster could do this more easily by putting all the extras online only.

There were some apparent production glitches — viewing online, the different channels weren’t in sync, so if you tried my two-window experiment you quickly noticed that the spidercam was a few seconds ahead of Brent and Herbie. And the spidercam window could use a floating info-window that tells you down and distance, since it’s not always apparent from the behind-the-play angle the camera usually takes. Keep the live microphone, though! Moments like the one of Winston in the huddle are a priceless view into the games we care deeply about. And that, in my mind, makes the Megacast a win in its first time out. Well played, ESPN. Now everybody else, please copy it.

BCS Playoff Gains Approval while ESPN Extends its Rose Bowl Relationship

Earlier this week the second round of approvals needed for the creation of a playoff to decide the BCS Championship made it with flying colors as conference commissioners and university presidents and chancellors came to an agreement on the topic.

There are still a number of issues that need to be decided, but most of these are simply housekeeping issues. Among the topics are: Ink a new TV deal and work out how the revenue sharing will work, and of course what is the new name for the playoffs. The composition and election of the selection committee that will determine the playoff teams is also a topic that needs to be worked out. I wonder if they will also create a new trophy?

The move will end the reign of the BCS Championship Series after next year, when the four team playoff is scheduled to begin. There are a number of people that have called for a larger number of teams to be allowed in the playoffs, but that seems unlikely at least in the near term and the current playoff plan is slated to run for 12 years starting in 2014.

The semifinals will rotate between six bowl games and the final game will be put out to bid for host cities just like the NFL’s Super Bowl. It had appeared earlier that the bowl games had already been decided but it now looks like that is not true. The marketing activity to be included should be tremendous in the upcoming year.

At the WWL ESPN the news is that it has reached an agreement for a 12 year extension of its broadcasting the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with the Pas-12 and the Big Ten Conferences. Starting in 2015, after the current deal expires, the deal will continue ESPN’s broadcasting of the Rose Bowl.

ESPN could, and most likely will, get a nice bonus from the deal if the BCS Playoff system selects the Rose Bowl as a playoff site, as the agreement is expected to cover that opportunity as well. The Rose Bowl is the site of the 2014 BCS Championship already.

All of the games will be played on Jan 1 at 5 pm ET except for the years that the 1st is on a Sunday. The broadcasts will span much more that television and will include, ESPN Radio, ESPN Mobile TV and can be seen on smartphones, tablets, online and on Xbox LIVE via WatchESPN and will be available on ESPN 3D .

BCS Playoffs Coming-Will Anybody be Happy?

The drumbeat for a playoff in the Bowl Championship Series in college football has been growing over the past few years and talks have been ongoing recently to establish a playoff system appear to be in the final stages of planning.

According to ESPN and numerous other outlets the BCS commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director have ironed out a plan that would create a four seeded team playoff for the BCS that would begin in 2014. There is still more approvals needed before that becomes a reality. The proposal goes to the BCS presidential oversight committee, meeting next week in Washington D.C.

The model would have the four teams picked by a committee that would use the usual criteria such as strength of schedule and how the teams performed in their respective championships. The playoff format would put the two semifinal games into existing bowl games on a rotating basis between the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar bowls. The championship would be treated like the Super Bowl is currently and have cities bid on the game to determine where it is played.

One big benefit to college football is the huge extra income that is expected to come from the playoffs, which have been estimated at anywhere from $300 to $500 million annually. With a number of the bowl teams losing money when they play in lesser bowls and the probably elimination of some of the poorer performing bowls, this is a nice way for schools to bolster their bottom line.

I like the idea of a playoff but with so few teams involved I am worried about who will get in. You already see the favoritism in the voting system and voters blatantly leaving teams off the top 20 or pushing teams higher than they seem to deserve.

I heard one of ESPN’s commentators already saying that the playoffs would be no good unless it put two SEC teams in the playoffs. I guess he did not watch last year’s BCS Championship game. Yet that is what the SEC has been pushing, along with the Big 12, according to Sports Illustrated. It also reported that Pac-12, ACC and others are very much against that stance.

Since nothing has been finalized it is still too early for the various partisan groups to start their campaigns but I imagine that who gets on the selection committee will be very interesting and very heavily examined for bias for or against select conferences.

Friday Grab Bag: Does Facebook make no Money on Mobile?

Is a patent war in Google’s future?

No not the one with Apple that it appears to be fighting by proxy but rather one where it uses the patents it will acquire in its Motorola Mobility acquisition. The Guardian puts forward a well reasoned piece that strongly suggests that this is the only way that the company can recoup its $12.5bn investment.

The most recent financial statement from Motorola shows that it will have a negative effect on Google’s results, possibly dropping earnings per share by as much as one third. Google has long stated that one of its goals in the purchase will be the patents, and it seems that since it is already using Motorola as a tool in its on going war with Apple over patents, it now will take it to a new level.

But it is also likely that it will be more aggressive in using the patents overall, possibly to exert more control over Android handset makers and their software. The one company that could be harmed by this approach might be Amazon whose Kindle uses a basic version of Android but with all of the other Google features such as Gmail stripped out so that a user would barely know what OS it is running.

Amazon’s Kindle sales triple in last quarter

Amazon’s revenue grew 35% in its just concluded fourth quarter, reaching $17.4 billion and said that the sales of its Kindle eReaders tripled in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, 2011, but did not disclose the exact number sold.

However the sales growth did not meet analysts’ expectations and the company said that net income dropped significantly, down to $177 million, a 57% decline from the same period a year before. Part of the issue was a huge investment into expanding its sales fulfillment centers, a move it said will help grow the business in the long run.

For the current quarter it is predicting sales of between $12 billion to $13.4 billion and that it could post an operating loss of as much as $200 million to a profit of $100 million

Turner Broadcasting System and Intel Capital invest in iStreamPlanet’s Series A
iStreamPlanet has closed its Series A funding round with both Intel Capital and Turner Broadcasting Systems participating in the round. The amount of funding was not disclosed. iStreamPlanet develops automated video workflow technology.

Turner has already worked with iStreamPlanet in the past on a variety of live sports broadcasts going as far back as the 2010 NASCAR Coca Cola 400 at Daytona Speedway. Other events that iStreamPlanet has helped broadcast include the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football and the Championships at Wimbledon, along with the US Open Golf, Notre Dame College Football, Ryder Cup and the Kentucky Derby.

Aside from automated video workflow technology the company also has multi-screen technology as well as cross platform ad insertion capabilities.

Will BCS move games to campuses in 2014?
That is what is being reported as a possibility by Brett McMurphy over at CBSSports. He said that at least on athletic director has proposed moving many Bowl games onto school’s campuses rater than at the neutral sites where they are played today.

The new cycle of BCS begins in 2014 which is the earliest that the change could most likely occur. One of the driving forces behind the idea is the poor attendance that many of these Bowls and would call for on-campus games after the top 16 games are filled. Also under consideration would be requiring a minimum of seven wins to be bowl eligible.

Facebook revenue absent in the mobile space
As Facebook opens its books in advance of its $5 billion IPO a number of interesting facts have emerged about the company. It has obviously seen very strong growth since its inception and now has $3.7 billion in revenue.

Oddly enough none of this revenue, zero, comes from the mobile users of the social media. With 425 million of its 845 million users accessing the site via a mobile device this is astounding. However it shows that there is huge room for revenue growth for the company.

As reported at Forbes, Facebook said that it is devoting substantial resources to expanding its platform in the mobile space and seeks to create engaging mobile products. The company said that it anticipates mobile users’ rate growth to outpace its overall growth rate.

Feds keep pressure on illegal Super Bowl streamers
For the second year in a row the US Government has cracked down on a number of sites that provide sports streaming and has taken control of their domain names. Users heading to those sites will get a redirect notice from the DOJ/ICE.

Among the sites included are, and and as reported by Torrent Freak this is the second time around for the Feds to shut down sports streaming sites just prior to the Super Bowl, although some sites are already back up under slightly different incarnations.

The shutdown struck at least 307 domain names and the effort was called ‘Operation Fake Sweep’ with the bulk of the sites charged with selling fake NFL merchandise and only 16 for illegally streaming sports video.

AMD to enter tablet and Ultrabook space
AMD introduced analysts at its annual meeting to its newest processor roadmap that will include a pair of low powered chips that will target the tablet space and showed an Ultrabook design that looks to undercut Intel’s offerings in hat space.

According to EETimes coverage of the event AMD has added Hondo, a 40 nm processor for tablets due this year and plans to follow up with Temash, a 28 nm chip next year. The company has been slow to enter this space but its rivals here are more from ARM-based chips and the OMAP processors from Texas Instruments, Intel has been slow to make headway in this area as well.

AMD showed an Ultrabook that was developed by Taiwanese company Compal using AMD’s Trinity chip in a thin an ultrabook reference design made by Taiwan’s Compal. It said that the computer could have a $599 price tag, possibly starting a price war with developers using Intel’s developers ultrabooks.

Looking For the BCS in 3D? ESPN Has Your Back!

The Sports network, long a backer of 3D, pulls out the stops for the broadcast

Did you splurge on a 60-inch HDTV and a set of 3D glasses but have already seen Avatar 4 times with your kids? Then tonight’s huge BCS Championship game between LSU and Alabama is your chance to see your system strut its stuff.

While the broadcast, with ESPN lead broadcasters Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit handling the main announcing duties will be available in both a regular broadcast mode as well as in 3D, marking ESPN’s 39th 3D football broadcast in the last 2 years.

Aside from the commentary from the 2D broadcast the rest of the 3D show will be just that, 3D. There will be a total of 11 3D cameras at the event including one in the SkyCam to go with the 2D cameras that are present there.

However that is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be a 3D Ultra Slo Motion camera on a cart that moves along the sideline, that was developed for use by Fletcher Chicago with technology and cameras from I-Movix using Vision Research cameras for ESPN 3D.

One 3D camera on each goalpost, 3 lightweight miniaturized handheld, also developed for ESPN 3D, one of which transmits wirelessly enabling greater access for the technology. A 3D game camera on a 28 foot high mast on a cart that moves along the sideline provide shots close to the action and last but not least a 3D First Down Line that was developed by ESPN Technology.

This is a time to see what 3D can really do if you do ot have a 3D enabled television it could be worth your while to call a friend and volunteer to bring the wings and beer to get the experience watching an event that is capable of showing it off in all its glory. All that is missing is a holographic image of yourself on the sidelines.

Need to see if your team is Bowl Bound? There is an App for that.

ESPN updates Bowl tracking App

ESPN has updated its ESPN Bowl Bound application, and the 2011 edition sports new features as well as the established features such as providing news, video and the ever important tweets about favorite teams.

One key new feature, which works with users of the Watch ESPN mobile app, gives fans the option to stream live games on their mobile devices. Some of the new features are simply tweaking the program such as adding refresh to the scoreboard and being able to set up video alerts to key games.

A key feature for fans that looks to really appeal to a range of fans, particularly those that do not live near the teams they root for is the Bowl Bound Team Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is a customizable feature that allows fans to add their favorite team as well as its logo and colors. It includes team Twitter feeds specifically tailored for the fans school and has a Conversation feature that enables a user to chat with similar fans and trash talk rivals.
The Clubhouse includes 240 FBS and FCS team clubhouses and has a host of information about the teams including rosters, schedules, stats and a flow of news and video t keep fans up to date.

The program has a host of other features, some also available in other ESPN programs. Weekly schedules and scores for instance. Other features include weekly projections for all 35 bowl games, aggregated Twitter feed from ESPN’s college football people, weekly team rankings and poll results.

In addition you can follow ESPN’s Bowl news at @ESPN_BowlBound on Twitter. Currently the app is only available of the iOS 4.0 or later environment, or to the uninitiated Apple’s iPad, iPod touch and iPhone.