ESPN covered the BCS Championship Game like it was the last sporting event on earth with more than eight different ways for fans to watch the game. It was a revolutionary idea from Bristol to push sports on television forward into a new age, giving viewers more options than ever before. In fact, there were times when just as many people were talking about the Megacast than the game itself.
The Megacast wasn't without its technical glitches, at times the feeds appeared to not be in sync and the timing of commercials running all at once constrained some of the alternate feeds which should really excel during a down time in the game and cut people off in mid-conversation. However, those technicalities were minor in the grand scheme of things.
With ESPN offering so many new ideas for sports fans last night, it's almost impossible to recap what it all means. Some of the alternate feeds were smashing successes while others should probably be left in the brainstorming room next time. However, credit must ultimately be given to ESPN for experimenting and trying something different. And, ESPN should be applauded for uncovering a couple diamonds within their BCS Megacast. Below are some of the winners, losers, and overall reactions to the BCS Megacast.
Winner: BCS Film Room
The biggest winner was clearly the Film Room on ESPNEWS. It drew rave reviews throughout the evening for its raw X's and O's breakdown of the game in real time. This was like heaven for the hardcore football fan. ESPN analysts Tom Luginbill, Matt Millen, and Chris Spielman were joined by 3 current head coaches – Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, BC's Steve Addazio, and Pitt's Paul Chryst. It was such a critical success, ESPN is re-airing the entire Film Room telecast on ESPNU today at 4 PM ET so fans can go back and see the insights of the coaches and analysts who took part.
The Film Room offered analysis never before seen in real time in an unfiltered environment. The ESPN analysts seemed energized being able to talk pure football without having to worry about the restraints of working in a booth or simplifying things. The Film Room crew brought so many new and interesting thoughts that educated and entertained viewers. Spielman talked about why Florida State had such trouble covering Auburn's seam routes, Sumlin talked about how coaching strategies change after timeouts, Addazio leapt out of his chair to the big screen to highlight powerful blocks by O-linemen. Matt Millen went back to his Fox days where he was one of the best analysts in the sport. A few of the individuals even successfully predicted Florida State's fake punt in the second quarter. If there's any of the alternate feeds that look like sticking around for future megacasts, it's this one.
As a neutral, I'm really enjoying this ESPN News BCS Film Room. Analysis is top notch. Even Matt Millen… @awfulannouncing
— Len (@WordManWord) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Hands down Film Room. Like watching with football-smart guys at bar. Great idea. Not cleanest (talk over etc) but so what.
— John Davidson (@hoopsnut) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Can't take my eyes off the Film Room on ESPNEWS. Very intriguing stuff. Would love it on more broadcasts.
— Cody Woods (@Cody_Woods) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing I NEED this film room coverage for the World Cup Final. I'm in heaven.
— Dagoberto (@tehdago) January 7, 2014
Andrew Bucholtz: What impressed me about the BCS Film Room broadcast on ESPNews was not just the X's and O's insights offered, which were terrific, but also how much popular demand there was for it. A lot of the conversation on Twitter centered on how useful this was for hardcore football fans. It wouldn't be surprising to see this sort of alternative offered more often down the road, and this may also lead to regular color commentators going deeper into the X's and O's on traditional broadcasts.
I want Spielman on all of the games. ALL. OF. THE. GAMES. @awfulannouncing
— Jeff Hawkins (@Crapgame13) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Kevin Sumlin has a great future in coaching but if he burns out, he'll be a great analyst.
— Brooke Tunstall (@YesThatBrooke) January 7, 2014
Ben Koo: BCS film room was great. I consider myself a football guy and it was really nice to not be dependent on 1 color guy for the analysis but instead have a roundtable of folks who weren't hindered by the need to communicate to a large audience that might require a dulled down explanation of everything. I did find myself missing Herbie and Musburger though and mainly stayed with the ESPN feed. In a perfect world this would be a great companion feed that didn't have commercials as I'd love to flip over during commercials to get my fill of x's and o's and so on. I'd compare it to watching a movie with the director's commentary on.
Joe Lucia: Echoing everyone else’s sentiments, Film Room was pretty great, though I think that cutting the panel down to four voices instead of six might have worked out better. Furthermore, this was Matt Millen in his element – probably the highlight of the last ten-plus years of his career.
Loser: Whatever was being aired on ESPN2
As smart and entertaining ESPNEWS was with Film Room, Title Talk was its polar opposite. A schizophrenic stream of consciousness where both everything and nothing was happening at the same time. Random C-list celebrities like Taylor Hicks showed up and some of the ESPNers looked like they didn't even want to be there. Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer were having their own conversations while Cheryl Hines was the star of the show in the first quarter. This was all of ESPN's favorite fixes – celebrities (and that's a term that should be used loosely), athlete tweets, forced irreverence – splattered across the screen in a failed attempt at something relevant.
ESPN2 is going to make my head explode. Espn news, pretty good. @awfulannouncing
— Steve Andrusko (@SteveNation99) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing The ESPN2 farce is a total joke compared to the Megacast being done on News.
— Robert Welch (@RLWelch) January 7, 2014
— Jacob Floyd (@yesthatjacob) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Cheryl Hines: "is the guy that snaps the ball called the snapper?"
— SF 2010 champs (@S_Singh79) January 7, 2014
Joe Lucia: Title Talk was…well, about what everyone expected. It wasn’t compelling television, and the most interesting people were shoved to the backburner during the game. In the first quarter, 90% of the talking was done by Cheryl Hines – do we really need to know what she thinks when Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer are right there and can at least provide some sort of insight?
@awfulannouncing the ESPN2 feed is a horrible idea. Uncomfortable, awkward, weird, strange, embarrassing.
— BPO24 (@Barron02) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing couldn't agree more I'd watch games like this every week. On the other hand ESPN2 is like watching drunk NYE newscasters
— John Donoghue (@jonaghue_05) January 7, 2014
Winner/Loser: Sounds of the BCS
For the minimalist, the ESPN Classic feed showcasing the sounds of the game without announcers may have been the choice du jour. Unfortunately, the feed was only in Standard Definition, which likely kept many prospective viewers away.
Ken Fang: For me, the channel's value was seeing the halftime performances by the Auburn and Florida State bands. We don't get to see enough of the halftime bands on television on college football. But the attraction of this channel was having no announcers on ESPN Classic. We were supposed to get enhanced audio, but the referee's microphone was barely audible. Overall, I thought the natural sound was a good idea, but by the fourth quarter, I turned back to the main feed. The only drawback was having ESPN Classic in Standard Definition. That has to change if it will be used for future Megacasts.
@awfulannouncing other than not being HD I'm loving the espn classic's silent feed
— art isgreat (@huggyd) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing I'm loving the ESPN Classic raw feed with no announcers. Only downside, I don't get it in HD.
— John Lamm (@JohnLammTX) January 7, 2014
Ben Koo: I enjoyed Sounds Of The BCS as the venue audio is a totally different experience. That said, I would probably only use it as an alternative to an announcing team that I wasn't fond of. Also standard definition ended my flirtation with that format fairly early on.
Semi-Winner: ESPN3 Feeds
— Scott McClellan (@alastormspotter) January 7, 2014
The several feeds on ESPN3 were obviously less popular than their television counterparts, but they still provided an interesting lens in which to view the game. The local FSU and Auburn radio calls were fun to switch back and forth for a neutral and I can imagine them being particularly popular for fans of either team involved. The BCS Spidercam (the camera directly behind the offense) also drew some positive reviews although there were a couple glitches versus regular viewing. As was evidenced throughout the night, some of the feeds were off sync with the main ESPN telecast. The only people I saw talking about the ESPN3 Fan Cam throughout the evening were employed by ESPN PR.
On the whole, there wasn't anything on ESPN3 that would jump out at you as a viewing option for the entire game, but a couple interesting novelties worth checking out periodically.
@awfulannouncing Watching spidercam only, it's fantastic but can't have it on with TV cause they're so far out of sync.
— Eric Rasmussen (@eric_ras) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing the Auburn radio feed is cool. Great to hear Rod Bramblett during a game after hearing his call of the Iron Bowl finish.
— Matthew Valcho (@MvValcho18) January 7, 2014
Winners: Tim Tebow, Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin
Of course Tim Tebow got plenty of attention in his first spell as an ESPN analyst and he did surprisingly well. He was engaging and offered much more critical X's and O's insight than I expected. Also, he was one point off predicting the exact final score. If anything, he should only get better on television with time and experience and his delivery will become just a bit more polished. Hopefully in a couple years his likable television personality can help him become a real person again instead of a walking, talking debate point.
As far as the guest analysts, Alabama's Saban and Texas A&M's Sumlin showed they have a definite future as TV analysts if they would ever consider leaving coaching.
Overall Impressions of the BCS Megacast
@awfulannouncing Loved it. I love that they took a risk and tried different things. Fav was the Film Room. Enjoyed Tebow as well.
— CFB Today (@CfbToday) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Loved it. Very entertaining and informative. Lots of options. It was great.
— Austin Elmore (@autyelmore) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing: Loved the idea; couldn't deal with the time delay because I was watching my team. Should still continue for other games.
— Lindsay Crosby (@L_Crosby) January 7, 2014
— jeff (@jeffyjoe44) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing If my favorite team was playing would have stuck w main feed. But enjoyed the coaches on espn news.
— Dennis Leyendecker (@Decker98) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Some good ideas, some bad ideas, ultimately I'd wager most had no idea the options were even there.
— JT Gwozdz (@Gwozdzilla) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Has to be considered a major success. Had people talking, and coaches' discussion was legit good.
— Sean Kennedy (@SeanDKennedy) January 7, 2014
@awfulannouncing Very interesting experiment by ESPN. I really hope they offer some of those things via ESPN3 for big games in the future.
— Grady Bailey (@GB330033) January 7, 2014
The BCS Megacast has to be considered a wild success for ESPN. Although the wide majority of viewers stuck with the ESPN main telecast (it apparently got a 15.3 rating while the combined coverage on ESPN2 and ESPNEWS only lifted the overall number to a 15.7), it certainly got people talking and interested in what ESPN was doing. It's refreshing to see ESPN take a chance and do something with the coverage that has never been seen before. It's that kind of innovation and ingenuity that moves any industry forward.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see other networks follow in ESPN's footsteps and try megacasts of their own for future big events. At the very least, let's hope broadcasters take some of the best elements of the megacast and employ them in future telecasts to amplify the viewing experience for sports fans.