Mike Krzyzewski against Virginia on Feb. 23, 2022.

One of the great potential advantages with alternate feed broadcasts is the ability to provide different experiences targeted at different audiences. With, say, College Football Playoff games, there are some who want a film room, some who want a conversational approach, and some who want the standard game; it’s the same for Monday Night Football, where some enjoy the ManningCast and others prefer the usual broadcast. An event like retiring Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday presents a particularly large potential gap in audience expectations, so it’s a logical place for ESPN to offer an alternate feed.

When it comes to that game, some viewers undoubtedly would like a broadcast full of discussion of Krzyzewski (seen above on Feb. 23) and his importance over the years, including his 1,123 NCAA Division I wins (a NCAA men’s basketball record) across his time as a head coach at Duke (1980-present, including five national titles) and Army (1975-80). But others, and perhaps especially those who aren’t Duke fans, will just want to watch what should be an interesting game between the No. 4 Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels (tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Eastern). ESPN announced Wednesday that they’ll provide both options (and more) as part of wide-ranging coverage of Krzyzewski around that game. Specifically, for the game itself, they’ll have a traditional broadcast on ESPN (albeit with some changes, including coverage of post-game presentations), but also a broadcast with more interviews and analysis on Krzyzewski on ACC Network, plus two alternate camera angles available on the ESPN app. Here’s more from their release:

The Sonic Blockbuster and Saturday Primetime presented by H&R Block matchup between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels is slated for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN with the commentator crew of Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Holly Rowe. The game will also be presented live in 4K resolution on DIRECTV, Comcast, YouTube TV and Verizon FiOS. ESPN will also carry Coach K’s post-game remarks and several on-court presentations live immediately following the conclusion of the game.

…ACC Network, the 24/7 national platform dedicated to ACC sports, will offer a second-screen viewing option of the UNC-Duke game at 6 p.m. Saturday coupling the game telecast with dedicated camera on Coach K. Wes Durham, Mark Packer and Debbie Antonelli will host Coach K Curtain Call offering commentary and interviews with special guests throughout the game. Additionally, Nothing But Net Presented by TIAA, ACCN’s signature basketball show with host Kelsey Riggs and analysts Joel Berry, Carlos Boozer and Luke Hancock, will be onsite outside of Cameron Indoor with a special 90-minute pre-game show starting at 4:30 p.m. The quartet will also anchor halftime, and an hour-long postgame show complete with full reaction and guests.

The ESPN App will offer two additional alternate viewing experiences – ‘Surround’ and ‘Supracam’ feeds of the Tar Heels vs. Blue Devils matchup. Robotic cameras attached to both baskets provide the surrounding court view of the game, while Supra Cam will deliver an aerial view of the game and all that’s happening inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

This sets up as quite a reasonable split. There will undoubtedly be some discussion of Krzyzewski’s career on the main broadcast as well, and there will definitely be lots of that in the pre-game (including live reports from on site beginning Thursday on ESPN studio programming and college basketball intermissions, and live coverage all day Saturday from 7 a.m. Eastern on, including two hours of College GameDay starting at 10 a.m. Eastern) and post-game coverage on the main ESPN network. But this alternate ACC Network broadcast feels like a great place to put some of these interviews during the game for those particularly interested in that without getting in the way of the wider audience just looking for the game. Of course, part of the challenge with alternate feeds is communicating what’s where, but the “Coach K Curtain Call” title should hopefully help avoid people thinking that’s the main broadcast.

Duke men’s basketball is a polarizing topic, and no approach to this is going to make everyone happy. ESPN’s also perhaps setting itself up for some criticism with how intensely they’re handling pre-game coverage of this; live reports on studio shows two days ahead of a retirement (and one that was announced last June) is a lot, even for a 41-year career that sees Krzyzewski leaving with the most wins in Division I men’s basketball history. And that’s before you get into additional details like the extensive reports planned for College GameDay, the ESPN Cover Story from Wright Thompson, the ESPN Daily podcast’s coverage of this Friday, and the upcoming five-episode digital series Four Decades in Durham that’s headed to ESPN’s YouTube channel beginning March 7.

However, the digital coverage in particular has the advantage of being targeted mostly at those who seek it out. It’s there for those who want it, but it’s not greatly in the way for those who don’t. And that’s also going to be the case for this ACC Network interview broadcast. So all of that should help ESPN walk the line between providing the extensive retrospectives and interviews on Krzyzewski’s career that some are looking for, while still offering a reasonable game broadcast Saturday for more than just Duke fans.

[ESPN Press Room]; photo from Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.