Apr 4, 2021; San Antonio, TX, USA; A general overall view of the national champion trophy on the court after the national championship game of the women’s Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Tournament between the Stanford Cardinal and the Arizona Wildcats at Alamodome. Stanford defeated Arizona 54-53 to win first time since 1992. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN today announced a partnership with Genius Sports that will see an enhanced presentation for the network’s coverage of the Women’s Final Four.

Genius acquired sports data company Second Spectrum in May of 2021, and this partnership will take advantage of that division. Second Spectrum is used, among other things, to track NBA player movement and statistics, which has led to further advancements in analytics at the men’s professional level.

Now, with this partnership, ESPN will have the option to include a vast array of data-driven graphics and visuals, not to mention the statistical support involved for broadcasters and production crews. There will be an alternate broadcast available that will take full advantage of the technology.

From ESPN’s release:

Through its Second Spectrum division, Genius Sports will provide ESPN and consumers with the first live augmented video feeds for women’s basketball, delivering new levels of interactivity and insight to a rapidly growing audience. ESPN will be able to select from a suite of data-driven visualizations, including split-second shot probabilities and distances to 3-point special effects, captured through optical tracking technology that identifies and delivers the precise coordinates of every player and the ball, 25 times a second.

Genius Sports’ technology and augmentation solutions will be utilized during the Women’s Final Four and National Championship games, when this year’s champion is crowned Sunday, April 3 (8 p.m. ET) at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fans will be able to experience the Second Spectrum enhancements as an alternate viewing option in addition to ESPN’s traditional telecasts of each game.

Anything that makes the Women’s Final Four feel like a bigger event (which the NCAA itself has never seemed to care that much about) is a good thing. ESPN breaking out various broadcast enhancements and an alternate broadcast feed certainly helps on that front.

If anything, the alternate feed setup is the best way to handle it; going fully into a new style of broadcast and bringing in various augmented reality aspects on a main telecast would probably be disruptive more than anything. (Or you’d end up with what NBC and the PGA Tour had this weekend at the Players, with a golden CGI trophy man hitting shots no one could actually react to.)

Presumably there will be some crossover to the main telecast as well; likely a highlight package or a cut to that video feed to show viewers on the main feed what’s available if they want to check it out. It’s a solid way to mix in new technology and see what works and what doesn’t without damaging the product.


About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a columnist at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer. He is probably talking to a dog in a silly voice at this very moment.