Jan 29, 2021 - Sports

Inside ESPN's pandemic-era NBA broadcast

Picture of a ESPN control room
Control room at ESPN HQ in Bristol, Conn. Courtesy: ESPN

After broadcasting games inside the NBA bubble, ESPN's production team jumped almost immediately into preparing for the 2020-21 season.

The state of play: While some games feature on-site announcers and production trucks, others require ESPN to produce the broadcast from hundreds of miles away. They call this the "Enhanced World Feed" (EWF) model.

How it works: The production team works out of ESPN's Bristol or Charlotte studios and takes the "clean feed" from the host team's Regional Sports Network and adds layers on top of it, like commentary and graphics.

What they're saying: "Normally, we're creating everything. But with this model, it's almost like we're working off someone else's draft and making adjustments," Mike Shiffman, ESPN's VP of production, tells me.

  • "Each RSN has a different setup and goals for its broadcast, so we meet ahead of time to discuss our needs and what they're able to do provide."
Picture of a desk with several papers, an ipad and a computer
Mike Breen's setup in his Long Island home. Courtesy: ESPN

Announcers like Mike Breen have been calling games from home, where they're able to customize their setup to their liking.

  • "Do they want the game on a big monitor, or are they okay with that in a multi-box where they're also seeing their announcing partner, stats, and other stuff? It's up to them," says Shiffman.
Picture of a control room, several screens are on each side
Control room at ESPN HQ in Bristol, Connecticut. Courtesy: ESPN

Producers and directors are generally in one control room, while graphics and replay teams are in a separate room for social distancing reasons.

  • As for the stats person? "They're on Zoom," says Shiffman. Very relatable.
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