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2020 NFL Draft Transparent TV

2020 NFL Draft Transparent TV

04/23/2020
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Constant innovation is what drives the National Football League. Change and more change is the motivation and mantra that Commissioner Roger Goodell inherited from his predecessors and has taken it up many notches.

A yearly flurry of rule changes, getting way out in front of the latest CBA negotiations for a successful ten years of labor, only then to next get ahead of the television and streaming contracts.

The NFL Draft is now being bidded out to cities, who work to convince the league that they can stage music shows, shut down streets with packed fans and have a three-day regional party.

Today, the 2020 NFL Draft will be the first ever Transparent Television production in the league’s history. When most of the country is frozen out of the workplace, the NFL and its broadcasters are marching ahead, igniting hope for the millions of fans, who for weeks have been enormously thankful that something normal remains in place. No calendar delay or interruption here with their beloved NFL.

When the 2020 NFL Draft kicks off this Thursday, with the first round on ABC, all ESPN platforms, and NFL Network, broadcasting this unique, first time one of a kind transparent television presentation from over 170 remote sites, the NFL has again has led the way not only in the sports world, but breaking into the broadcast history books “never before and maybe never again.  The Commissioner in his home basement with a reported video screen behind him of fans give him the thumb up or down with every draft selection, NFL owners, general managers scouts, and reporters alone in their homes. The dual broadcast partners, ESPN and NFL Network, should be ready for their acceptance speeches for the 2021 Sports Emmys in multiple categories. Lifetime Achievement Award, Studio Technical Achievement, Studio Broadcast, they could easily win the most Sports Emmys ever in one year, more than the past champion of multiple Emmy winners, the Olympics.

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That is the farthest thing that the broadcasters are thinking of now. The planning is going on 24/7 daily with video conferences to figure out not just the technical enormity of execution, but all within CDC guidelines. The “Show” will be hosted by ESPN’s Trey Wingo in Bristol, Connecticut. Usually the ESPN master control room would be packed with 25-30 people. For this show, it is two control rooms acting as one with only seven folks in each. They all have to wear masks. OK, how do you verbally clearly communicate to your colleagues, to the remote locations, to each other through the masks? A new challenge for the audio team, we are sure they will come up with something new. The “mike mask”? Think of this as well. It is only the broadcasters that are allowed to have this many people in one room. Nowhere else in the NFL Draft universe has more than ONE.

Recently Executive Producers Seth Markman for ESPN and Mark Quenzel from NFL Network held a media conference call to describe the effort. Both men know each other well having worked together at ESPN and that was evident on the call, a very fortuitous coincidence of past respect and collaboration of working together previously that surely has been passed down to the staffs. Talk about creating the “Ultimate Team” without the benefit of meeting in person!

That is the other interesting aspect of this production, which represents what everyone from broadcasters to family have been forced to adapt to doing during the COVID19 face to face meetings shut down. Understanding and dealing with that limitations yet delivering a broadcast that tries and capture the human drama of player choices that can forever impact a team and its fans. Transparent TV, without the arena crowd cheering, booing, the great visual on stage of the of the 32 teams with desks, monitors and personnel, the streets packed with fans, and whipping around the country to the draft rooms full of scouts from all 32 cities, reporters from each site, how will this  broadcast capture the emotion, the energy , the human interaction. Well, draftees that before faced the dilemma of whether to be at the draft or stay at home with their families have had their decision made for them, to be the benefit of the telecast. There can be multiple cheers, hugs and crying , that’s a start.

These are sports broadcasters, who for years have used the latest technology tools to create moments of emotion. We could hypothesize the possibilities, but we won’t. Let’s enjoy the anticipation of what this television team tries to create and more importantly, how they react to the “live” moment. Isn’t that just like an NFL Game? How many hundreds of hours of preparation for every scenario happen every week, only to have some unexpected result or outcome? Isn’t that same reason why we love to watch football games, always the unexpected?  Probably why football and television have the most viewers of any television series year after year.

 

For the final historical context, we reached out the ESPN Executive Producer Seth Markman, with these questions and he graciously responded back.

 

PFHOF (Q): The NFL historically has rallied back the country after 9/11 Desert Storm. Your view how this broadcast can inspire and give hope to America?

Seth Markman (A): You are right. The NFL has had a way of historically unifying and rallying the Country. While I don’t think this year’s NFL Draft will necessarily rise to that level, I do think it can provide a certain amount of hope and maybe a bit of an escape from what we are all experiencing day to day. I think seeing young men’s dreams come true will be very powerful and offer some degree of normality to the Country

 

PFHOF (Q):  In terms of broadcast history, on the call you referenced how putting this together this unique and extraordinary effort is far beyond any Super Bowl or Olympics…can you tell us the greatest challenge or multiple challenges?

Markman (A): -There are so many challenges here. We’ve just never done a show at this level with so many people in so many different places. Most of our announcers are in their homes. The Commissioner is in his basement. The Draft picks are in their homes. Coaches and GM’s are in their homes. We have over 150 different cameras coming into our Bristol, Connecticut facility. And we are doing this all with a very small crew, sitting far apart and wearing masks! How will we communicate with everyone? I know we won’t throw a perfect game here but there are so many variables.

 

The first NFL draft began at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia on February 8, 1936. Ninety names were written on a blackboard in the meeting room from which the teams would choose. As no team had a scouting department, the list was created from either print media sources, visits to local colleges by team executives, or by recommendations to team executives. The  draft would last for nine rounds, one day.

Forty-one years later the NFL Draft was televised on ESPN in 1980. In 2006 NFL Network began to broadcast as well and then in 2010 the draft was jointly broadcast by both networks. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a piece of that broadcast history as well when both networks began to television Enshrinement in 2010 as well.

We are creating our own virtual Draft coverage starting this Sunday leading up to the draft, throughout the draft and after the draft from one aspect of our mission, To Preserve the History of the Game. But we are as excited as any fan to watch this NFL and Television History unfold to again giving Americans hope, as the league and the Hall does on a daily basis.

We are Always Open for Inspiration.

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