ESPN planning broadcast expansion for College Football Playoff final

ESPN has plans to significantly expand its coverage for the College Football Playoff final.
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After finding critical and production success with its “BCS Megacast” for last year’s BCS National Championship Game, ESPN has plans to super-size its coverage for the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship on Jan. 12, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Though specific staffing plans are still being finalized, ESPN will offer multiple viewing options for what it is calling the “CFPMegacast,” the network’s biggest production to date. This upcoming Megacast will offer a different production on every ESPN television network (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line), multiple options on ESPN3, and the game coverage on ESPN Radio and ESPN International. The main broadcast will appear on ESPN.

As a reminder, ESPN used six of its television platforms last year as well as audio and digital outlets to offer viewers extra content for the Florida State-Auburn thriller. What stood out most for me -- as well as ESPN execs -- was the "BCS Film Room" featuring Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, Boston College coach Steve Addazio and Pitt coach Paul Chryst as well as ESPN analysts Matt Millen, Chris Spielman and (a really good) Tom Luginbill providing X-and-O analysis. It was smart television, minimally produced. It was one of the rare debut products by ESPN that produced near universal acclaim.

The Film Room will return, which is great news for X’s and O’s junkies. The network is still working out which coaches and ESPN talent will be part of the room.

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• Other CFPMegacast platforms include “ESPN Voices,” which will be similar to last year’s BCS Title Talk. That platform (which played flat last year) had a rotating group of ESPN staffers discussing the game in real time.

• There will be a platform featuring only the natural sounds of the game and coverage of the halftime performances by each band.

• For the Alabama-Ohio State Sugar Bowl semifinal on Thursday, ESPN will air an edition of the “Finebaum Film Room” on the SEC Network during the ESPN broadcast of the game. The program aired on the SEC Network for the Iron Bowl and featured SEC Network personality Paul Finebaum hosting his popular call-in show throughout the game, joined by SEC Network regulars. If Alabama defeats Ohio State, ESPN officials say they will consider airing an edition on the SEC Network for the title game.

• A new Megacast option with great potential: “Off the Ball” will feature former players and coaches, and current ESPN analysts, focusing on the plays away from the ball, including offensive and defensive line play, wide receiver-defensive back matchups, and coaching strategy.

• There will be a “DataCenter” featuring analytics, curated social media reaction and more.

• ESPN will have a channel called “Command Center” with enhanced statistics utilizing a split screen application with live game action and immediate replays of every play. The coverage will use the ESPN Radio broadcast call.

• There will be a platform where viewers can watch the title game from the above stadium “SpiderCam” angle.

• For those who love crowd shots, there will be a dedicated “Taco Bell Student Section” featuring a camera in the student section of each team.

One bit of staffing news for the semifinals: The following reporters will be embedded with each of the playoff teams leading up to the games: Tom Rinaldi (Oregon), Samantha Ponder (Florida State), Kaylee Hartung (Alabama), and Marty Smith (Ohio State).

Last year’s title game averaged 25.572 million viewers on ESPN, When the Megacast elements were added from ESPN2 and ESPNNEWS (the other ESPN platforms do not get rated), the game drew 26,061,000 viewers.  ESPN said WatchESPN (ESPN3) generated 773,000 unique viewers for viewers across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line collectively.