Nickelodeon alternative broadcasts on Christmas, Super Bowl LVIII are planned
By Kristian Hernández, Senior Editor
Friday, September 8, 2023 – 7:00 am
The NFL regular season is back in full swing this weekend, and, with the Super Bowl rotation once again landing on CBS Sports, the broadcaster is already preparing for Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas on Feb. 11, 2024. Its television schedule features marquee matchups on a weekly basis, and its production and operations crews are enhancing multiple workflows to capture the attention of the viewers.
“Our schedule this year is better than it has ever been,” says Sean McManus, chairman, CBS Sports. “Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas will be the biggest event not only on television but in the entire country.”
Week 6: Tech, Workflows To Be Tested at Super Bowl Stadium
One of the more notable changes this season is on the operations front. Led by EVP, Operations and Engineering, Patty Power, the crew is boosting the live capture of games to 1080p HDR. Used exclusively for each week’s lead game — in Week 1, the Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots — 1080p HDR required upgrades to its main mobile unit: Supershooter CBS. The truck will be responsible for producing the championship game in Sin City.
“When a year like this comes along,” says Jason Cohen, VP, remote technical operations, CBS Sports, “everything you do, plan for, and work towards leads up to the culmination of what would be the pinnacle of our season and the year, for that matter. We’re continuing to turn over every rock we can between now and February.”
CBS Sports will use the Week 6 game between the New England Patriots and the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Oct. 15 to test some technology and its compatibility with Allegiant Stadium and to run through some of the Super Bowl LVIII workflows.
“We’re going to treat that game as a bit of a dress rehearsal as it relates to some technology tests that we want to look at,” adds Cohen. “It’ll be our first good chance to take a look at how our technologies play out in there.”
The camera complement for all lead games will have more than 15 devices, including 13 hard cameras (nine with super-slow-motion capabilities), two handhelds, one Sony HDC-P50 robo on each goalpost crossbar, one RF Steadicam, a Sony HDC-P50 camera used for a four-point Skycam system, four Pylon Cams via BSI, and two line-to-gain cameras via BSI. A total of 14 replay operators will control 12 EVS servers and two Hawkeye machines. Graphics will be handled via two Chyron Prime machines, one Chyron PAINT machine, 1st-and-10 technology by SMT, telestration by FingerWorks, and AI data-tracking by Second Spectrum for George Wensel Technical Achievement Award–winning RomoVision.
The duo of producer Jim Rikhoff and director Mike Arnold will be at the front bench.
Technology Will Be Deployed on More Than Lead Games
In addition to the lead games, additional games will receive increased technological firepower. Reserved for the network’s biggest games in the past, these high-quality solutions will now have an impact on every broadcast.
“We’re trying to ramp up these games to enhance the experience for the viewer,” says Harold Bryant, executive producer/EVP, production, CBS Sports. “We have a lot of tools available to us that we’ll be using throughout the season.”
On the tech side, the games with director Suzanne Smith and producer Mark Wolff at the helm will feature 11 hard cameras (six super-slo-mos), two handhelds, one RF Steadicam, four Pylon Cams via C360, two line-to-gain cameras via C360, and 11 replay servers and a Skycam. Other broadcasts will deploy nine hard cameras (four super-slo-mos), one handheld, and six replay servers. The elevation of workflows will enable more games to look similar to the lead game for fans watching at home.
“At this point, most games will almost mirror in many ways our lead crew,” says Cohen. “We’ve put together a really good plan to enhance all of our coverage, and, while there’s always going to be some disparity, you’ll start to see the [tech] gap close more and more.”
These games will be serviced with the combination of NEP Supershooter 4 and Supershooter 5, Game Creek Video Columbia and Celtic, and F&F GTX19.
Nickelodeon Expansion: Leveraging a Powerful Relationship
Taking the NFL world by storm, Nickelodeon’s two slime-filled alternative broadcasts will once again be part of CBS Sports’ schedule: another “Nickmas” edition featuring the Las Vegas Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs at 1 p.m. ET on Christmas Day and the first of its kind for Super Bowl LVIII. The two activations this season have become reality through the two parties’ ongoing relationship.
“The team at Nickelodeon has graciously led us into their ecosystem to help steer the production and contribute where we can,” says Cohen. “It has been a good example of company synergy and partnering under the Paramount umbrella, as well as using the strengths of both sides to create a great product.”
In preparation for the Super Bowl-centric show, Nickelodeon will be alongside CBS Sports to experiment offline with AR workflows to be used for the Big Game. This season’s offline testing, constant collaboration, and gradual experience since the alternative broadcast’s debut during the 2020 NFC Wild Card Game has paved the way for innovation in the sports-broadcasting industry.
“If you look at the first game we did, which blew a lot of people away, and then look at what we did on Christmas Day last year, there has been an amazing improvement,” says McManus. “We’re really excited to showcase the different platforms and assets that we have to grow the NFL and the Super Bowl.”
Changes Since 2021: CBS Sports Preps for Post-COVID Super Bowl Production
CBS Sports’ latest Super Bowl broadcast was Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021. A year removed from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the broadcaster was still adhering to health and safety protocols for the championship bout between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The onsite situation has improved, and, along with technology advances, CBS Sports will head to Las Vegas with fresh ideas for the most-watched game in sports.
“We are excited to go back to producing a Super Bowl without being under the restrictions of a pandemic,” says Cohen. “We’re also able to do it in the entertainment capital of the world. We weren’t able to do that three years ago, but now we can use our full arsenal of creativity, production, and technology at this game and do what we do best.”