In broadcast sports, a production mistake can stand out like a missed field goal in overtime.
About 1 billion viewers will be watching Super Bowl XLII Feb. 3, but few will give much thought to, let alone understand, how much digital data is being fed to them-and how it's all assembled and telecast.
Mike Davies gives it a lot of thought. Davies, director of field operations for Fox Sports, spent some time with eWEEK recently and offered an overview of what it takes tech-wise to put on a huge live show like the Super Bowl.
As one might imagine, it's a pretty big operation. Everything has to work together down to the second; a production mistake can stand out like a missed field goal in overtime.
"We'll be using about 300 people and eight on-site production trucks-four for general game coverage, two for instant replays and two for the preview, halftime and post-game shows," Davies said. "We'll have 35 high-def cameras at the game [including the motorized, radio-frequency-operated, over-the-field cam] and three for the red carpet show."
Red carpet? At the Super Bowl? Yes, there indeed will be an Oscars-like pre-game show, featuring host Ryan Seacrest, in which he interviews various celebrities and VIPs for two hours as they arrive at the game. There is also a two-hour pre-game show before the game actually starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time. Both pre-game shows will be intermingled on air.
So when scheduling your Super Bowl party, keep in mind that the game actually starts four full hours after the so-called Fox "coverage" begins.
"Hey, they were quite able to sell all that time," Davies said. "People will watch, all day long."
Indeed they will. According to the Nielsen television rating folks, the Super Bowl-no matter who's playing in it-has been consistently in the top 10 of all single-event telecasts year after year since 1969, when Broadway Joe Namath put the event on the map by boldly predicting a victory for the underdog New York Jets against the then-mighty Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts.