During the six-week sprint to the restart of the season, ABC / ESPN, in partnership with the NBA and Turner, tried to make what has long been called the “Happiest Place on Earth” the safest.
By creating the NBA bubble at Disney World in Orlando, the league and networks hope to protect players and staff from the coronavirus.
But they have done more than that – they have tried to turn ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex into something like the most modern, hopefully pandemic television studio.
As ESPN approached its first broadcast on Friday night, it tried to create a sense of great time without the presence of fans.
For this purpose, in just a month and a half, the network has built an infrastructure with 30 plus inside and outside the three arenas where the courts are located.
ESPN will not disclose how much it spent on the facility, but had estimated that the NBA spent $ 1
“Speaking to other people, this compound looks like an Olympic-type compound,” ESPN Vice President of Production Mike Schiffman told The Post over FaceTime as he continued his hour-long tour of the arena and ESPN’s broadcast settings.
ESPN, TNT and the NBA tried to invent everything to avoid it after Shiffman, along with league officials and Turner, conducted a survey of the site six weeks ago.
The aesthetics include virtual fans and a home court feel for each team. National broadcasts will include cameras with 20 plus as opposed to 12 for pre-pandemic games without a bubble.
ESPN will use more than 60 robotic cameras on the three courts. About 200 ESPN employees are working at the event, nearly 20 of them are on the air.
The hope is that it will feel like a huge event.
“That’s a big part of it,” Schiffman said.
ESPN and Turner, who finished the first regular season restart game on Thursday, are not only responsible for their broadcasts, but also for the 22 regional sports networks, so every basketball you watch in the coming months will have its imprint over them. Both networks provide RSN’s “global feed” such as YES to broadcast their teams’ games.
Safety comes first, and the NBA has introduced a two-tier bubble system.
The green zone is where the players reside. In the green zone there are some reporters like Malika Andrews from ESPN.
Upon arrival, these media members had to try negative and quarantine for seven days before they could move through the designated areas.
The people in the yellow zone, where Schiffman and ABC / ESPN’s team of Mike Brown, Jeff Van Gundi and Mark Jackson reside, are tested on arrival in Waldorf and must be quarantined for one day before being released from their rooms in a negative test. COVID-19, which has a quick turnaround. They have no personal interaction with the players.
They are tested twice a week and are required to wear masks. There was no retreat against the rules.
Within its main production truck, the number of staff has been halved from the norm of 10-12 to six. All are separated by a plexiglass divider.
“You feel safe,” Schiffman said.
In the arena, Breen, Van Gundi and Jackson will be in a perch equivalent to 12 rows up. They will also have windows to divide between each of them.
For the games, the networks will try to show some unique shots using a rail camera off the court. There are also advanced free throw cameras that are not usually there.
Since there are no fans in the arena, the rail frame can be used during live action, as opposed to only during reruns. ESPN will also have cameras behind the scenes, which will allow the audience to peek while players prepare.
About six weeks ago, when Disney was designated as the venue for the NBA restart, Schiffman, along with NBA officials and Turner, made the trip to Orlando to see how they could transform the court and perhaps have thought of everything.
Turner was first on Thursday night. From Friday, ESPN will be on the central stage. Then he will have 10 games in four days.
It was a sprint to turn free gyms and parties into safe places, but one that ESPN hopes will still provide entertainment in the NBA at the highest level.