On a typical game day, ESPN would bring its own television truck that has all the needed equipment to produce the game. But instead, UNC took on the challenge of producing everything on Saturday from its media and communications center.
"We have an extensive production partnership with the ACC schools, including Carolina, to produce a wide range of events for ACCN from the school control rooms," Stacie McCollum, vice president of programming and acquisitions for ESPN, said. "Utilizing a combination of ESPN and school staff to produce Saturday’s football game is a natural evolution of that relationship and something both sides are excited about.”
Last Saturday, a mix of ESPN staff, GoHeels Productions staff and freelance broadcasters came together at UNC to produce the game. Because of the new system, there were a few things that worked differently.
“One of the changes for us this year was that we had to space people out within the control room,” Associate Athletic Director Ken Cleary said.
There were three rows of spaces and a monitor wall in the control center, but due to COVID-19 guidelines, the production team was only able to have a limited amount of staff spaced apart throughout the room, with a few members also working remotely. The assistant director and associate producer for the game worked via an intercom and Zoom.
Lauren George, a coordinating producer at the ACC Network, said that once the game started, she and her team were in charge of “babysitting the room,” to make sure everything ran smoothly. George said both the ACC Network and ESPN were extremely happy with how the game went in terms of the behind-the-scenes work.
“You didn’t know where it was produced from because you just want to watch the Tar Heels play,” Cleary said.
Universities producing games from their control rooms was not a mandate — ESPN gave the willing schools the opportunity to do it themselves. UNC may have been the first up for the challenge, but many others are following. George said UNC is excited to lend a helping hand to the other schools and helped N.C. State broadcast its home opener against Wake Forest.
As the football season continues for the Tar Heels and the ACC, so will the GoHeels Productions' efforts to change how schools are involved with the production process of the games.
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