ESPN Drives Interactive Tennis for DirecTV

Cable sports giant ESPN is providing the production muscle behind
DirecTV's "U.S. Open Mix," an interactive mosaic channel
running from Aug. 30 through Sept. 6 that lets subscribers simultaneously watch
up to six live matches from the U.S. Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

ESPN, which along with Tennis Channel and CBS is providing traditional
coverage of the Open, is using a Bexel truck equipped with five switchers and
networked EVS servers to produce the mosaic for client DirecTV. The mosaic
"Mix" includes the featured match carried on ESPN2's main network
feed and five outer-court matches.

DirecTV viewers can peruse all the matches at once, or choose an
individual match and watch it full-screen or in picture-in-picture mode with
the click of their remote. While the network coverage might bounce from match
to match during the course of a broadcast, the Mix channel allows a viewer to
watch a single match from start to finish, without commercial interruptions. It
also provides quick access to continuous match results and schedules via the
red button on the DirecTV remote.

To produce the Mix, ESPN is taking the "world feed" from the
United States Tennis Association from five matches and repurposing it with its
own commentary and graphics, as well as modifying the branding to conform to
rights and licensing requirements. The feeds are then passed off to DirecTV for

The same production setup, which includes a staff of 12 announcers, is
also supporting streaming coverage on ESPN3, ESPN's broadband network that
is carried by a number of affiliated cable and telco operators, as well as

Don Colantonio, ESPN senior director of production enhancements and
interactive TV, says that improved networking capability at the U.S. Open site
makes it possible to simultaneously produce five matches out of one truck and
deliver coverage that is "broadcast quality on a broadband budget."

ESPN has setup both Gig-E and SDTI networking across the EVS servers,
which are shared by both ESPN and Tennis Channel, explains Colantonio. That
allows them to drag files across the network and access creative elements from
both networks such as features, opens, interviews and press conferences, and
incorporate them into the extra Mix channels.