Touchdown? Not So Fast … Let’s See It on the Pylon Cam

During Monday Night Football’s preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 24, the Bucs scored a first-quarter touchdown when quarterback Jameis Winston dove straight toward the pylon on the right corner of the goal line. Providing an outstanding replay opportunity for ESPN’s still-evolving Pylon Cam experiment.

The MNF contest was only the third televised tryout for ESPN’s new on-field addition, following another National Football League exhibition game, between the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, on Aug. 20 and the Pylon Cam debut during the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Dallas on Jan. 15.

It’s evolved from an initial four pylons with four cameras each to two pylons with eight higher-quality cameras each, according to ESPN.

Marc Rowley, director of production enhancements at ESPN, told The Wire that the pylon cameras that were placed along the line at the back of the end zone didn’t contribute that many great shots, so it made more sense to double down on the pylons that form a touchdown target for players like Winston.

Now, the pylons have 16 cameras in position to capture images of scoring plays at “angles that have never existed before,” capable of digitally zooming in at up to 200% enhancement, Jed Drake, senior vice president, product innovation at ESPN, said.

Eventually, the signature image from the Pylon Cam could be a replay that provides definitive proof of a touchdown that was or wasn’t, at a key moment in a championship game. Until then, as far as Rowley is concerned, “I’ll take Jameis taking a shot at the pylon; that was pretty good.”

After evaluating the results so far and in consultation with the NFL, Pylon Cams might make regular appearances during the Monday Night Football regular season, which kicks off with a Sept. 14 doubleheader — Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons (6:55 p.m.) and Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers (10:20 p.m.) — ESPN said. It might also be used during some college-football games this season.

Social-media responses certainly seemed positive during the Bengals-Buccaneers game. “Finally technology catches up to common sense. #PylonCam #NFL” (Coach Bryan, @DrB365). “Can someone explain why it took until 2015 to have a #pyloncam? #NFL” (ReLando Calrissian, @Reondompls). “In other sports broadcasting news, the @ESPN #PylonCam on Monday Night Football is pretty cool” (Russ Maloney, @russmaloney). Etc.

“We are very optimistic about the future of Pylon Cam,” Drake said, counting it potentially among the First and 10 virtual first-down marker and the Spidercam in ESPN’s pantheon of innovations.

What a Drag … MavTV Speeds to Canada for Subs

MAVTV, the independently owned (by Lucas Oil) motorsports network, is hoping distribution roads lead to Canada soon, as the network builds its way back from a May drop by Dish Network, mostly via launches on smaller distributors in the National Cable Television Cooperative. Today (Aug. 31) it plans to announce recent additions by the likes of Harlan Municipal Utilities, Windstream and Walnut Telephone Co., along with the previously disclosed pickup by Suddenlink Communications on that operator’s sports tier.

“We’re up there this week trying to ink some distribution deals, so I think realistically MAVTV will be available in Canada first quarter of next year the way things are shaping up,” network president Bob Patison told The Wire.

The purveyor of such “adrenaline” racing events as motocross, drag boats and sprint cars has also expanded with Frontier Communications systems and Google Fiber, Patison said, downplaying the impact of being dropped from tier placement on Dish and saying there’s still hope of reinstatement. The loss was of about 1.7 million subscribers, he said. MAVTV has 28 million subscribers and is on such big distributors as DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems.

MAVTV also plans to up its quotient of live events, Patison said, beyond such current mainstays as pro motocross events, “King of the Cage” mixed martial arts and the annual Chili Bowl midget-car racing extravaganza in Tulsa, Okla. This January’s Chili Bowl will be the 30th anniversary, so plans are set for a one-hour pre-event show, hosted by Dave Despain, Patison said.

TCM Campaign Puts ‘Oz’ on the Broad Side of a Barn

Turner Classic Movies is going after younger viewers who like to socialize around movies with a new branding campaign — above the tagline “Let’s Movie” — the first such outreach in about a decade for the Turner Broadcasting System-owned channel.

New on-air and online spots show groups gathering to watch, for example, The Wizard of Oz projected onto the side of a Kansas barn, John Wayne in The Searchers played off a butte in Monument Valley and Ben Hur on the outside walls of The Colosseum in Rome.

“We want to appeal to broader movie lovers, not just classic movie lovers,” Jennifer Dorian, TCM’s general manager, told The Wire.

The message: ‘These iconic films should be enjoyed by everyone and they’re timeless, so if you love movies, check them out. It’s about getting people together and everybody making an event out of seeing an iconic film.”

Here’s where the clever spots will be seen, starting Sept. 1: on TCM’s air; on; cross-promoted on; on TBS, TNT and CNN Airport Network and on electronic billboards in New York and Atlanta and on-screen ads in some 750 movie theatres across the country.

There also will be a social-media campaign — #LetsMovie — building toward a “LetsMovie” holiday on Sept. 19, when TCM will encourage fans to watch films with family and friends and share their experiences socially.

Dorian also hopes to stage live events in iconic locations, possibly including a Rocky screening on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“We feel like we’re the movie place, so let’s movie,” she said.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.