ESPN’s Digital Center 2, the future home of SportsCenter, will open in 2014.
ESPN’s Digital Center 2, a new production studio and future home to SportsCenter in construction at the network’s Bristol, CT, headquarters, was the focus of Wednesday’s SVG Summit spotlight on facilities. EVP/CTO Chuck Pagano was on hand to discuss its capabilities and the advent of 4K.
Pagano, who was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame this week, said that the greatest technological challenge to the facility’s construction was its ability to handle multiple resolution formats—including those that broadcasters aren’t yet employing, like 4K. DC2 will be eventually be 1080p-ready after its 2014 launch, though “not right out of the gate,” he said.
Asked whether this technological readiness was too much, Pagano replied that “it’s not overkill, it’s in preparation,” and dubbed his strategy a “Swiss Army knife approach.” Throughout his long tenure at ESPN, which began in 1979, Pagano has sought to be “wowed” by technology, he told the audience. And what’s wowed him about with DC2 is its ability to be “format agnostic,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
To 4K or Not to 4K
DC2 will be able to adjust to 4K resolution, Pagano confirmed. But that doesn’t mean he has full faith in the technology just yet. He’d like to be a proponent of the 4K agenda, but “right now the resolution hasn’t done it for me… I just haven’t seen the ‘wow’ yet,” he said. His suggestion is to gain input from consumers. “I’d love to try to see how the public responds to 4K,” he said. “Let’s do some playing around and see what the consumers want.” Would that perhaps entail a redesign of the technology? Not exactly. “We need to look at it… brighten, maybe embellish it,” he suggested.
On cable operators embracing the technology, Pagano predicted that as ops convert to IP they are becoming more cognizant of 4K. The challenge—especially for smaller operators—is devising the best way to manage the bandwidth, particularly with “Netflix taxing them on the broadband side,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”