BCS Championship 2014: It's Not Ready Yet, but ESPN's Megacast Is the Future

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 7, 2014

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida Gators former quarterback Tim Tebow on the field before the 2014 BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles at the Rose Bowl.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

ESPN went all-in on its coverage of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, dubbing it the "BCS Megacast," and hoping to give fans innovative and new ways to view a football game. 

After taking in Florida State's 34-31 comeback victory over Auburn in those new ways, it's clear that ESPN has something it can work with, but there are things that need to be reworked—just like anything version 1.0 really.

The good news if you're ESPN is that the reaction of the fans has been very positive, and rightfully so.

While the broadcast experience may be different, the fact is the way fans consume the game today is different, and consuming more information while seeing the game unfold has become more important than ever before. 

To that end, the mothership found a way to marry viewing the game with consuming information in a way that can work in the future. 

BR Social Team

More importantly, ESPN found a way to cater to all demographics while not appearing to be overdoing it in any one aspect. You could switch from the regular broadcast to its "Film Room" coverage and again over to "Title Talk" and not miss the core of the game. 

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Twitter itself has become a great judge of what does and doesn't work with the public-at-large, and judging by the response of the Twitterverse, this type of coverage could have a bright future ahead of itself. 

Two parts of the telecast gave fans ways to watch the game that haven't been seen before, and after taking in both, it was hit or miss and nothing in between. 

"BCS Film Room," airing on ESPNEWS, was the way I found myself wanting to watch the game, and I wasn't alone—that version of the game was a massive hit all over social media. 

ESPN also gave fans that wanted the regular viewing experience, minus Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, a chance to tune in to the radio feeds of each school, via ESPN3 and the watchESPN app.

For those who were into the more social aspect of these events, there was "BCS Title Talk," over on ESPN2—which featured ESPN personalities, celebrities and highlights from Twitter blazing across the screen.

BR Social Team

The biggest responses came via the two new ways of watching the game, "Film Room" and "Title Talk." However, only one of these two has great potential to change viewership of the game, and that was "Film Room." 

Current head coaches Kevin Sumlin, Steve Addazio and Paul Chryst joined ESPN analysts Tom Luginbill, Matt Millen and Chris Spielman in the "Film Room," where they gave fans a split-screen view of the game from two different angles. 

For those who witness Big Ten football, the names Millen and Spielman could make you not want to view, but the good news is they served as facilitators of discussion and not the focal points—that's where the coaches came in. 

Even better, you got none of Musberger and Herbstreit and all of the coaches talking the X's and O's of the game as it unfolded in front of you. 

It was like walking into a coaching clinic for free.

For the hardcore football fan, this look could have a huge future because it has two things that make sports television work—educating fans while also entertaining, and that's not an easy mix to make work in a new way of presenting live sports. 

One of the better parts of the "Film Room" coverage came at halftime and not just for the lack of cheesy halftime performances and overabundance of commercials, but more so for the fact that those tuning in got a glimpse into how the coaches' minds work between halves. 

However, the single best moment came minutes earlier as the entire cast called FSU's fake punt before it even happened. 

Florida State's touchdown near the end of the second quarter was a great example of "calling it," as both Sumlin and Addazio saw the blocking setup before the handoff happened and called the touchdown. 

There were kinks in the system from time to time, but the ability to see how the game unfolds from the minds of coaches in real time is a rarity. It added, rather than subtracted, from the viewing experience. 

For those who don't take their football too seriously and are more into the entertainment value of the game, ESPN made an attempt to have some fun with "Title Talk." 

The issue was, what ESPN was going for—an interactive and reactive broadcast—just felt forced and uninspired at times. 

Of course, ESPN couldn't resist trotting out its newest acquisition in Tim Tebow, alongside Johnny Manziel, during halftime and into the third quarter of the broadcast on the deuce.

Luckily for them, Tebow held his own and actually made the "Title Talk," worth watching. 

Again, a theme emerged on that side of the broadcast: The fewer attempts at comedy and the more X's and O's chatter, the better the broadcast became. 

Whether it was Tebow talking about why FSU's defense made a switch from a 3-4 base to the 4-3 to open the second half or Manziel's insight as to why Auburn's wide receivers were their secret weapon—that kind of talk worked. 

However, when the group went off the football talk and tried to get funny or cute, things just felt forced and awkward, and it took away from the intensity and intrigue of the game. 

ESPN's rotating group of comedians, celebrities and football personalities was just a bit much, especially with the five different camera angles going on at the same time and one person trying to rein in the broadcast by reading tweets. 

Isn't that what being on Twitter and using whatever app suites your fancy is for though? I don't need to be reading it on my television screen. 

Anchoring a broadcast on what is happening via Twitter also made the broadcast feel forced at times, especially because ESPN force-fed "amazing" (their words) stats and tweets from it's personalities and fans tweeting at ESPN only. 

What really made the "Title Talk" fall flat was its inability to mix sound. Oftentimes, it was hard to hear what a guest or analyst was saying over the raw sound from the original broadcast. 

Credit ESPN with trying something different and trying to cater to the different styles of fans across the country, but there is clearly some work that needs to be done before this type of viewing becomes commonplace for big events. 

Give us more of the coaches and the analysts talking X's and O's and less of celebs making jokes, and the future of college football's biggest stage could be very bright. 

For the neutral fan, options in how to watch a game like this only enhance the viewing experience. Now, it's on ESPN to give it a few tweaks and continue to experiment with how it uses the multiple platforms it has.

Judging by the overwhelmingly positive response of the fans, there should be a version 2.0 of the "Megacast" in the very near future; and sports viewing may never be the same—in the best way possible—because of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.

Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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