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Thursday, February 29, 2024

MegaCast to ManningCast: Alt Broadcasts Are Changing How We Watch Sports

  • The MegaCast is an annual staple of the College Football Playoff.
  • Other sports are embracing the alternate telecast idea to reach new viewers.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When ESPN’s MegaCast approach to college football’s national championship game began in January 2014, the sports media landscape was vastly different. Most of today’s streaming services had not yet launched, nor had cable channels like the ACC and SEC networks.

Now a staple of the College Football Playoff (Monday’s game will have 11 different presentations, from Pat McAfee on the field to the Skycam view from above), ESPN’s MegaCast paved the way for today’s booming trend of multiple broadcasts covering a single sporting event.

Of course, the ManningCast of Monday Night Football has gained significant praise, but other successful efforts extend into sports betting and advanced stats, even reaching younger audiences with cartoon animations of popular movies and TV shows. Next month, the Super Bowl will have its first-ever alternate telecast on Nickelodeon, featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer, among other characters.

“Sports fans are not a homogeneous group that can be well-served by a single, vanilla telecast,” sports media expert Ed Desser, a former exec with the NBA, tells Front Office Sports. Not only do alternate feeds help sports broadcasters reach new and different types of audiences, Desser points out, but they also bring in the potential for new ad revenue.

You may remember some of the most notable alt-casts to date:

  • ManningCast (debuted in 2021)
  • NFL Nickmas (2022)
  • Nickelodeon’s Super Wild Card Game (2022)
  • Toy Story Funday Football (2023)
  • NHL Big City Greens Classic (2023)
  • The Bird & Taurasi Show (part of the 2022 women’s Final Four MegaCast)
  • NBA Hoopervision (2022)
  • TNF in The Shop (2022)

From Disney’s Toy Story-themed NFL broadcast to Amazon’s weekly Prime Vision With Next Stats feed alongside Thursday Night Football to an array of team-focused options, like what the Los Angeles Clippers offer through their streaming service, choosing a telecast other than the main feed can be daunting. But will every big sporting event eventually yield a MegaCast?

“For any one game, there is a natural limit,” Desser says, “because you get to a world of diminishing returns. But I think what’s likely to happen is that there will be more events that have multicasts, even if the number of individual feeds doesn’t continue to grow astronomically.”

On Monday night, at least, CFP viewers will have their pick, and then some.

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