Even the most dedicated sports fans do not get to see all their favorite sporting events in person. Fortunately, ESPN is planning live coverage from the 2015 Pan American Games that is so comprehensive fans will experience the events as if they were right there. To cover all bases, ESPN production teams have constructed a series of broadcast studios in a landmark Toronto skyscraper on the shores of Lake Ontario. Today the team is completing the finishing touches for tonight’s special broadcast of the 2015 Pan American Games opening ceremonies.


These broadcast studios have Toronto written all over them. They feature exceptional views of Toronto and Lake Ontario and incorporate the skylines in sets designed for the Pan Am Games broadcasts. Featuring an appealing location is a popular choice for ESPN creative teams, which sometimes opt for the alternate approach of featuring the images of a particular sporting event or the national icons of the country where the event is taking place. Distinctive design is important, because the same sets are used for on-site production around the world. So the set design and impressive views from the set are essential for the quality that viewers have come to expect.


Sponsors are part of the team. The “5 Hour Energy” brand is sponsoring the main talk show set overlooking Lake Ontario. Direct TV is featured on the outdoor terrace stage set. Lightweight props with segment specific logos and designs can be installed in just seconds to customize each broadcast to optimize the visibility of the team players that help make top quality programming possible.


The multiple sets and mobile broadcast stations at individual sports events will generate content for many different audiences and in several different languages. ESPN, ESPN Deportes and their premium channels will broadcast live coverage and sports expert interviews. ESPN Brasil and ESPN Argentina will customize additional programming for audiences in these countries.


A key factor in making special broadcasts from this kind of major international sports event work is very familiar to almost everyone who works in corporate America. Meetings. Frequent meetings with the Toronto 2015 team, the producers of the opening and closing ceremonies, sports agents who schedule appearances by busy athletes and veteran commentators and internal planning meetings are all part of a long day’s work. And these days are really long – from early morning in Brazil two hours ahead of Toronto to evening in California three hours behind Toronto.


This large investment in onsite production will cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars more than simply editing video feeds from the sporting events in a U.S. television studio. The high investment strategy is matched to a distinctive and difficult programming strategy. That is to focus on live broadcasts, complemented by very recent coverage of headline sports news. It is always complicated. ESPN International Senior Producer Maria Soares describes today’s live television routine as a combination of preparation and spontaneity.


This substantial investment of money and talent in programming from the Pan American Games is already earing a valuable dividend. ESPN has exclusive rights for Olympics coverage in Latin America, a role played by NBC and NBC Sports within the U.S. The Pan Am Games’ similarities with the Olympics as a multi-sport event make it a good opportunity to prepare for 2016 Olympics coverage. Maria Soares explained that the broadcast production team and on-camera talent working at the Pan Am Games in Toronto this year have already been recruited to work together on coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and an exciting lineup of special broadcasts on the Road to Rio.