On-air Tweets highlight @ESPN’s BCS #TitleTalk broadcast

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What’s better than a single broadcast of the BCS national championship game? A “megacast”.

For the college football title game on January 6, @ESPN had several different viewing options, dubbed the “BCS Megacast”, including channels featuring analysis by coaches, local radio broadcasts with the teams, and camera angles from above the stadium. One such option was #TitleTalk, which aired on ESPN2 and displayed Tweets continuously in a social stripe on the lower third of the screen. The stripe highlighted Tweets from ESPN personalities, athletes and celebrities with the hashtag #TitleTalk, in addition to Twitter polls and trends.

The rest of the screen was split between the game and an on-site room with analysts and celebrities commenting on the game and Tweets.
Video used with permission of @ESPN

“We wanted to bring the best of the second screen to the first so all opinions could be heard in real-time and unedited,” said Gabe Goodwin (@GabeTheWP), ESPN coordinating producer for social production.

Here’s how ESPN was able to filter and display Tweets in real time.

During the game, Goodwin’s team used a Twitter technology partner to manage the timelines it created. These pinpointed relevant Tweets, which, once approved, were immediately turned into on-air graphics. ESPN’s tech and creative teams established the workflow and look of the graphics, while the social production team dealt with Tweet content during the game. The #TitleTalk hashtag figured prominently on the social stripe, which even included Twitter users’ profile photos next to their Tweet, name and @username.

In a fun moment during the fourth quarter, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (@BrettHundley17), a guest on the show, was seen live-tweeting on screen and had his Tweet appear in the social stripe a few seconds later.

A big spike in the use of #TitleTalk came during halftime when fans tweeted about the commentary from halftime show guests @TimTebow and Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2). That was followed by a spike in ratings that led to highest-rated minutes of the ESPN2 broadcast; Goodwin credits Twitter for bringing extra awareness and viewers to ESPN2 during that time.

Goodwin’s team considers the experiment a success, and plans to use several of the integrations in future broadcasts.

#TitleTalk was probably the most experimental of the MegaCast offerings, but I think we identified several repeatable elements, including the social stripe,” he said. “Most people I’ve spoken with felt the Twitter integration was additive and innovative and would like to see it repeated in some capacity.”

Do you know of other innovative uses of Twitter? Write to [email protected].