CBS Sports to Expand AFC Coverage, Bring Back Trolly Cam, Pylon Cams, Live Drone

The postseason begins with Miami-Buffalo, a possible neutral site for the AFC title game

Fresh off its most-watched regular season NFL telecast in seven years (averaging 18.487 million viewers), CBS Sports enters this weekend’s playoffs with a big game on the AFC side. The broadcaster is in Buffalo when the second-seeded Bills meet the seventh-seeded Miami Dolphins (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS).

CBS Sports plans to deploy more than 60 cameras to cover Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game between the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills. CBS Sports will also televise the AFC Division Round Game next weekend and the AFC Championship Game on January 29. (Photo: CBS Sports)

It’s the only game of the weekend for the CBS team, which is focused on filling Highmark Stadium with more than 60 cameras — including Skycam and multiple Pylon cameras — as well as its signature enhancements, such as Sports Emmy-winning RomoVision .

“I think we’ve done a really good job over the last couple of years of building our weekly regular-season game to the point where it’s very closely resembled what the Wild Card game used to be,” he says. Jason Cohen, Vice President, Remote Technical Operations, CBS Sports. “Now when we go from Week 18 to the Wild Card, it’s almost an extension of the regular season. We add facilities, cameras, tech upgrades, replay servers and so on to Wild Card and then continue building through Divisional [Round] and on [AFC] Priority [Game]. Each round escalates a little more, yes, but now the jump from the regular season to the Wild Card is by no means a big one.

“It allows us to add performance without completely disrupting a lot of the muscle memories that are built up over the course of the season,” he continues. “Technological add-ons become just a small add-on for situational value. It’s not a significant change where they have to rethink how they produce the show.”

MORE: CBS sports directors focus on bringing ‘A’ game resources to more events

Each week, the series will grow in size during this NFL playoff season. One notable addition to next week’s broadcaster-determined Divisional Round game is the return of the Trolly Cam, a point-to-point aerial cable camera system provided by Flycam. The Trolly Cam run extends several rows back over the seats on the near sideline and can run at speeds up to 65 mph. The system offers a unique look that debuted on CBS Sports’ 2021 NFL Playoffs.

The CBS Sports Trolly Cam, a point-to-point aerial cable camera powered by FlyCam, returns for its third season of NFL playoff coverage. The system will first appear in the Divisional Round. (Photo: CBS Sports)

There are plans for drone coverage of CBS games. Depending on the venue, it can be ENG based or live with the help of the Beverly Hills Aerials team.

Also starting with the Division Round next week, CBS will field the new Fujinon HZK25-1000mm lens. The original PL mount lens was introduced in the US last month and has since worked on some of its first events, including a regular season NFL game on CBS, Monday Night Football game and the CFP National Championship for ESPN.

“We’re going to play with different capacities possible to make that lens part of our broadcast,” says Cohen, “whether it’s shooting at field level or what ESPN has been doing in the high capacity zone. We want to integrate that lens because it’s one of the latest and greatest lens technologies.”

For the playoffs, Aerial Video Systems (AVS) is providing two RF cameras (one shallow depth-of-field rig using a Sony FX9) this weekend in Buffalo (that total grows to five by the AFC Championship), video returns, talent monitors and com. Multiple vendors offer Pylon cameras: Broadcast Sports International (BSI), C360 (recently acquired by Cosm), and 3G Wireless.

Developed with Genius Sports and its Second Spectrum technology, RomoVision, the graphically enhanced instant replay it uses analyst Tony Romo continues its streak after winning the George Wensel Award for Technical Achievement at last year’s Sports Emmys.

Gaming resources will be beefed up throughout the month, with more super-slo-mos, EVS machines and even Sony servers (4K zoom and extraction) to support the four Sony 4800s slated for deployment at the AFC Championship Game.

The NEP Supershooter CBS (Units A, B, C and D) — the A-game truck during the regular season — will be on-site in Buffalo and travel to every game produced by CBS this playoff season. CES Power provides generators to support each complex throughout the month; provided redundant network power for the entire 2022 campaign.

CBS will expand its complex for the AFC Championship Game with F&F Productions GTX 20 A and B units joining the fun to support the studio’s pre/postgame and halftime broadcasts. Game Creek Video’s Office 1 truck will also be added to serve as the primary QC facility.

The coordination of CBS connections is monitored Vice President, Remote Operations, Tom McShanewho is in charge of operations and planning with Director, Remote Operations Planning, Kristen Florian. Broadcast Operations, meanwhile, leads Vice President, Broadcast Operations, Scott Daviswho works with Alyssa Blake, George Dimotherisand Chris Rahner.

CBS Sports produces the best NFL game every week Jim Rikhoff and direction Mike Arnold. CBS Sports won a Sports Emmy last year for Outstanding Playoff Coverage for its coverage of last year’s crazy Divisional Round game between the Bills and Chiefs in Kansas City.

Where The AFC Championship Game has been a popular topic of conversation for the past few weeks. The league announced Thursday that if the AFC Championship game pits the top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs against the second-seeded Bills, the game will be played at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The uncertainty, of course, was caused by the cancellation of the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, after Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin suffered a heart attack on the field. The cancellation leaves the Bills with one game less to play than the Chiefs, disrupting the team’s fair schedule for home-field advantage. Last week, the league office approved a resolution to “mitigate potential competitive disparities.”

Cohen says the possibility of a neutral-site game presents virtually no challenge for CBS since broadcasters typically travel week-to-week at this point in the season. In addition, CBS has plenty of experience televising college and NFL games from the 5½-year-old site, including the SEC Championship Game each December and Super Bowl LIII, which CBS aired from there in February 2019.

As for travel to AFC Championship games, CBS Sports enjoys the “luxury” this season of only having to produce one game each playoff weekend. The effort was led by Cohen and CBS Sports EVP, Operations and Engineering, Patty Power. Cohen oversees remote technical operations with Jenna McKeon and Adam Stouter. Engineering and planning leads Vice President, Engineering and Technology, Mike Francistogether with Evelyn Jackson, Craig Stevensand Jeff Millet.

While there’s always a desire to do more, Cohen says, his production and operations groups are motivated to focus completely on one production each week.

“I think we’ve proven over the years that whether we have an A and B game or a game with Nickelodeon, we know how to allocate the right resources and bandwidth to each of our playoff games to make them special,” he says. “With the story we have right now and the production team focused on, we’re ready to tell the right stories after the Buffalo story and the possible neutral site game. There’s so much going on in this special postseason that it’s good to just be able to follow those stories and give a fair bit of coverage.”

The NFL on CBS kicks off its NFL postseason on Super Wild Card weekend when the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1:00 PM ET.

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