ESPN saw the launch of not one but two new studios this week as a high-tech set made its debut in Los Angeles.
Reflecting all the enhancements of the 194,000-square-foot Digital Center-2 in Bristol, Conn., the new space in the downtown location is the latest example of the increased focus on the west coast for the sports network.
SportsCenter anchors Stan Verrett and Neil Everett were the first to test drive the studio and are already appreciating the digital enhancements, including a touchscreen, enormous video wall, and for the first time &mdash a sign announcing 'SportsCenter Los Angeles' above the desk.
"It is a great tool to have, if you can present stories in a visually compelling way then it is only going to add to the impact to the coverage," Verrett told The Hollywood Reporter during an exclusive behind the scenes tour.
"We have a scaled down version of everything happening in Bristol. I always say we are like the biggest local station in the world so this ups the ante on that," he explained. PHOTOS Hollywood's 100 Favorite Films "It's got that new car smell. I don't know if it is going to change my style that much, but it is always fun when you get new toys that are better than the old ones," Everett explained.
"Neil is going to wear pants and shoes now, no more flip flops," joked Verrett, about the fact that the anchors will be walking around much more, rather than sitting behind a desk.
As for all the new digital enhancements, the ESPN veterans aren't worried about messing up live on air. "We have the David Letterman affect on our show, when things go wrong, you really don't know if they are going wrong or if they are just part of the show so you just have to keep moving and have fun with it," said Verrett.
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"From what I've seen so far, it seems manageable. Once you get going, if they put you in a position to succeed, then you should succeed," added Everett, who is excited that the focus will be more California-centric. "I think we are missing the boat if we don't scream we are from L.A.," he explained. "We did a good job of doing that when we first started here and it kind of got away from us, so I am glad we're going back to it.
"A lot of people dream about going to Hollywood so we can bring part of that dream to their living room in Hoboken, N.J. or North Carolina."
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Verrett agreed that "the feel and energy of a vibrant place like Los Angeles finds its way into the show, because it is where we live and there is such a great television heritage here. It is the entertainment capital.
"A lot of the times if we have a scenario where we're trying to figure out the importance of two sporting events that seem equal &mdash if one of them has a west coast element to it, then that's the tie-breaker," he explained. I can't tell you how many joint ventures, special promotions and amazing experiences that I wouldn't have had if this was anywhere else other than L.A."
Being directly opposite the Staples Center and the Nokia Theater in the L.A. Live plaza certainly helps the overall production, explained ESPN&rsquos vp, director of news Craig Bengtson. "We have outside locations where we can shoot around the building and have had so many large events here &mdash whether it is the Kings, Lakers, Clippers, the Espys &mdash so to be able to play off the fact that they are happening literally across the street [such as the Kings' victory parade] is a positive thing. It is an area that is ripe for energy and we try to take advantage of that," he told THR.
"No matter where the show is coming from it is going to be a national show, but there's no reason why we shouldn't let viewers know that we're coming from L.A.
"The enormous video wall is really going to be a difference-maker, we can now show scenic shots in those walls that no one else can do. It is so crisp and clear, it almost looks like it is not real," he added.
SportsCenter airs one show from the Los Angeles Production Center at 1 a.m ET/10 p.m. PT on ESPN, as opposed to eight different productions in Bristol.