Hank Williams, Jr. Returns to Monday Night Football: Red Carpets to Red Zones

HABANA Avenue Gets America Ready for Some Football Once Again

Regardless of asking viewers, “Are You Ready for Some Football?” ESPN and the NFL already know the answer.  The answer has been a resounding “yes” since 1989 when Hank Williams Jr. first asked football fans the famous question during that year’s regular season.

So, it was only natural that HABANA Avenue’s Managing Director and Founder Steven J. Levy gave a resounding yes to ESPN and the Monday Night Football brand managers when asked if he and HABANA could help revive the return of Hank Williams Jr. to NFL football’s primetime Monday night opener.

To make sure that Hank Williams Jr. and all his rowdy friends were ready for Monday Night, Chris Mantzaris and Lucas P. Nickerson co-directed the content package which included three new “rowdy friends”, pop star Jason Derulo and country duo Florida Georgia Line.  Each musician contributed their voices to the iconic and famous lyrics that football fans around the country love to hear every Monday Night.

In addition to the return of Hank Williams Jr. to the stage, ESPN ushered in the Monday Night Football commentators, former NFL Coach Jon Gruden, sportscasters Sean McDonough and Lisa Salters to HABANA's "Red Carpet" production.  MNF featured the new GMC Terrain when it delivered the stars and athletes of Monday Night Football the season's big night.

HABANA Sits Among the Athletic Elite at The ESPYs 2017

Coming off of a recent Monday Night Football shoot for longtime client ESPN, Steven J. Levy, President and Founder at HABANA, and Jason Adelman, Head of Brand Strategy and Business Development are no strangers to the world of sports entertainment. They were both in attendance last night at The 2017 ESPY Awards held in the enormous Microsoft Theatre in downtown Los Angeles hosted by non other than former SuperBowl MVP Peyton Manning.

"Peyton Manning killed it. He is the confluence of sport, personality and brand authentically personified." Levy said.

Founder & President, Steven J. Levy with Head of Brand Strategy & Business Development, Jason Adelman

Founder & President, Steven J. Levy with Head of Brand Strategy & Business Development, Jason Adelman

Manning kept the show lively, kept the crowd laughing, and did right by those who were awarded the top honors in their respective sports.

The night was an authentic showcase of all the cogs and gears that make sports and sports media the entertainment and love of sport experience that most know and adore. Awards ranging from "Best Play" that went to Green Bay Packer QB Aaron Rodgers, to the "Jimmy V Award for Perseverance" which was awarded to 15 year old Jarrius Robertson, who is currently fighting a chronic liver disease called biliary atresia. 

All the athletic greats were in on place last night, showing community and honor to the sports they play, and those who love the sport.

London Brown from HBO's "Ballers" and Steven J. Levy

London Brown from HBO's "Ballers" and Steven J. Levy

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Steven J. Levy & Jason Adelman

Steven J. Levy & Jason Adelman

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

The 2017 ESPY Awards at Microsoft Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Leon Bridges puts a soulful twist on our National Anthem for ESPN's "The Undefeated"

Director of Photography Mark Eberle collaborated with fellow Texas native Leon Bridges for a soulful, powerful rendition of  "The Start Spangled Banner".  Shot in their hometown of Forth Worth, Eberle creates a moody, intimate look that is reminiscent of classic soul singers from the past. 

Of his first time singing the national anthem outside of school, the 26 year old soul artist said,

"I felt that the original version is a little bit too straightforward musically... I felt it was kind of dope to give a little 6/8, groovy feel to it. Something that felt comfortable for me to sing... Just giving it a bit of a soul feel felt good to me."

Bridges' piece is part of a new ESPN series "The National Anthem" featuring six different voices singing "The Star Spangled Banner" each with their own twist. 

Sources: ESPN, Rolling Stone

Bodies (and Objects) in Motion Require Special Handling

Directors and EPs agree that creating or scoring for action and sports content has unique demands.

It’s clear that what constitutes action and sports content has been re-defined in this new age of social media and video sharing.

Whether you’re talking about traditional action or sports ads that incorporate game footage from baseball, basketball, tennis or soccer (football to the rest of the world), or if what you’re watching is more amateur or extreme – anything from skateboarding films to wing suits comes to mind – there’s a new set of rules that dictate what it has to look like and sound like. It’s got to reek of realism and be rooted in pop culture, our experts say, in order to stand even the slightest chance of breaking through.

Bicoastal content production company HABANA, led by President and Founder Steven J. Levy, has created everything from show opens to live events to Super Bowl parties to branded content, programs and spots for a range of brands, ad agencies and media companies.

Passing the Authenticity Test

When it comes to action, authenticity is critical. In today’s online society of fans and trolls, no one can afford to put out content that looks faked or staged, or they’ll get called on it – and quick.

Making sure action and sports content passes the sniff test means knowing where and how it’s going to be seen.

“The single focus I have for making sure our work is recognized is to truly understand where each client will distribute the content that they’ve entrusted us to produce, and to completely understand the content channel landscape,” explains HABANA Avenue’s Steven J. Levy. “As content producers, we can no longer just go shoot a storyboard! We need to understand how and why individual broadcast and social channels are successful.”

Their approach at HABANA is to request a detailed brief on every project they handle, Levy adds, “and if one doesn’t exist we’ll create it for ourselves. It deeply informs every creative inquiry along the journey.”

Zooming In on the Action

Perhaps nowhere has the revolution in camera technology had a bigger impact than in sports and action content. Producers and directors can now get shots that were unthinkable just a few years ago. For everyone – even those selecting the score or soundtrack – the impact has been huge.

HABANA’s Levy points out that his company was one of the first in the country to be FAA-approved for UAV or drone camera platforms.

“Our teams have shot everything from Dodge performance brands to NBC’s Sunday Night Football,” he says. “And while there are still some stigmas attached to exactly which model camera you’re using, our approach is to match the best available technology to achieve the desired outcome. The capability of this gear is advancing at an exponential rate. We embrace it, as long as the technology helps us to tell a better story.”

Epic Heroes, Epic Sounds

Years ago it was the introduction of the X Games on ESPN that shifted the creation of action and sports content into an ‘extreme’ mode. One trend driving the category seems to be the continued linking of music with teams, broadcasts, brands and events.

“Adweek claimed recently that there’s been no better time for the fusion of music and sports than now,” says Levy. “At HABANA, we’ve been impressed by the network musical directors and creative directors we work with, who’ve seen the passionate sweet spots where music and sport unite and are capitalizing on it. These are mostly unheralded matchmakers who are equally passionate about their craft, and it shows in the kind of content you’re seeing.”

Adweek’s report called out four recent music and sports related projects as evidence of this trend, and two of them – Fall Out Boy’s tie in with ESPN’s college football coverage and the involvement of supergroup U2 on the network’s FIFA World Cup coverage – were produced byHABANA.  (Check out the entire report here.)

Media Channels Shift Gears

As you might expect, the surge in sports and action content has kept many of the companies that specialize in it busy, as all of our sponsors report.  But there’s more than just the greater volume of work driving this; fundamental shifts in how sports programming and ads are consumed is impacting the trend as well.

“Traditionally, sports media has always been a stable growth business,” says Levy. “The past year has seen a lot of shifting. Larger distributors of content are being forced to deal with the revenue loss of cable TV’s cord-cutters, and the move from subscription-based cable packages to on-demand personal and mobile viewing is exposing a slow adoption by decision-makers in the sports tech space.”

Where this is going is almost anyone’s guess, but Levy says the trick for companies like his is to keep their focus on quality. “There will be a lot of knee-jerk reactions to try and keep-up, but the bright lights of the genre will always illuminate the deeply passionate stories of ‘rags to riches’ and ‘David versus Goliath’ that only sports can deliver every day of the year.”

-Written By Anthony Vagnoni for SourceEcreative

Producers, Directors and Music Mavens Keep the Genre Moving

Stunning locales and amazing skills, fueled by specialized techniques and styles, are the hallmarks of this fast-moving category.

Credit: SourceEcreative, Article By Halyce Naparstek

The most compelling action, adventure and sports content can inspire us to be better, try harder, move beyond our limitations and aspire to perform.  Sometimes it can resemble more of a travelogue, with exotic, beautiful locations or feature celebrities or sports figures we admire. HABANA's “Your Fight Matters” for Tap Out is a mantra for doing your best. HABANA, our Action & Sports sponsor,  well versed in making us part of the action or, at the very least, impacting the desire to get us off the sofa and move.  Watch these and other extraordinary spots in HABANA’s showreel:

Brand: ABC

Maroon 5 plays "Always You" in this promo for ABC Sports.

Product: Saturday Night College Football

Director: Chris Mantzaris

Prod. Co.: HABANA

Brand: Dorna Sports

Promo for the MotoGP race across 18 countries

Product: MotoGP

Director: John Bruno

Sponsor: HABANA

Brand: ESPN XGames

"XGames Real Wake 2015"

Promo for the Real Wake 2015 at the ESPN XGames

Product: Real Wake 2015

Director: Jordan Klein Jr.

Sponsor: HABANA



FAA Approved Drones For Networks

Few Have FAA Approval To Fly Drones for Your Productions…

HABANA does. We offer:

  • + Promax & Emmy Award Winning
  • + Network Veterans
  • + Short & Long-form Experience
  • + Multiple Aircraft
  • + FAA Approved

What we’ve helped produce…

  • ABC Saturday Night Football (Maroon 5)
  • ESPN College Football Championship (Fall Out Boy)
  • ESPN College Football GameDay (Big & Rich)
  • ESPN College Basketball GameDay (Macklemore)
  • ESPN Monday Night Football (Hank Williams, Jr.)
  • NBC Sunday Night Football (Faith Hill)
  • NBC Super Bowl (Faith Hill)
  • DISCOVERY Shark Week
  • ABC NBA Finals (3D Mapping Experience)
  • ABC NBA Playoffs (Cee Lo Green + Nicole Scherzinger)
  • FOOD NETWORK Iron Chef
  • FIFA World Cup Soccer (U2)
  • FIFA World Cup Women’s Soccer (Katy Perry)
  • ESPN X Games Oakley  (Shawn White)

HABANA is FAA Approved, nimble, and operated by media veterans.

Let’s tell a story together.

Music And Sports United: It’s What We Do

We understand that sports and music have remarkably similar fan bases, making sporting events the ideal place for both. After breaking records, Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” has become the anthem of college football, and Maroon 5’s “It Was Always You” now announces to the nation it’s time for Saturday Night Football. The seamless partnership of music and sports makes it clear that opportunities are limitless.


HABANA Avenue is the creative engine leading the way in the fusion of artists and athletes across major sporting events. In a 2015 edition of ADWEEK, ESPN claims that similar formats have created an environment where:

Artists want to align with sports platforms when they prepare their releases – ESPN went on to say, could be the birth of a new sports anthem.


When you’re ready to take hold of this special time in music and sports, think HABANA.


If you’re like most Americans, football rules your fall and winter.

And if you’re like most Americans, you tuned in to see our ESPN College Football Playoffs project (with the critically acclaimed band Fall Out Boy) as it crushed all records of viewership in cable television history. Amazing, right?

The title game averaged 33.4 million viewers and an 18.2 rating according to Nielsen. It was the largest audience and highest rating in cable TV history.

The Highest-Rated Show on Cable

When our Fall Out Boy production first aired, it was during the semifinals. First for the Florida State/Oregon game and then for the Ohio State/Alabama game. The third and final product came later during the College Football Championship game – where Ohio State took home the title.

The championship game was a record hit with viewers, as the first-ever college football playoff championship turned in the highest ratings in the history of both ESPN and cable TV.

33.4 Million Viewers

This year’s championship and playoff games all surpassed the previous most-watched cable program – the 2011 BCS Championship between Oregon and Auburn, which attracted 27,316,000 viewers. HABANA President and Founder Steven J. Levy is absolutely addicted to the electrifying space where sports and music meet. With the record shattering success of the Fall Out Boy open, there’s nobody better suited to fuse music and sports than HABANA Avenue.

The Business Behind Sports & Music

“The music and sports industries have very similar fan bases,” says Claude Mitchell, ESPN’s coordinating director of music, "so there are natural opportunities for a crossover partnership to reach those audiences.”

Great music partnerships can take many months — ESPN’s clever music department helps us coordinate with artists so the productions coincide with album releases.

Killer Experience

The adventure took about two months from start to finish and the post production work went on for about four weeks.

By the way – did anyone catch Lolo Pritchard’s powerfully raw cover of Suzanne Vega’s hook from the 1987 hit from “Tom’s Diner”?

A special thanks to all of our friends at ESPN in Building 13.

Filming with Fall Out Boy: ESPN College Playoff

We just got back from Los Angeles after a thrilling shoot for ESPN’s coverage of the College Football Playoffs & Championship. We had the killer opportunity to film with the band Fall Out Boy, a critically acclaimed band that has been around for years and still sells multi-platinum records. From the minute we touched-down in LA and started building the set until we flattened tires on the way to LAX – the action was ferocious.

After their return from hiatus in 2013, the band is back and hotter than ever. Fall Out Boy just released their new album Centuries – and the song, which is the title track from the band’s forthcoming album, will be featured during playoff games and studio telecasts and during on-air promotions throughout the season.

You’ll also hear the song during highlight packages and in & out of commercial breaks during the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bowl game triple-headers. The “New Year’s Six” will showcase the playoff semifinals, four additional premier top-level bowls and the first-ever College Football National Championship on January 12.

The song will also be a central part of the regular-season marketing efforts to promote the top college football match-ups across ESPN’s network each week. ESPN began using an instrumental version of “Centuries” on August 25 in advance of the opening weekend.

While a preview of the video was released last weekend on ESPN, the full version won’t air until December and won’t play during actual games until January.

Behind the Scenes with Maroon 5: Filming the Saturday Night Football Opening

HABANA recently had the opportunity to film the new ABC Saturday Night Football opening featuring a mid-tempo 80’s-esque electro love song from Maroon 5’s hit new album ‘V titled “It Was Always You.” Like many jobs we work on, it was a tight production schedule – but we nailed it with just a month to prepare and only a few hours to shoot.

Unlike the College GameDay opening with Big & Rich, this project had a little bit more glitz and glam.  It was shot under the lights and has that primetime energy. Everyone is watching the game regardless of who you’re rooting for because it’s the biggest game of the weekend.

The Marriage of Music and Sports

This was a unique opportunity to work with artists that are really at their peak – and this was going to be the worldwide release of this new hit track. Helping them execute this while staying on-brand during the release of their album was truly a welcome challenge.

The marriage of music and sports is perfect. The artist gets an incredible amount of exposure for their new material and the network is uniquely positioned to be able to take advantage of the music the artist adds to the show, said President and Founder HABANA Avenue Steven J. Levy.

We really can’t think of a better way to get viewers to pay attention than to use a hit artist with a new song, releasing it for the first time. Millions and millions of eyes and ears are on the new song for the entire football season – it’s a hit for both the sport and the artist.

There was total and complete engagement with the artists, managers, ABC and our group – which is vital to be able to come up with a concept and execute it in a short amount of time. It came together perfectly and the outcome;

Lights, Camera, Action

“It was an incredible experience on this set,” said Levy. “We were excited about moving our shoot through with precision because we knew we had a limited amount of time.”

Luckily, the management team, record label, artists and of course, our production teams worked together flawlessly.  Finding a great team doesn’t always happen so easily – especially with big groups and big events. They made it possible for us to shoot and create a beautiful piece.

Maroon 5 Comes to ESPN Saturday Night College Football

Football season has returned – and we’ve got a big day of sports openers tomorrow! First, watch the spots we shot with Big & Rich on ESPN College GameDay from 9 A.M. - Noon, and later in the evening – an exclusive Maroon 5 video we shot for ESPN will air for ABC Saturday Night Football.

This year, ESPN’s college football game telecasts will showcase the music of Maroon 5, Florida Georgia Line and 17 established and acclaimed breakthrough acts from Columbia Records – including Pharrell Williams, Iggy Azalea, T.I., Rita Ora, Jack White and more.

Maroon 5’s “It Was Always You” will be the feature song for every Saturday Night Football Presented by Wells Fargo telecast this season. It’ll also used throughout the coverage, including highlight packages, and coming in from, and out of, commercial breaks.

Maroon 5 and ESPN will also collaborate on a video of the song for exclusive use on Saturday Night Football. The video will be a montage of the band performing the song with relevant college football highlights pertaining to each week’s matchup.

Saturday Night Football will kickoff tomorrow at 8 p.m. with defending national champion No. 1 Florida State vs. Oklahoma State in the Cowboys Classic from Arlington, Texas.

Big & Rich are 'Coming To Your City' for ESPN College GameDay

You Know The Song

And most likely every word. That Big & Rich song you hear before, during, and after every college football game on ESPN? 

Shooting the spots surrounding ESPN’s College GameDay is no easy task – it requires a keen understanding of the needs of artist management companies, the personalities of the artists involved, the environment and crowd management of live entertainment, and of course, a thorough understanding of a broadcasting network the size of ESPN. Luckily, Habana happens to love the stuff.

Just Outside Nashville

The spots for ESPN College GameDay were filmed this year on the expansive re-purposed lawn of a historic Tennessee mansion.  Staging a set up that rivals a stadium-sized audience and live music concert is no small feat.  Complete with state-of-the-art LED video walls to make the entire stage feel like it was immersed in a football stadium, even we were impressed with the outcome.


Women’s Final Four Open + Connie Britton

In partnership with ESPN, the Ohio Valley Conference, the Nashville Sports Council, and the city of Nashville, HABANA was thrilled to be a part of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Final Four.

The NCAA Women’s Final Four is the conclusion of the NCAA Division I Championship, and required an exciting and compelling opening video. With a long and successful history of providing award-winning opening videos for several sports verticals, HABANA was asked to provide the art direction for this year’s final.

Showcasing Nashville

The Opener was produced at the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, featuring country star Connie Britton.

HABANA was proud to provide the cinematography, art direction, production support and business affairs for the select portions of the broadcast; which runs on April 6th-8th and will be broadcasted nationwide.

We are Built for Sports & Entertainment, Athletes and Artists…The Perfect Combination

Athletes and Artists…The Perfect Combination.

The worlds of music and sports collide on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. The bi-weekly sports publication teams all-star athletes with music’s MVPs for its annual Music Issue, a trend that continues to gain traction.

Calvin Johnson and Eminem - ESPN The Magazine The Music Issue

Calvin Johnson and Eminem - ESPN The Magazine The Music Issue

This cover was published on the heels of our client’s successful partnership Eminem’s “BerZerk” release with College Football highlight coverage.

It was the Delight before Christmas: Singer Leona Lewis

HABANA Avenue was thrilled to produce yet another major sports open for ESPN’s coverage of the NBA on Christmas Day. Working with Leona Lewis was a joy for the entire team. As with any shoot during the holidays in New York City, the logistics issues were tricky but, our production management team delivered the project seamlessly.

Additionally, the HABANA team was tasked with providing the Art Direction for the piece and was able to utilize the very special talents of Rebecca Conran, one of our new creative stars. With only two weeks from start to finish, each member of the production went above and beyond to ensure that every detail was accounted for, planned and executed.

Kudos to the entire team!

Link To Original Story

SO nice, they played it twice.

In 2011 HABANA was hired to shoot the opening sequence of ESPN’s Saturday Night Football program. The spot featured country music sensation Big & Rich, and highlighted epic college football moments from the past years. The project was ambitious, requiring over 300 extras and an entire set to be designed and built within a week. Finding an exciting concept that would limit time sensitive content was a challenge, but the team was able to create something both high energy and timeless.

We Put In The Work

The consistency of the program turned out to be a tremendous advantage and in 2013, ESPN again decided to run the original Big N Rich spot with updated play action content and college football highlights.

Creating something special from a simple idea is always a challenge. However, when a great team comes together and the content is well planned and executed, something truly amazing can be born. The HABANA Avenue team is incredibly proud that this original piece of content has been able to be reused and re-purposed for several years. It truly is a testament to the care and talent given to each and every HABANA Avenue project. We look forward to creating more content that stands the test of time.

ESPN BasketBall College GameDay Covered by State Farm

Yeah, We Shoot Hoops Too!

Through the years the College GameDay opening sequence for ESPN’s College Football program has been a cornerstone of the popular broadcast. Hearing the theme song and seeing Big & Rich center stage, marks the beginning of the excitement for many.

So, it was no surprise when ESPN called Habana to produce a unique opener for their Basketball College GameDay show. This time, the challenge of creating an amazing show open was compounded by an extremely short production schedule, and a location recently ravaged by the largest recorded storm to ever hit the U.S. east coast, Hurricane Sandy.

ESPN had already chosen on the breakout group Macklemore to bring their high-energy sound to the GameDay opener. However, due to a taxing tour schedule, the group had only a few days available to create and shoot the sequences needed. With those limitations in mind we were left,

Working With a Time Crunch

Habana was left with only 9 days to find a venue, secure local labor and art direct a unique opener.

The continued aftermath of Hurricane Sandy left many of the venue options in the North East still without power, fuel, or worse, under mandatory evacuation. In addition, with an incredibly short production schedule, labor was going to need to work overtime.

"One of the biggest challenges while working in New England, is coordinating with unions. Thanks to our great resources, nationally and locally, we were able to execute on a short deadline." - Steven J. Levy, Habana AvenuePresident and Founder

ESPN knew that the grueling schedule and the obvious logistical issues would be a difficult challenge for any production company. They knew that careful pre-planning and precise execution were needed to pull off this project.

Special thank you to Director Chris Mantzaris for his creative vision, Rick Paiva and his team for their leadership, and of course, Macklemore for the fresh track.

NBA FINALS: ABC Pulls Out All the Stops for Broadcast, Including Shots of OKC from the Air

A New Perspective

As long as there are no thunderstorms to ground the blimp, NBA Finals viewers will get to see plenty of aerial shots of Oklahoma City. The network will also have an innovative opening segment and six slow-mo cameras to round off the production shoot.

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce officials need to be hoping the only thunderstorms during the NBA Finals will be inside Chesapeake Energy Arena to maximize the opportunity for promoting the city nationally and internationally.

Those dramatic aerial shots of downtown will be available only if there’s calm weather, as the blimp won’t fly during storms. “We’re good as long as we don’t have any thunderstorms,” said Mark Gross, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer.

ABC, which partners with ESPN on sports coverage, will be pulling out all stops in capturing the 2012 NBA Finals, from an innovative opening segment, to six slow-mo cameras, to bringing its studio crew on site and even using a former referee to provide commentary .

The network’s finals planning began when the season tipped off in late December.

“It’s a real big show for us,” Gross said. “Not only on the TV side, but making sure we’re in lock step with the league on issues such as timing for the starting lineups.”

New Tech

The unique two-minute opening segment, which will be used on all of the Finals games, uses Video Mapping technology.

“It really transforms a bunch of different fans into seats, and the next thing they know they are court-side at an NBA Finals game. Then the next thing you know they are transformed into different eras,” Gross said.

Gross said all the great NBA champions will be featured, including the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers.

The six slow-mo cameras, of the 32 video sources in use, will provide some of the most eye-opening shots. They also will be used by the referees on video reviews.

“Those are really the shots we use on the controversial plays or whether it’s how high LeBron [James] or [Kevin] Durant get above the rim for a dunk,” Gross said.

“ESPN Axis” will create virtual replays, with video from live action processed via computers to create virtual freeze frames from several angles. SkyCam also will provide aerial views of the action.

However, 3-D telecasts won’t be available for this year’s finals. “We’re concentrating on our HD coverage,” Gross said.

The “NBA Countdown” studio crew of former Lakers great Magic Johnson, former NBA star Jon Barry, and journalists Michael Wilbon and Chris Broussard will be on site in Oklahoma City and Miami. The crew also will call on retired referee Steve Javie for his commentary, particularly on controversial plays. Javie, who retired before the start of this season because of an arthritic right knee after 25 years in the league, was among the most respected refs in the game.

“We really think he can help people understand the game from a ref’s standpoint,” Gross said.

If necessary, the game telecast crew of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Jeff Van Gundy and the production truck also can talk with Javie during the game.

National coverage also will available on ESPN Radio will the three-man booth of Jim Durham and analysts Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay and Hubie Brown. Online coverage of the games also will be available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

Although Oklahoma City is one of the smallest markets ever to host the NBA Finals, Gross is hoping for good ratings as fans tune in to see two of the league’s top players in James and Durant.

“It doesn’t matter what size of market it is or where it’s located or what time zone it’s in,” Gross said. “Let’s just get the two best teams into the finals and have some fun with it.”


How Hank Readies for Some Football – ESPN Front Row

How Hank Readies for Some Football

ESPN shot the opening video for the upcoming Monday Night Football season with Hank Williams Jr., last week at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Fla.

ESPN Vice President of Production Enhancements Bob Toms, who originally hired Williams to be part of MNF in 1989 when he was the producer for ABC Sports’ on-air promotion, discusses the shoot with Front Row and the work that goes into creating the video.

FRONT ROW: What is the theme for this year’s MNF opening video?

BOB TOMS: I’m calling it Monday Night Football Sonic Boom. We opened up the music a little bit this year and added an a cappella group called The House Jacks to be part of the backing band for Hank. The House Jacks are musicians in their own right, but they can actually imitate live instruments as vocalists. It’s really pretty amazing to hear them perform, and they will bring a very unique, urban, funky sound to this year’s open. We’re also tweaking the music by overloading the sound to create a concert feel that will match the magnitude of MNF.

FR: What past MNF opening themes are your favorites?

BT: When we go a little bit off track is when we have the most fun. This year reminds me of when we did a duet with Hank and tap dancer Savion Glover. The beat and style we created for that made it a unique and exciting open, certainly one of my favorites. We also did all-star bands in the first two years on ESPN which was special with guys like Clarence Clemons, Stevie Van Zandt and Charlie Daniels.

FR: You’ve done this for 23 years now with Hank. What kind of reaction do you usually get from him?

BT: Anytime you put him in front of a crowd and you give him a good band and a solid track, he’s happy. He has no problem with cheerleaders and dancers around him, and he loves football. He’s part of the MNF tradition and he still loves doing this after all these years.

FR: Talk about the location for this year’s shoot.

BT: We shot at Full Sail University, where ESPN has a new sports lab. It was a fantastic situation. We had the opportunity to work at their Live Venue and use many of their students as part of our crew on the shoot. They were hard workers and had great energy. We also drew a big crowd which always makes it fun. The last several years we’ve been to House of Blues in Orlando and Las Vegas, and to the Parthenon in Nashville. This was another great set-up.

FR: Who are the people involved in this project?

BT: Our ESPN Creative Services team works very closely with the MNF Production team and Event Production’s Creative Content Unit from concept creation to delivery of the finished product that fans will see on-air each week. Val Fischler from the Creative Content Unit is the producer and puts together the team that will ultimately shoot and edit the open each week. She has worked on the project for many years. Val works closely with MNF Producer Jay Rothman and Executive Producer Jed Drake right from the outset. Members of our core group this year include David Saphirstein from the ESPN Technology team, who is based at Full Sail University; freelance director and editor Mika Amoia; Scott Duncan, the director of photography, who also shot the ESPN World Cup video last summer with U2 and the Soweto Gospel Choir; and Greg Jennings, the writer who worked on the initial theme and lyrics. KJB Kiely is our production designer, and we used Steven Levy and hisHABANA Ave group as our production company for the shoot.

FR: How early does the process start for creating the video each MNF season?

BT: We work on the concept as early as February. Then we meet with Jay and Jed to go over things in March. Once the schedule comes out in April and the theme has been determined, we begin working on the individual team lyrics, which lasts about a month. In June, we recorded the audio tracks with Hank at a studio in Nashville. Now that we’ve shot the video, we’ll start getting it ready for the season.

FR: How much work is left to get it ready for the season?

BT: It’s a lengthy process that has really just begun. Val will now go through the Hank shoot to see what shots we have, and she will pull NFL highlights of the teams in our opening doubleheader. We’re also working with a pair of 3D animation houses — Big Studios in Toronto and Spontaneous in New York — to create some special effects that will marry the Hank shoot to the football clips. Our actual edit starts during the second week in August. By the second preseason game, we’ll have initial cuts and get feedback. By the first week in September we will prepare a cut for the opening game on Sept. 12, as well as a shorter cut for the second game that night. Every week during the season, it’s taking the football clips of the teams and switching out the Hank clips to create a new video, while adding new 3D effects and tweaking the music based on the shots we use of Hank.

The open is the first 60 seconds of our three-hour Monday Night Football telecast each week. Most people don’t realize how much goes into it, but fans love it when Hank says, “Are you ready for some football?” and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Courtesy of ESPN Front Row

HABANA Strikes it Big & Rich for ESPN College Gameday Show

Huge Opportunity in The Perfect Place

With an expansive oasis of great weather, proximity to abundant production resources and college students, as well as boasting a Bulls team that was in last year’s top ten, the University of South Florida at the Tampa campus was chosen by the HABANA Avenue production team to be the locale for the ESPN College GameDay opener. The show, which is to be hosted by Chris Folwer, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso airing Saturdays starting this Fall, called for an opener with a fresh, high-energy, and youthful vibe.

Big & Rich on Set at USF in Tampa, Florida

ESPN wanted a musicfest-a-palooza staged for the open so Warner Bros. Nashville country luminaries Big & Rich were enlisted to do the honors. The band, performed “Coming to Your City.”

“This is not a mere local band,” remarked HABANA Avenue President and FounderSteven J. Levy. “With Tampa station WQYK being the first to air Big & Rich’s music, and the region being the third largest market, everyone was excited to be a part of it.”

All of these elements along with the phenomenal local mobile staging company, MB Pro Sound & Staging, made Tampa a perfect fit for the shoot.

Shot in one of the USF athletic fields, the outdoor fest scene is one of three parts. Other elements will include behind-the-scenes footage of the College GameDay crew and college football clips.

“Big & Rich were only available for one day,” recounted HABANA Avenue’s John Mullins, “so we had to shoot within a limited time frame. We needed to shoot at least 1,000 students when the school session was out.” He added that radio calls, a live broadcast, blogs and CraigsList were all utilized to generate a local buzz in order to get enough people to show up.

“The USF campus was a great spot to draw a lot of people without having to over-spend on talent,” said Levy. “Clients know they can depend upon the HABANAAvenue team for creative thinking, resourceful decision-making and staying within budget.”

Source: David Steinberg – Millimeter Digital Content Producer The Briefing Room