ESPN tries first down indicator

Device could help viewers make calls

NEW YORK — In a move that ESPN hopes will enhance viewing on its NFL telecasts, the cable web this Sunday night will premiere a new, exclusive technology that displays a yellow line that appears to be painted across the football field at the first-down marker.

With this “1st and 10” device in use, viewers of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Football” game on Sept. 27 between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens will be able to see exactly how far a team needs to move the ball to get a first down.

ESPN executives believe the device will be most useful when a receiver hooks back to catch a pass, a quarterback scrambles downfield to keep a drive alive or when a running back struggles to grab that extra yard.

Because the line appears to be painted on the field, it does not cover up any of the action taking place on the screen.

ESPN executives said they will use the 1st and 10 only on live action and not on replays, which could show if game officials made mistakes.

The 1st and 10 device was developed by SporTVision Systems in conjunction with ESPN. ESPN will have the exclusive rights to it for one year, after which additional TV sports outlets would have the opportunity to gain the use of the 1st and 10.

Bill Squadron, SporTVision’s CEO, said that one of reasons that only ESPN will have access to the device this year is that only one 1st and 10 machine currently exists.

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