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CBS's Sean McManus prepped to produce 'biggest show on TV'

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It seems so primitive now. CBS used only 11 cameras for its coverage of Super Bowl I in 1967. The pregame show was a mere 30 minutes.

Indeed, Super Bowl coverage has exploded exponentially since 1967. And it even has grown considerably since 2001 when Sean McManus oversaw his first Super Bowl as president of CBS.

"The event has gotten bigger and bigger," said McManus, who now carries the title of chairman of CBS Sports.

CBS will blanket its coverage of Super Bowl LIII with 115 cameras, quite an increase from 11 in Super Bowl I. That modest pregame show for the first game now has morphed into a highly-produced four-hour spectacular known as The Super Bowl Today.

What hasn't changed, McManus says, is the pressure he feels prior to telecasting a Super Bowl on CBS. If anything, it only has intensified, even though this will be the seventh Super Bowl under his command.

"The pressure gets more intense with each one of these I do," McManus said. "Social media plays into that. There is immediate feedback, and a lot of it is negative. Everyone is paying attention to your announcers, your coverage of the game. If there is a controversial play, like there was in the AFC Championship Game, they want to know CBS has the definitive crystal-clear look."

The pressure is there because the reward is so great. Being the Super Bowl network means virtually the entire country will be watching CBS on Sunday.

"It's the biggest show on TV," McManus said. "Nothing approaches the rating we will generate for the game. There's a lot of pressure but also a great opportunity and incredible showcase for the entire CBS corporation."

As usual for a Super Bowl, CBS will be rolling out all the latest tech gizmos. This will be CBS' 20th Super Bowl telecast, the most for any network.

For the first time ever on any network at a live sporting event, CBS' virtual plan includes the use of a live, wireless handheld camera showing augmented reality graphics and up-close camera tracking on the field. This will allow the camera to get closer to these virtual graphics in a way that gives viewers different perspectives and angles including never-before-seen field level views of these graphics.

CBS will utilize four cameras (including the SkyCam) with live augmented reality graphics, plus an additional 10 cameras with trackable first down line technology. In all, CBS says there will be 14 cameras creating virtual graphic elements "that are completely manufactured and will seamlessly blend in to the real environment of the broadcast."

Also, in another first, CBS will use multiple 8K cameras with a unique engineering solution to provide viewers with even more dramatic close-up views of the action from the end zone, including possible game-changing plays along the goal lines and end lines.

Yet at the end of the day for all technology and hoopla, McManus says it still comes down to televising a football game.

"You try to put all the hype and bigness behind you when you kick off the game," McManus said. "It's a football game. As we saw in the AFC Championship Game, if your crew is ready and you've done all the preparation you can, you can come up with a terrific broadcast."

Wise advice: Jim Nantz, who will be calling his fifth Super Bowl, always recalls advice he received from Jack Whitaker prior to doing his first big game in 2007; Whitaker and Ray Scott shared play-by-play duties for CBS for Super Bowl I. Whitaker told Nantz to "be ready for the opening kickoff."

Sure enough, the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester stunned the Indianapolis Colts by returning the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI. Thanks to Whitaker's advice, Nantz was prepared for the moment.

"I took that advice not only in the literal sense, but be ready because you never know what's going to happen," Nantz said. "You never know if the next snap is going to be the play that is going be the game-changer or be one of the iconic plays in the history of the Super Bowl."

Sunday rundown: There will no shortage of Super Bowl pregame coverage Sunday.

NFL Network will have an 8 1/2-hour edition of NFL GameDay Morning beginning at 9 a.m. ET. Yes, 8 1/2 hours. That's what you do when you have NFL in your title.

Among the highlights:

-- Andrea Kremer tells the story of New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, and his father's influence on his life and football career.

-- Kurt Warner discusses how this current Los Angeles Rams team compares to his "The Greatest Show on Turf" Rams teams.

-- Willie McGinest sits down with his former teammate, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, to discuss his mindset as he prepares for his ninth Super Bowl.

-- Players Only: Warner, Michael Irvin, McGinest, Steve Smith Sr. and Michael Robinson discuss what it's like playing in your first Super Bowl.

-- And not sure about this feature, but the press release says, "Rich Eisen takes on nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt in the 40-yard dash." Will Eisen be in a car?

Meanwhile, CBS' The Super Bowl Today hits the air at 2 p.m. ET. Super Bowl III MVP Joe Namath will visit the set to discuss the game in which he guaranteed victory 50 years ago.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback Russell Wilson and Denver Broncos Super Bowl 50 MVP linebacker Von Miller will be on hand as guest analysts.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen will be a special guest analyst on ESPN's four-hour Postseason NFL Countdown pregame show (10 a.m. ET). Olsen, who played in Super Bowl 50, is making his second straight ESPN appearance on Super Bowl Sunday.

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