With the 49ers beginning training camp and with many Bay Area minds still on the A’s and the Giants in the hunt for the MLB postseason, the Pac-12 Network is readying for a full fall schedule, tucked away in their posh studios in the heart of San Francisco.
“We are getting ready for a big college football season with over 35 live games starting in just three weeks,” said Larry Meyers, the network’s executive vice president of content.
The first episode of the network’s will air on opening night — Aug. 29 in Tempe, Arizona — when Arizona State will host Kent State in the first of the 35 games to air this season on the network. The talent will be on location down in Arizona, along with a camera crew, but the entire production, direction and taped elements will be run out of the network’s San Francisco studio.
It is that hybrid on-site and broadcast center production mix that has become popular in the new world of live event broadcasting of sports.
The network is following ESPN, FOX Sports and others in the combination of doing some events with the traditional on-site remote truck — with broadcasters and a full crew including producers and directors all on campus for the event — and the mixed approach.
Meyers and his team will produce 850 live events this season, and about 500 of them will be done with cameras on site, and the rest of the production team— producers, directors and even sometimes broadcasters — in San Francisco, handling things at one of the network’s four control rooms at the broadcast center.
The key to making this type of new remote technology work is the use of fiber optic transmission lines that are accessible to the network equipment at the production site. The quick transmission of large amounts of data can take place in nanoseconds with no video lag.
Now, the producers and directors in San Francisco can be in contact with camera operators in Los Angles as though they were in a traditional remote truck sitting outside the stadium. The second part of the fiber component comes when transmitting the games to the network. Back in the old days, it was done via satellite and the use of telephone lines.
With both a remote truck and a satellite uplink unit together, there is need for large amounts of power, plus there is no way they can just park at some of the smaller venues. Now, you have cameras that can plug into a large suitcase-like box connected to the fiber lines, and poof, you can do a remote.
This new style of doing live, remote sports coverage is all about keeping a network-quality look and style, while at the same time maintaining complete control.
“It is an exciting time where the industry is moving in this bold way to use digital streaming video in ways that just 10 years ago would have been unthinkable,” Meyers said. “For us it is all about network control and the ability to best manage our assets on an event by event basis.
“We all know about football in the fall but there is also soccer, field hockey, volleyball and water polo — all events that we cover on the network, with most of those events coming during the week. By using cameras on-site with our production team — including sometimes our broadcasters — here in San Francisco, we can make certain that everything at the broadcast center meets our network standards while getting the most out of our outstanding production team.”
Each of the 12 member universities has broadcasting equipment on campus. Some schools also have their own production members, who can aid with taks like rapid processing of highlights.
Getting sports highlights on socail media quickly is important, Meyers said.
“We are aware that our fans not only follow our teams on the network, but through our social media platforms,” Meyers said. “By producing content in as many ways as we can, we can meet our goal to make sure that Pac-12 fans are as up to date as possible. We understand that our audience is very engaged, and so the marriage of live production with the social media component is a critical part of our total coverage plans.”
Channel surfing: The countdown to the NFL season continues, and CBS and AT&T remain at odds. While some Bay Area cable and DirecTV customers miss Love Island and NCIS on KPIX, there is less than a week to go before the 49ers’ first preseason broadcast, set to air on CBS 5 as they face the Cowboys. No progress yet in the showdown.
NBC Sports Bay Area will debut a new show on Monday, aimed at sports betting and fantasy sports. It is called “The Daily Line,” and will be broadcast weekdays from noon until 4 p.m.