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Fox Sports and ESPN Combine With NEP as MLB Comes to the UK

03/07/2019

Live from London: Fox Sports and ESPN combine with NEP as MLB comes to the UK By Heather McLean, Editor

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 - 20:37

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MLB team the New York Yankees go for some batting practice at the purpose-built pitch in the London Stadium

US major league baseball has arrived in the UK for the first time, with a custom-built pitch at the London Stadium in Stratford and an entirely new language of broadcasting plus some unusual technology in play, for the Brits as least.

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox arrived in London for the weekend of 29 and 30 June to show people on this side of the pond what the game of baseball is really about, bringing the two clubs' ongoing rivalry with them. Despite the Red Sox laying claim to the 2018 World Series, the Yankees, which is the highest funded US baseball team, still triumphed on both days.

Broadcasting the event also included a bunch of firsts, with baseball never having been covered at this level before in Europe. The challenges faced by ESPN, Fox Sports and technical partner NEP in producing the broadcasting for this event were many, from working with a newly reconfigured venue to host an MLB baseball event, to camera positions, cable infrastructure, connectivity, formats, and conversions, as well as ESPN's graphics remote integration (Gremi) workflow and all the terminology that goes with baseball.

The London Stadium in Stratford ready for the Yankees and Red Sox to duke it out

Unique event in the UK

MLB has been working closely with Fox Sports and ESPN to bring baseball to the UK. Speaking to SVG Europe, Jim Small, MLB senior vice president, international, said: The broadcast has been quite a challenge. This is a unique event because there has never been baseball played here before. The easy part is where to park your truck; everything else here is hard!

Judy Acone, director, international broadcast operations for MLB Network, has been key in the process of bringing this broadcast and weekend of baseball to the UK. She has been involved in all the meetings with European broadcasters over the past year in preparation for this event, helping them understand how to cover baseball.

Added Small: This has really been a collaborative effort. We have a vested interest in making sure Fox and ESPN get everything they need and Judy has worked hard to achieve that.

Acone noted: This is two cultures coming together, and to make that work we have the A-teams from both Fox Sports and ESPN.

Major League Baseball's Jim Small, senior vice president, international

Americans sharing resources

For the first time ever, Fox Sports and ESPN have shared all resources for the broadcast, from kit to people. However, Fox Sports took the feed on Saturday and ESPN on Sunday, with each also producing a pre-game 30 minute show and one hour show respectively. On the Friday, both broadcasters also filmed batting practice and created highlight shows for their US viewers.

Commented Brad Cheney, vice president of field operations and engineering at Fox Sports: Everything we're doing here is a full share with ESPN. This is the first time we've done this [to this degree]; normally everything is separate.

Last year in Puerto Rico Fox Sports did the same but to a slightly lesser degree with ESPN. Cheney noted that this effort was far more streamlined as Puerto Ricans are obsessed with baseball. Said Cheney: They do baseball [in Puerto Rico]. They have stadiums and people that understand the sport. Here [in the UK] we've had to bring more people and kit over, and build a pitch. The inside of the stadium went better than we could have hoped, although we had to build camera towers because the camera positions are different in baseball than they are in football. We even have an entire production truck dedicated just to the scoreboard; in a purpose-built stadium there would be a control room built in for that purpose.

Said Kevin Cleary, audio specialist at ESPN: As far as I'm aware this is the first time two American networks have ever put all their resources into one control room.

Brad Cheney, vice president of field operations and engineering at Fox Sports

Noted Paul Horrell, remote operations manager at ESPN: It's a lot to plan for in considering all needs, but we are fortunate that we have a great supplier [NEP] and broadcast partners that couldn't be easier to work with to make this all happen. Early on in our discussions, it was immediately apparent that with Fox Sports having the game on the 29 May and ESPN having the game on the 30 May, we could repeat our shared approach for equipment and resources as we did last year in Puerto Rico, and maximise overall production value for all games.

We've taken an unprecedented shared approach to these London games, using the same mobile units and equipment, a hybrid' crew comprised of Fox Sports and ESPN operators, and Gremi Bristol [US]-based EVS operators being used for both the Fox Sports and ESPN games, Horrell went on.

Fox Sports and ESPN acted as the host broadcasters for the event. BT Sport took the feed while also using some of its own cameras on site; BBC Digital had its own advertising-free feed; while BeIN in France used its own French announcers commentating over the Fox Sports and ESPN feeds on site.

Learning curve for NEP

NEP provided everything end to end for this broadcast, from the trucks to robotic cameras (Fletcher) and connectivity (NEP Connect). The challenge in bringing the broadcast together has involved a lot of time, learning and adaption, which NEP has taken on board to help further its long standing relationship with ESPN and Fox Sports on this side of the pond.

NEP had to highly customise three trucks for the MLB London Series

The glue pulling the broadcasting operation together is, everyone agreed, NE
LINK: https://www.svgeurope.org/blog/headlines/live-from-london-fox-sports-a...
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