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MLB Opening Day 2021: MLB Network Boosts YouTube Game Productions, Adds Studio for New Bettor's Eye Show


MLB Opening Day 2021: MLB Network Boosts YouTube Game Productions, Adds Studio for New Bettor's Eye Show More than 20 camera feeds will be produced for YouTube's Game of the Week Live By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Thursday, April 1, 2021 - 2:27 pm

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Last year, the team at MLB Network found itself serving a multitude of roles after Major League Baseball opened its season during the pandemic: it not only produced its own studio programming, MLB Network Showcase games, and NHL Network's studio programming but also supplied dozens of RSNs with the foundation for MLB's enhanced-world-feed model used for broadcasts. This year, there's no rest for the weary, and MLB Network's Secaucus, NJ, facility is as bustling as ever.

The network will once again produce its 26-game MLB Network Showcase package remotely, using Game Creek Video Riverhawk mobile unit, which is parked outside the Secaucus broadcast center. In addition, MLB Network will use Riverhawk for 21 productions of YouTube's Game of the Week Live, MLB's largest exclusive streaming package to date.

We're really excited to be able to have our own show and control all the cameras and have everything in our arsenal this year since the YouTube games are exclusive, says Susan Stone, SVP, engineering and operations, MLB Network. With the YouTube games, we're also looking to appeal to a different kind of audience and add a different kind of feel.

MLBN Showcase, YouTube Game Productions Call Secaucus Home After producing 13 games for YouTube in 2019 and four September games during last season's shortened campaign, MLB Network will handle production for YouTube's entire exclusive 21-game package this year. For Showcase and YouTube games, an average of 12 cameras will be sent to Riverhawk, where the production crew will create the shows.

According to MLB Network Senior Director, Remote Technical Operations, Jason Hedgcock, last year's YouTube productions involved eight-10 feeds from the park, but this year's will have more than 20 feeds backhauled to Secaucus, including cameras, Statcast and PitchCast data, and multiview/all-nine feeds for the announcers to call games off monitors from Studio K.

Leading up to Opening Day, MLB Network relied on its Ballpark Cam system and remote-production capabilities to produce its annual 30 Clubs in 30 Days Spring Training coverage, which featured Greg Amsinger (left) and Dan Plesac.

Last year was a triage: we just wanted to make sure we could get everything on-air, says Hedgcock. It ended up being very clean, good programming. Now we've had a few months to digest what worked and what didn't and get feedback from our talented and creative production team here. And we've had time on the engineering and operations side to make some adjustments and improvements. I think, this year, we're going to push the digital and REMI models that we've created to see just how much we can innovate with them, and that's really exciting.

Having debuted the Speed Cam system last year, MLB Network will continue to explore new camera positions and technologies. With the majority of ballparks still limiting audience size, broadcasters will continue to have additional flexibility when it comes to camera positions.

We certainly hope to see [Speed Cam] again this season, says Hedgcock. We thought it was a great enhancement, and we want to take advantage - like we were able to last year - of having more flexibility [with fewer fans in the stands].

The great news, he continues, is that every ballpark is going to have at least some fans this year. We certainly are hoping that we'll have the opportunity to try Speed Cam and some other enhancements between YouTube and Showcase as the season goes on.

YouTube Game of the Week: Miked Players, Multiple Announce Teams, and More To differentiate its coverage from traditional MLB broadcasts, MLB Network will roll out several features for YouTube's Game of the Week Live: regularly miking players on the field, incorporating multiple announce teams from across the country to represent both teams playing, and creating original content to take the place of commercial breaks.

Game Creek Video Riverhawk is parked outside MLB Network's Secaucus broadcast center to house the MLBN Showcase and YouTube Game of the Week productions this year.

Last year, MLB Network worked closely with Quantum5X to integrate a wearable miniature microphone/transmitter system into its broadcasts. In a prime example, MLBN worked with the New York Mets to sew a pouch into star first baseman Pete Alonso's Under Armour shirt for a transmitter the size of a credit card and run the microphone wire behind his back.

[Alonso] couldn't even feel it, says Marc Caiafa, SVP, production, MLB Network, adding, We're seeing the technology really improve, and that has made a different in getting buy-in [from the players]. We've always tried to push the wired mics, but, since the technology has gotten better, we are pushing them even more because it really makes the broadcasts better. We've got some lead time now with the clubs, and we've approached them already. It ultimately comes down to the communication with the player and the team, but we've definitely made strides.

The team-specific announcers will include a mix of on-air talent from MLB Network's in-house roster, the teams' RSNs, and various legends/former players from each team.

Our goal is to have representation from both sides, says Caiafa, whether it's a legend or local broadcaster or one of our in-house analysts. It will definitely be a challenge from a logistical standpoint, but I'm fully confident that we'll get it done. We've had good lead time, an
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