One World Sports Goes Local for Historic New York Cosmos-Cuba Matchup in Havana
As Cuba-U.S. relations continue to thaw and the federal government eases travel regulations to the Caribbean nation, it was just a matter of time before the pair of sports-mad nations hooked up for some on-field competition. The New York Cosmos will officially break the Cuba-U.S. sports-competition barrier on June 2, when the North American Soccer League team travels to Havana to play the Cuba National Team at Estadio Nacional Pedro Marrero. One World Sports has been tasked with producing the telecast, which is no small feat considering the dearth of live-HD-production facilities in Cuba.
“When you go into a place where very few people have done this level of live sports broadcast, you are always going to be faced with significant challenges, mostly of the unknown variety,” says Joel Feld, EVP, programming and production, One World Sports. “But that is what makes it exciting, and I’m confident we are up to the challenge.”
The match marks the first-ever live sports production involving a U.S. team and originating out of Cuba to be produced in HD and the first of any kind since ESPN produced a U.S.-Cuba FIFA World Cup qualifier in SD in 2008. As a result, ESPN was one of One World Sports’ first calls when it came to coordinating production facilities in Havana.
“Our colleagues at ESPN were very helpful, and they walked us through some of the challenges they had,” says Feld. “We thought from the beginning that we would have to put a truck on a boat from the States or somewhere else or figure a flypack and build the facilities from scratch.”
However, that ended up being unnecessary, thanks to Havana-based remote-production outfit RTV Comercial, which launched what is thought to be Cuba’s first HD mobile unit in December 2013.
“We discovered [RTV Comercial] about a week before we went to Cuba for our first site survey and meeting with the Cuban football federation,” says Feld. “That was, obviously, of interest to us. We met with them and explained our needs and inspected the truck and all its infrastructure, and we made the decision that partnering with our Cuban colleagues made the most sense.”
The 44-ft. truck, which was built and integrated in Spain, rolls with eight Sony cameras, a Ross Video Carbonite switcher, a four-channel EVS XT Nano server, two Sony XDCam tape machines, and a Yamaha M-7 audio console. Since hitting the road, the unit has handled live coverage of a variety of sports events, including soccer, table tennis, swimming, and boxing.
“We were pleasantly surprised when we went down there to check out the facilities,” says Bob Brown, VP, broadcast operations and engineering, One World Sports. “It is not your typical 53-ft. expando with all the bells and whistles, but it has everything you need to get the job done for a high-quality HD broadcast.”
In addition to providing mobile production facilities, RTV Comercial is partnering with One World Sports on logistics support, crewing, and transmission.
“Part of the experience we are really looking forward to is being able to partner with the folks on the ground in Cuba,” says Brown. “Not only with the mobile unit but the regular technicians and personnel that operate it. We will bring in certain positions from the States — most bilingual — but roughly two-thirds of the crew will be local Cuban personnel.”
One World Sports and RTV have secured a transmission path for the telecast via government-owned telecom ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. ), which will also provide a mobile satellite-uplink flypack. The 18-Mbps HD C-band signal will be delivered to Intelsat 805 and on to One World Sports viewers.
A separate ENG production team will also travel to Havana to shoot ancillary content for the linear telecast and digital platforms. A producer, videographer, and reporter will arrive in Havana on the Friday before the game and spend the weekend shooting ENG, bumpers, billboards, and teases. One World Sports also plans to shoot a self-contained halftime feature that will reflect the current state of sport in Havana. And the production team is in the midst of producing a half-hour documentary on the Cosmos’ trip to Cuba, which will premier later this summer.
“We have been afforded a really fantastic opportunity to do something in Cuba at this point in time,” says Feld. “We certainly hope we will be down there in the next couple of years, and it’s likely things will look very different in Havana than they do today.”