With Txtstation, ‘Friday Night Tailgate’ Viewers Put Themselves On-Screen

Carolyn Braff
For college football fans who find blogging just
too passive, the Big Ten Network has signed a deal that lets fans put their
opinions — and their names — onto a new platform. Thanks to a new partnership
with Txtstation, viewers of the Big Ten Network’s Friday Night Tailgate show can text their opinions into the
on-screen broadcast. Pending approval, fans’ text messages will appear in real time
in a high-definition on-screen ticker developed by Txtstation and Fox.
“Working with Fox, we’ve integrated a proprietary
graphics machine that Fox and the Big Ten Network use,” explains Michael
Falato, VP of sales & business development for Txtstation. Fox owns 49% of
the Big Ten Network; the Big Ten Conference owns the other 51%. “We’re
basically using an XML feed that ties into their system. We both made some
adjustments so that our ticker, our text-to-screen feed, works within their
For the Big Ten Network, which is broadcast in
high-definition, Txtstation also developed a new HD graphic, in Flash, that can
run off any computer. The new graphics are integrated with not just the ticker
feed but with Txtstation’s signature real-time polling application, which shows
the results of a survey or trivia question as fans send in their votes via
Internet, text, or landline voting.
“The big news here is that we’ve taken out buying a
$25,000 graphics machine and we’ve put something together that is real time, broadcast
quality and can be run off of a decent laptop, be put up on-air, and look
really good,” Falato explains. “We get a converter that takes HDMI or DVI, and
we convert that to HD SDI. If they want to use a lower-third or not a full-page
graphic, we put chroma key behind it so they can key out the color and put
something else in the background.”
Any time fans have direct access to a broadcast
application, care must be taken to ensure that inappropriate comments are kept
off-air. Therefore, the Txtstation application requires an operator who has the
ability to view, edit, and approve all incoming messages before they are posted
“You log into our system, and you’re able to view
the message coming in, so you have the chance to approve or deny it,” Falato
says. “You can keep the integrity of the message, but if someone puts too much
information that is not appropriate for a broadcast, the operator has control
over that.”
Txtstation’s carrier-agnostic system can receive
text votes from any Big Ten fan, no matter the cellphone service provider.
Creative work has also begun to create new graphics
for some of the Big Ten Network’s other shows, but no specifics have been
released as of yet.
“People can use us either in studio or on the
truck, carry as little as a laptop, and still have high-definition capability
from anywhere,” Falato says. “The whole interactivity of using SMS is still in
its infancy, but people are looking at how to make it really engaging.”
Night Tailgate Presented by Nissan airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET
on the Big Ten Network.

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