Live From Phoenix: MLB Network Taps NEP for MLB All-Star 2011

Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities at Chase Field in Phoenix step up to the plate tonight for baseball fans around the world as ESPN broadcasts the 2011 Home Run Derby. But hardcore fans have already gotten a wealth of coverage, courtesy of MLB Network, which is on hand to make sure viewers are informed and entertained by everything from the All-Star Red Carpet parade to press conferences, studio shows relocated to sets within Chase Field, and more.

The biggest change for MLB Network this year is the use of NEP’s ND4 production unit for pre-game, post-game, and other MLB Network shows (including, for the first time, “Intentional Talk”) as well as NEP SSI8 for the Red Carpet show which will be broadcast tomorrow afternoon on tape delay.

Given the heat (temps are expected to be around 104 when the parade takes place) the Red Carpet Show will be shorter this year.

“MLB wanted to do something for the fans but they are mindful of the fact that that we can’t avoid the climate,” says MLB Network SVP of Operations Susan Stone.

One production change is that sportscaster Hazel Mae, who hosts “Quick Pitch” during the regular season, will be located at the start of the parade.

“The show is a little different because Hazel will talk with the players and families as they are loading in [to the cars that talk them on the route,” says Stone. A fiber connection between NEP SS18 and the start of the parade route at the U.S. Airways Center has also been laid out.

MLB Network’s two sets, one located in right field near the foul line and another in centerfield, are the same as last year with one exception. “We have added another desk for the centerfield set,” says Stone.

The MLB All Star games provide a great opportunity for fans to see players from different teams work together for victory and the broadcast compound, located right outside the stadium, is no different. Stone says there is a huge amount of synergy between the major broadcasters that include ESPN, Fox Sports (which broadcasts the main event on July 12), MLB Network, and MLB International that delivers the events to broadcasters around the globe.

The best example of the synergy, along with a generally convivial atmosphere in the compound, is that all decided to participate in a frequency coordination effort for the use of wireless microphones and cameras. The sheer number of entities on site and the large amount of simultaneous network coverage that occurs required the networks to tap CP Communications to coordinate who is using what frequency when.

“It makes it a lot easier,” says Stone of an effort that will also drastically cut down on the possibility of broadcasters interfering with each other. “We had some issues with frequencies being stepped on last year so we have doubled the enforcement efforts and all of the local broadcasters are checking in. We’ve adopted more of an NFL model.”

As much as the action between the lines is fairly similar from one year to the next each MLB All Star game requires plenty of planning, as each stadium is different from the next. Every game also features a visit from stadium executives for next year’s event as they look to figure out how best to accommodate the large number of production trucks, personnel, and media that are part of the event. This year it is the Kansas City Royals who are in the role of visitors, just like the Arizona Diamondbacks checked out the operations last year in Anaheim. The visits usually pay off by ensuring the cabling meets everyone’s needs, the compound is located in a reasonable spot, and there are no surprises.

“The Diamondbacks have been amazing and fantastic,” says Stone of the effort from team and stadium personnel. “It’s been smooth sailing and they have been a great partner.”