Sporting KC Takes High-Quality HD on the Road

Since unveiling LIVESTRONG Sporting Park nearly a year ago, Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City has hit the mainstream as a well-known technology innovator. However, the former Kansas City Wizards were innovating long before building their $200 million soccer-specific stadium in Kansas City, KS.

MLS clubs are required to produce the broadcasts of their home and away matches for regional television. Often, the visiting team takes the home-team–produced clean feed, adds graphics in-studio, and has talent call the match remotely from a monitor.

Sporting Kansas City believed it could do better.

“We actually started doing something like this when we took the television production over in 2010,” says Chris Wyche, EVP, operations, Sporting Kansas City. “We’ve just gradually been refining and, frankly, learning lessons and adding equipment and getting a better feel for what we’re doing.”

Now, when Sporting Kansas City hits the road, a production crew comprising Sporting staff (some of whom had no prior television-production experience) is never far behind, equipped with a technology setup that mimics a full production at a fraction of the cost. The club-produced broadcast is fed to regional broadcast partners KSMO-TV Kanasas City, MyTV Wichita, and WIBW-TV/MyTV Topeka.

For each road game, the club deploys a satellite truck and NewTek TriCaster 850. Play-by-play commentator Callum Williams and analyst Jake Yadrich travel with the club to call the match on-site, and all preproduced elements are fed from AJA Video Systems’ Ki Pro recorders. During the match, Sporting Kansas City uses the NewTek TimeWarp to create highlight packages and NewTek LiveText for graphics.

“[We had to ask ourselves,] how do we provide high-quality coverage and work on keeping costs to a dull roar?” says Wyche. “In the end, we’re producing a show for usually about a third of the cost [of a full production] that the consumer at home, unless they know what we’re doing, doesn’t know what we’re doing. You can’t tell the difference.”

Sporting Kansas City’s road production crew begins with the clean feed from the home truck and uses the home production’s main game camera, low mid-field camera, and high end-zone camera. The club adds a booth camera and an on-field camera for in-game cutaways, as well as pre- and post-game interviews with players and coaches. This season, the club also added a wireless microphone on the sideline and a scroll at the bottom of the screen featuring a live Twitter feed.

In addition to the road matches, Sporting Kansas City produces from the visitors’ venue a 30-minute pregame show, 10-minute postgame show, and 30-minute weekly television show broadcast every Sunday morning during the MLS season.

At LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, Sporting Kansas City covers home matches with 11 cameras and a full production detail for both home and visitor regional broadcasts. However, the NewTek complement does not go unused. During home matches, Wyche and company deploy the TriCaster to create content for Sporting Kansas City’s regional television networks, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park’s video board, and the in-house channel, which is fed to more than 300 IPTV screens throughout the venue.

“This is working for us, and it’s possible because there’s a lot of great technology out there,” says Wyche. “We’re looking to take advantage of technology and finding better ways and finding efficient ways to give a high-quality HD broadcast. That’s the bottom line.”

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