Fox Sports Southwest Stays Flexible, Lends Local Feel to Spurs’ Championship Bid
Fox Sports Southwest has compiled quite the impressive championship résumé in the past decade.
As the regional sports network for the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City Thunder (Fox Sports Oklahoma is an offshoot), Fox Sports Southwest has been a part of seven of the past 11 NBA Finals, not to mention back-to-back World Series appearances by the Texas Rangers. This year, with the Spurs taking on the Miami Heat, Fox Sports Southwest makes its third straight NBA Finals appearance and maintains a commitment to innovation.
“We try to add a layer each year,” says Senior Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou. “We have found a really creative way to get these shows produced and in an efficient manner where we’re not sacrificing or compromising the production value, utilizing the people who know the team as good as anybody out there. We’re all pretty happy with the coverage.”
Throughout the finals, Fox Sport Southwest is broadcasting a special one-hour SPURS LIVE postgame show after every game. The shows offer game highlights, podium press conferences, and interviews from the Spurs locker room.
This year, Fox Sports Southwest has incorporated LiveU video-over-cellular transmission into its remote production, which includes a NewTek TriCaster and two ENG cameras. The network backhauls all footage shot in the field — from Miami and San Antonio — via Level 3 Vyvx circuit back to its Irving, TX, headquarters, where inserts and tickers are added.
“The LiveU unit has worked very well this go-round for us; we’re able to feed things in real time,” explains Anastassiou. “It gives us a lot of flexibility, along with our Vyvx circuit. We have two ways to backhaul footage and source materials, and we’ll ingest some basic materials into the TriCaster as well — scenics, beauty shots that we can use for playback — but most everything else is either fed live while it’s being shot with LiveU and played back later or fed and edited [in studio] and rolled in during the live telecast.”
Bigger in Texas
When the Spurs are home, Fox Sports Southwest broadcasts from its host position in the Bud Light Courtyard at AT&T Center.
“It’s a great atmosphere because the fans congregate there after the game, so it kind of gives you that collegiate feel with fans in the background,” says Anastassiou. “After [Wednesday’s] blow-out win, everyone was really in a good mood, so it made for a big atmosphere. We package all of that through the studio, and I think we achieve a pretty big look and feel by doing it like that.”
With no set desk location at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, the Fox Sports Southwest team must get creative. The network deployed the production complement to Miami for Games 1 and 2 and shot the postgame show outside the arena.
By using a portable production complement, Fox Sports Southwest avoids the hassle of rolling out a truck — whether production unit or satellite uplink — and running cable out to different broadcast locations. The addition of LiveU to the production complement has enabled Fox Sports Southwest to incorporate unique locations into its broadcast throughout the playoffs.
“In the Western Conference Finals, we had our small crew on location at the venue, but we deployed our LiveU unit to [commentator] Sean Elliott’s man cave. He and [commentator] Bill Land watched a game from there, and they provided their perspective and analysis from that unique location,” says Anastassiou. “I think we’ve capitalized on that improving technology.”
Sticking With Family
To cover the NBA Finals, Fox Sports Southwest deploys the people who know the Spurs best: the core crew, both talent and production personnel, that followed the team all season.
Ric Renner and Andrew Monaco anchor SPURS LIVE, joined by Land and Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News to break down the games and offer a local perspective.
“Our competition obviously is tough with ABC, ESPN, and everyone else out there, but we think we provide that unique niche because these are the folks who have [covered] the games on Fox Sports Southwest for most of the season,” says Anastassiou. “We’re proud of our coverage. We think it’s unique and different. We’re still providing that local perspective.”