Addition of SportsNet LA Completes Trio of RSNs at Time Warner Cable Sports Broadcast Center

When a company launches three regional sports networks in the nation’s second-largest media market in just 18 months, it’s bound to learn a thing or two about designing a state-of-the-art production facility. For Time Warner Cable (TWC) Sports, which launched the Los Angeles Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA network last month, one lesson outranked all others: plan for the unknown.

“When we first went on the air in October of 2012 with the first two networks, we built a very efficient core technical plant,” says Larry Meyers, VP, content/executive producer, TWC Sports. “But we also knew that something else might be coming down the line, and we hoped it was going to be the Dodgers. So we specifically built the facility so it could scale up for that when the time came.”


A Very Busy Three Years for TWC
A lot has changed on the SoCal sports-TV scene in just three years.

It all started on Valentine’s Day 2011, when Time Warner Cable and the Los Angeles Lakers announced a 20-year, $3 billion rights deal that resulted in the launch of TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes on Oct. 1, 2012. Three months later, TWC did it again — inking a 25-year, reportedly $7 billion-plus deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to co-launch a team-dedicated network wholly-owned by the team and later branded SportsNet LA.

Network operations for all three 24/7 cable channels are up and running — with SportsNet LA officially launching on Feb. 25 and now ramping up for Dodgers baseball — out of TWC Sports’ El Segundo facility. The bulk of the base infrastructure for SportsNet LA was already present, thanks to TWC’s forward-thinking philosophy.

“When we first built our facilities [in 2012 for the Lakers-centric TWC SportsNet and TWC Deportes], we left capacity for the growth of our studio and operations,” says Mark Coleman, VP of engineering and operations, TWC Sports. “[So, for SportsNet LA], we were able to expand upon our existing footprint to relatively quickly and efficiently utilize existing production facilities and master-control operations.”

The Control Room
Diversified Systems, which served as systems integrator during the initial build-out for TWC SportsNet and Deportes, handled the facility expansion. The SportsNet LA facility now constitutes about a quarter of TWC’s full footprint and includes a studio set, production-control room, audio room, three edit rooms, and two live-event master-control rooms all dedicated solely to SportsNet LA.

“Since the core infrastructure was all in place, we just had to expand that rather than re-architect everything,” says Duane Yoslov, SVP of West Coast sales and operations, Diversified Systems. “If you design the infrastructure and overall capability to the maximum of what you might do, then expansion becomes an incremental expense rather than an exponential one.”

Like its two predecessors in El Segundo, SportsNet LA’s control room is built around a Sony MVS8000X production switcher and a Calrec Artemis Light audio console. Other gear includes an Evertz EQX router and Dreamcatcher replay system, ChyronHego graphics, Harris Broadcast (now Imagine Communications) test and measurement equipment, Genelec audio monitoring, Laguna Designs console and technical furniture, and an expanded RTS Adam matrix intercom system. Diversified Systems also provided a NewTek TriCaster to help SportsNet LA produce a variety of simple talking-head pieces.

The Studio
Inside the studio (designed by JHD Group) are Dodgers-specific signage and LED displays along with Sony HDC2500 cameras with Canon HJ series lenses, Ross Video Cambotics robotic camera systems, Autoscript teleprompters, Litepanels LED lighting (designed by Redwood Media Group’s Steve Mulkey).

“The set is iconic, with the architectural elements that are unique to Dodger Stadium — like the corrugated metal and the shape of the pavilion roof,” says Meyers. “Since this is the Dodgers network, we could build something that didn’t have to be all things to all people. It could be very Dodgers-specific. The interview set looks like the inside of the clubhouse, with a screen behind the desk that looks like the Dodger Stadium scoreboard.”

Expanded Online Storage
Diversified Systems also significantly expanded TWC’s online-storage capacity with new Quantum StorNext Q-series RAID systems and Spectra Logic LTO for archiving.

“We always knew that they would need to expand the storage,” says Yoslov. “But their storage usage had already grown dramatically in just the first year. We had to move the primary storage platform to Quantum and use their previous platform as more of a failsafe. So we had to move over 100 TB of data from their online storage, mirror that onto the new storage platform, and then do an overnight migration. That was probably the most challenging aspect.”

A Rapidly Growing Staff
It’s not just equipment that is new in El Segundo, with the tri-network operation housing a total staff of 250 (the number approaches 350 when freelancers are added in) after additional SportsNet LA employees were trained over the past few months.

“We’re operating rather independently coming out of the gate on the above-the-line side with producers, directors, editors, programming focused on SportsNet LA and the Dodgers or Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Deportes. But I think, as time goes on, we’re going to look at all these resources and skilled people as flexible and can be assigned to whatever of our networks they need to be assigned to on a given day.”

Watch for the second part of SVG’s SportsNet LA coverage addressing the remote-production operations at Dodger Stadium and the venue’s uniquely connected workflow with the Time Warner Cable Sports facility in El Segundo.

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