College Football Preview 2014: Fox Sports Emphasizes Expanded Studio Programming
In year one of Fox Sports 1’s college football coverage, one thing became abundantly clear to Coordinating Tech Producer David Jones: “The beast is hungry and we can’t feed it enough.”
With more than 100 live games scheduled across its national and local broadcast and cable platforms (including Fox broadcast network, FS1, Fox Sports Networks, Fox College Sports, Fox Deportes, and Fox Sports GO) and two new live one-hour college football studio shows, Jones only expects that demand for content – both from producers and viewers at home – to continue.
“It’s gotten even bigger for this year,” says Jones. “With so many different shows on FS1 and Fox and FSN, it is just more and more. We have more games this year, including several Thursday and Friday night games, and our opening week, we have five games in four days.”
Studio Programming: The Centerpiece To It All
Fox’s college football coverage will continue to put major emphasis on its studio programming with two new shows, Fox Sports Live: Countdown to Kickoff (Friday nights at 12 a.m. ET on FS1) and Fox College Football Pregame (Saturday in primetime on Fox broadcast network), debuting this week. In addition, the Fox college remotes will feed content to America’s Pregame, which premiered in March, on Fridays and plenty more content to Fox Sports Live throughout the week.
“The more we interact with the studio, the more college football on Fox gets out there,” says Jones. “Last year everybody had signs in their truck that said, ‘What can you do for Fox Sports Live?’ and ‘What does this mean for Fox Sports 1?’ That got the mentality started, and it’s just been progressing ever since. And the studio guys are relentless in their request for [content], which we’re, of course, happy to give them.”
Due to bandwidth constraints at several of the college stadiums, Jones and company do not use file-transfer as often as their NFL on Fox counterparts when sharing content with the broadcast center back in Los Angeles. Instead, they rely on a combination of satellite, Level 3’s Vyvx VenuNet fiber network (where available), and off-site file transfers to deliver content back home for studio programming.
“We utilize Level 3 at any stadium that has it, which is not everywhere, but several more stadiums are getting it now,” says Jones. “We are utilizing some other file transfers that are a little bit different than the NFL team, where we can go off-site to a location that has better bandwidth and transfer from there. And, obviously, coming up with our satellites a little early to feed stuff back home is key for us.”
At the Compounds Around the Country
In terms of mobile units, Fox has set trucks for its four college football main crews: Game Creek Video’s Patriot, CBC Mobile Productions Évolution HD, NEP’s NCP7, and CSP Mobile Productions’ HD4. Mobile TV Group supplements the remaining FS1 and FSN crews with mobile units on a week-to-week basis.
“We are very happy with our facilities and have made commitments to new mobile units as we are trying to scale up to our NFL level,” says Mike Davies, SVP, technical and field operations, Fox Sports. “We have a lot going on with college football, NFL, and the [MLB Postseason] all happening at once [this fall] so it is going to be a really busy time for us, but we are looking forward to it. We have created quite a stable of people and a lot of those people are coming back so I can only think that things will go smoother and even better.”
Cameras and Audio On-Site
Fox’s A Game will once again feature 11-12 cameras, including a SkyCam aerial camera system, a Sony HDC-3300 slow-mo, and sometimes will feature an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo ultra-slow-mo. The remainder of the games will feature 8-12 cameras, including wireless RF cameras from Aerial Video Systems (AVS) and an aerial camera system, depending on the week.
On the audio side, the A game will feature approximately 46 microphones, including standard parabolas, RF parabs, a mic on the SkyCam, mics on the bands in the stands, and on the field.
“Fox’s emphasis on audio is just so high,” says Jones, “that if you see a shot, you better have a mic pretty close to it.”
Keeping the Lines of Communication Open
As Jones and company continue to seek out new ways to differentiate Fox’s coverage and, ideally, make Fox and FS1 a true destination for college football, the relationship between the remotes and the studio will continue to play a vital role.
“Sharing and open dialogue between on-site and the studio is the major thing with us this year and I think it’s going be one of the keys as we enter into year two of FS1,” says Jones. “You’re really going to start seeing a difference. I think we did a really good job with it last year and I think we’re going do a fantastic job with it this year.”
Fox Sports’ college football coverage opens Aug. 28 with four consecutive nights of live games, beginning with Rutgers vs. Washington State at Century Link Field in Seattle at 10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.