Silver Chalice Taps BeckTV To Integrate 120 Sports, Campus Insiders Studios

Growing digital-media company Silver Chalice is committed to producing, distributing, and monetizing original sports content not just “digital first” but “digital exclusive.” So, when it came to designing new studio facilities, the company turned to a traditional integrator with an eye toward the future: BeckTV.

BeckTV served as the lead integrator on Silver Chalise's new Chicago-based facility for 120 Sports.

BeckTV served as the lead integrator on Silver Chalice’s new Chicago-based facility for 120 Sports.

Behind its newest brands, 120 Sports and Campus Insiders, Silver Chalice is shaking up the traditional distribution and technology model. The company prides itself on its file-based workflows and non-linear distribution while developing captivating original content for digital consumption.

“We’ve never touched a piece of tape with this business,” says Matt Carstens, EVP, networks, at Silver Chalice. “Everything is file-based, and everything is about building proper storage and sharing systems and the ability to send that out via IP to points of end distribution.”

Even though BeckTV falls into the traditional television and in-venue–baseband models of integration, the company sees the studios built for Campus Insiders as a peek into coming future.

“There’s no transmitter involved, and there’s no master control. It’s not a linear-broadcast solution,” says Fred Wright, director of sales, Central Region for BeckTV. “To be honest, this is the trend that’s developing on the sports side. It’s unique for us because we’re a traditional broadcast-TV-station integrator. We build air paths, we build master control, we build mobile HD production trailers. This was a merging of IPTV and baseband video. They are blended together, and [the viewer] can’t tell the difference.”

The 120 Sports and Campus Insiders facilities are built across the street from each other in the former Harpo Studios in Chicago. 120 Sports was the second design and integration project that BeckTV did for Silver Chalice, having built the platform’s home base for a June 2014 launch. The “network” is billed as a first-of-its-kind resource for live and on-demand sports highlights and discussion; it launched with content partners NHL, NBA, MLB.com, NASCAR, and equity investor Time Inc. (owner of Sports Illustrated).

BeckTV Senior Systems Engineer Bill McKenna led the work on the facility, which Silver Chalice envisioned as an advanced production facility tailored to the network’s IP-only program-distribution model. It features two production-control rooms and one very large studio that can be split to support multiple productions.

BeckTV helped integrate with nine racks in the central equipment room. The facility features a Ross Carbonite switcher, an Evertz routing core, a Clear-Com intercom system, and Panasonic P2 cameras in the studio.

To track all the media for all of 120 Sports’ properties, editors use a bank of 20 DIRECTV receivers connected to DVRs that push the material into an extensive Avid infrastructure used for ingesting, editing, and playing out to ATEME encoders and to the Web.

“[BeckTV] had an eagerness to break the mold and look at something different,” says Carstens. “They had the ability to translate what may be done in a traditional broadcast facility into what could be done in a digital broadcast facility. We have the people to envision it, and they were able to take those ideas and figure out a way to make them work.”

120 Sports’ facility also houses a graphics suite (running Ross Xpression graphics), 10 cuts-only edit suites using Avid Interplay, and a customized Skype workflow that integrates with the intercom system so that guests on the video-conferencing platform can communicate with production crews off-camera.

BeckTV was originally brought in about a year and a half ago for Campus Insiders — a college-sports digital platform that is a joint venture of Silver Chalice and IMG College — to integrate its studio space.

According to Abel Sassenhagen, junior systems engineer at BeckTV and leader of the Campus Insiders project, the plan had a tight budget and a small window of time for completion. In fact, arriving in Chicago for the project, he and his team had seven days to get the space operational. To counter the time crunch, BeckTV racked a majority of the equipment at the company’s Austin, TX facility before shipping it up to Chicago for installation.

Both the 120 Sports and Campus Insiders facilities are fully file-based and feature a file-sharing workflow. Many traditional broadcast networks are attempting to get to this point, but, according to Carstens, Silver Chalice had the benefit of starting from scratch.

“We had the luxury of starting with zero systems. There’s no legacy system in place,” he says, “so we have the ability to look at which brands we wanted going forward without being tied to a brand and having to build off of that.

“You can’t future-proof anything these days,” he continues, “but we were trying to build it in a way that we will be able to adapt and grow with it as the technology continues to evolve in the coming years.”

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