Turner Sports Returns to the Ring With HBO and SpiderCam on Friday Night Knockout on truTV
On the eve of Mayweather-Pacquiao, Turner Sports will make a little boxing history of its own, collaborating with HBO Sports on the debut of MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout on truTV (Tonight, 10 p.m. ET, truTV), a new boxing series .
Not only will this mark the first Turner-produced boxing event since the late 1990s, but the network’s production plans will feature the first-ever domestic use of Spidercam on a live boxing telecast.
“After watching several boxing events by HBO, Showtime, and NBC, we asked ourselves what can we do to differentiate ourselves from those guys,” says Steve Fiorello, VP, Coordinating Director, and a 15-year veteran of Turner Sports. “Our thought was what if we had the flexibility to cover the fight from the game-camera angle but be able to hover and maneuver at 360 degrees above the ring.”
Turner has experience with Spidercam, deploying the system at this year’s NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and plans to be pretty aggressive with it when it comes to boxing. Fiorello envisions using Spidercam to set the scene inside the arena and swooping right in to pick up a fight in action.
After a series of walkthroughs and flight pattern tests inside The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Wednesday, Fiorello and the Turner team are ready to drive the camera into some pretty unique spaces, including potentially low along the ropes and rotating above the fighters.
“You can’t get that from your traditional lockdown hard camera from the game-camera position,” says Fiorello, who has some boxing experience from his days back at ESPN in the late ’90s. “I’m excited about it. I haven’t seen it done like this before. [The Spidercam team] has done boxing before, but not in the way that we plan to do it. I think its going to be really cool.”
The MetroPCS Friday Night Knockout on truTV series is a full production collaboration between Turner Sports and HBO Sports. The additional camera complement will include two ringside handhelds, a robotic reverse angle camera that is opposite the two main hard cameras (one for tights, one for the full ring), and two super-slow motion systems.
Friday night’s action includes a main event showcasing Takahiro Ao vs. Ray Beltran in a 12-round bout for the vacant WBO Lightweight World Championship and an undercard of two undefeated fights as Mikael Zewski meets Konstantin Ponomarev for the NABF Welterweight Championship.