World Series Power Outage: MLBN, MLB International Adjust on the Fly

When Fox Sports’ domestic live feed of Game 1 of the World Series dropped out during the fourth inning Tuesday night, the MLB world-feed production team unexpectedly entered a blinding spotlight. Thanks to some quick thinking and plenty of ingenuity, MLB Network and MLB International came through in the clutch, providing U.S. viewers with the world feed while Fox worked to get its truck back online following the failure of its twin-pack power generator at the Kauffman Stadium compound in Kansas City.

“It was a pretty organized and civil process actually; no one had their hair on fire,” says Russell Gabay, supervising operations producer, international events, MLB. “Everyone was incredibly professional: everyone knew what had to get done and stayed in their lanes. It’s great that we can have each other’s back.”

CLICK HERE for SVG’s coverage of Fox’s side of the World Series power outage.

Part 1: Reacting to the Outage
Gabay and Tech Manager Gabe Nucci were inside the world-feed truck (Game Creek Video’s Amazin’) when its monitor carrying the Fox Sports program feed went out. Suddenly, the two heard a loud bang outside, and the rest of the camera feeds the world feed was taking from Fox went dark as well. Producer Chris Pfeiffer and director Jonathan Evans continued to produce the game using MLB’s six dedicated cameras, while Nucci ran outside to investigate.

Fox-Sports-World-Series-outageIt was very spur of the moment,” says Nucci. “As soon as I got outside the truck and realized it was total power loss, the first thing I thought of was, we need to get something on that transmission circuit and we have a working program. We already had [connectivity between the trucks] since we were taking cameras from Fox, so I ran and took an open cable and hooked it up.”

Within two minutes, by Nucci’s estimate, Fox’s Level 3 Vyvx circuit to its Los Angeles Broadcast Center was carrying MLB’s No. 1 world feed (there are 11 total feeds for various territories). U.S. viewers at home missed just a single at-bat, thanks to the quick changeover.

“Gabe Nucci had the clear head to offer the world feed to Fox, and they plugged it into one of their Level 3 ports and got back on the air relatively quickly,” says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “Gabe really deserves a lot of credit for thinking on his feet, so Fox could focus on recovery.”

Part 2: Producing the World Feed on Fox
Although they may not have had a full camera complement at their disposal, Pfeiffer and Evans used the world feed’s six dedicated cameras (high home, centerfield, tight centerfield, low first, low third, and low home) to produce the telecast.

“When everything was lost, we were still able to cut the game and document what was happening on the field with those cameras,” says Pfeiffer, who is senior coordinating producer, live events, MLB Network. “Even though there was a lot of activity happening behind us in the truck, I think everyone stayed pretty calm.”

In addition to the telecast, the MLB world delivered its six camera feeds to MLB’s Official Replay Operations Center in New York. According to MLB, replay was operational throughout Game 1, thanks to the world feed’s camera angles.

During the first commercial break following the outage, Fox leaders — including Fox Sports producer Pete Macheska, President Eric Shanks, and Executive Producer John Entz — and MLB leaders huddled to come up with a game plan for what to do next. The decision was made to bring in Fox’s on-air talent — Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci — to the world feed and transition out announcers Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz.

Vasgersian introduced Buck before Reynolds and Verducci entered the booth (which is much smaller than Fox’s). Meanwhile, MLB hooked Macheska up with a headset and sat him at the front bench alongside Pfeiffer and Banks.

“When Joe Buck went into the booth during the commercial break, I think it was a pretty easy transition because we had planned it out,” says Pfeiffer. “The reason we pulled it off was the help from both our side and Fox. We work together hand-in-hand throughout the season, and all that played out nicely.”

Part 3: Another Power Outage, This Time for MLB
As Fox was transitioning EN2 to MLB’s generator to get it back online, the world feed’s B unit (Game Creek’s Edit 2) also suffered a power loss, which lasted about 90 seconds, according to Nucci. Since the B unit housed all world-feed transmission ops, all 11 world-feed paths went dark for three to five minutes. However, since Fox was taking the world-feed HDI path directly from the A unit, Fox continued to receive the primary world feed without a dropout.

MLB had backup protocol in place, however, with an SDI source in the A unit serving as a tertiary backup that was not being encoded in the B unit and was being delivered to MLB Network headquarters in Secaucus, NJ, via an MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) circuit.

“That circuit was cold in Secaucus, standing by to be routed somewhere just in case. So, when our B unit lost power, I jumped on the headset in the A unit and instructed the [Network Operations Center] in Secaucus to patch the SDI service out to Encompass’s Waterfront facility, which services all of our worldwide partners,” says Nucci. “That was a predetermined step that was going to happen in case of emergency.”

Part 4: Fox Gets Back Up and Running
Without assurances that Fox would be able to bring EN2 back online during the game, MLB Network began exploring the option of relocating its studio cameras for its onsite set for Fox’s game coverage (and to bolster angles being sent to the Replay Review Center). However, once it became clear that Fox would soon be able to light up its truck again, those plans were shelved.

“Once we heard [that] the Fox truck was going to come back up, we stood down and let that process take place, knowing that they would be back at full force relatively soon — certainly before we could relocate additional cameras to new positions, move CPUs, move fiber, etc.,” says Stone. “We have worked together with Fox — and also ESPN — for many years at all the same events, especially jewel events. There is a partnership that has a lot of history, and I am confident that if, God forbid, we went down, they would do the same for us.”

EN-2 came back online, and Fox resumed production before the bottom of the sixth inning, and the world-feed truck and booth returned to traditional operations.

“The entire time, it was pretty orderly in the world-feed truck,” says Gabay. “What I really appreciate is that Fox understood that we still had a world feed on the air. They didn’t come in and demand. They came in and said, Can you help us, and how do we work together? That says a lot about everybody at Fox and the respect we all have for each other.”