Fox Sports’ MLB Coverage Is All About National/RSN Synergy
2,300-plus live telecasts, All-Star Game, new SportsTime Ohio facility highlight the regular season
Thirty-two games on Fox. Thirty-nine games on FS1. 2,260 games on Fox Sports Regional Networks. Simply put, no one produces more live baseball than Fox Sports. To produce and deliver all this action, Fox last season instituted a production philosophy that encourages synergy between its national networks and regional networks and leverages the growing technological capabilities and production quality of its RSNs.
“We’ve always had the regional markets, but this is our true second year with this [mentality],” says Francisco Contreras, director, field ops, Fox Sports. “Having all those resources, help, and expertise [makes] things so much easier and stronger. We don’t have to re-create anything; it’s there already. It was great to build relationships with all the regions [last year], so that now we have the flow of things. We know what every truck has and every region’s special equipment.”
Of course, with the NBA Playoffs and NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on the docket, Fox Sports Regional Networks has plenty more on its plate this month than Major League Baseball. In all, Fox RSNs will likely have 11 NBA teams and nine NHL teams in the playoffs, along with 15 MLB teams in action.
“We’re going to be rolling so hard over the next month, and it is our best time of year,” says Michael Connelly, SVP/executive producer, Fox Sports. “Take [April 5], for instance: we have almost 45 different broadcasts going on today. It’s an insane amount of live content, but it’s absolutely our favorite time of year.”
National Slate Launches With Local Flavor in Anaheim
FS1’s 39-game schedule begins tonight when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim host the Texas Rangers. Exemplifying Fox’s synergistic philosophy, FS1 is producing its MLB Whiparound nightly studio show live from the Fox Sports West (the Angels’ RSN) studio.
“That’s something different we haven’t done in a very long time, so we’re very excited about it. We’ll use our Whiparound talent and do our pre- and post-game out of that studio,” says Contreras. “It’s opening week for us, and we’re really trying to create a buzz. Plus, it’s obviously close by [our Los Angeles broadcast center], so it totally makes sense.”
Fox’s A-game production and new broadcast booth — featuring longtime play-by-play voice Joe Buck and new analyst John Smoltz — will debut on Saturday when the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the San Francisco Giants in an NL West rivalry matchup.
The majority of FS1’s early-season games will feature a seven-camera complement and deploy a variety of Game Creek Video, NEP, and Mobile TV Group trucks. When the Fox broadcast network’s Saturday primetime slate begins on May 21, Contreras and company will have an additional high-speed camera. However, the major tech toys won’t be seen until the MLB All-Star Game in San Diego on July 12.
“We want to save some [resources] to put towards the bigger events, like the All-Star Game and postseason,” says Contreras. “That’s where you’re going to see more super-slo-mos, X-Mos, DirtCams, and MōVI [wireless cameras], and we have a few new things in mind, too.”
SportsTime Ohio Gets New Studio Digs
In recent years, Fox Sports has upped its regional productions’ capabilities with replay, graphics, and analysis tools previously found only on a national show. That effort continues this season, headlined by a brand-new studio and production facility for SportsTime Ohio.
Since acquiring the Cleveland-based RSN in 2012, Fox has gradually integrated the Fox brand into SportsTime Ohio’s on-air product, and the RSN enters the 2016 Indians season with a new Downtown Cleveland production facility and revamped on-air look. Previously, SportsTime Ohio produced its studio programming and Indians telecasts out of a control room at the WKYC NBC affiliate’s facility in suburban Cleveland. However, Fox has enlisted Lyon Video to provide a mobile unit for Indians game productions, and all studio programming is produced out of the new facility near Progressive Field.
“SportsTime Ohio is now 100% managed by Fox. We have full production there out of that truck, rather than a control room, and we have brand-new studios that launched right before the baseball season with the whole new Fox look,” says Connelly. “So, if you look at the Indians broadcast, it’s a completely different feel now.”
In addition, Fox SportsTime Ohio’s sister RSN, Fox Sports Ohio, now operates its Cavaliers pre/postgame studio out of the same facility.
“They are now in an office tower only a few blocks from the Cavs arena and the Indians stadium,” says Connelly. “We want to be closer to our teams, and being closer to the teams is part of being downtown. Adding that new studio and full production support that we just didn’t have before has been big. And it’s absolutely gorgeous.”