MLB Network Will Leverage ESPN’s Front Row Cam and Its Own Ballpark Cam Infrastructure Throughout This MLB Postseason
The network will broadcast two live Division Series games this week
This is it. For the 24/7/365 home of baseball, MLB Network, the Postseason is its biggest chance to shine. The network will again offer wall-to-wall studio coverage of the race to the World Series and even get the chance to produce a couple of games of its own.
MLB Network will carry two NLDS games exclusively on its air beginning Thursday night with the Atlanta Braves visiting the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of their series (first pitch at 8:37 p.m. ET) and again on Sunday for the Milwaukee Brewers at the Colorado Rockies in Game 3 of that series (first pitch at 4:37 p.m. ET).
These two NLDS games are a huge platform for the league-owned network and one that its operations team relishes.
“We take pride in our remote production team,” says Susan Stone, SVP, Operations and Engineering at MLB Network. “It’s great to be able to show this to an expanded audience and give them a chance to taste what MLB Network is capable of delivering for fans to enhance the game of baseball and to really add another level of production given by people who really care about the game and sport tremendously. I think that’s evident in everything that we put on the air.”
MLB Network is certainly no stranger to the live event stage. The network’s Showcase games regularly feature high-profile matchups throughout the year and it also puts loads of resources behind event and studio programming from the site of the MLB All-Star Game each year. For many of the staff, these playoff broadcasts are a pat on the back for a job well done during a long and, at times, grueling regular season.
“With our production teams doing 26 games [throughout the season] for Showcase, it is a really great feeling going into it,” says Tom Guidice, VP, Remote Operations at MLB Network. “It’s like our own playoff games. We go into it well prepared and it’s a huge reward. We have a lot of eyeballs on these games and it’s a chance to show off our product. It’s a different feel for sure. We look forward to them every year.”
MLB Network will partner with Fox Sports (the broadcaster carrying the remainder of those NLDS series) to leverage their existing production tools and facilities. With a total of 24 cameras on each game, MLBN will also collaborate with ESPN to utilize its popular Front Row Cam which it developed in partnership with VER. The technology is a mirror-based robotic system that brought a classic low-home angle to Sunday Night Baseball, one which has largely faded away because it requires removal of expensive stadium seating. It also earned ESPN the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award at this year’s Sports Emmys.
MLBN will also be supplementing Fox Sports’ arsenal with a couple of high-speed Phantom cameras of their own. “They really provide the texture and the look that fans have come to expect,” says Stone. “These replays really enhance the flavors of the game.”
One, of course, cannot talk MLB Network operations without lauding the Ballpark Cam. Since innovating the network’s coverage of the sport when it was first introduced back in 2011, Ballpark Cam provides the network with access to all of the team’s stadiums on a round-the-clock basis.
Not only does the network use it for cool social content from its high centerfield and in-the-dugout angles and for connectivity for interviews of beat reports or players on-site, its infrastructure also makes it easy for the network to scale up and bring studio shows to site.
For example, the MLB Network show Intentional Talk hosted its show live from Yankee Stadium prior to Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card Game. That was done using the Ballpark Ca infrastructure allowing for an “at-home”-like production where the control room can remain on Secaucus and limited resources are need on site. Crews can bring in an extra ENG camera and simply pop up a small set and the network is live on the field.
“Ballpark is definitely the workhorse of MLB Network,” says Stone. “We use them all the time. It just gives us such an immediate presence in the ballparks. You can’t take that away from what we put on the air. It adds so much to literally every show that we have.”
This Postseason, social-exclusive content will also play a major factor in MLBN’s coverage this month as there are partnerships in place for live batting practice shows and the like for Facebook Live and Twitter.