MLB Spring Training: LTN Stays Busy Delivering 100+ Games From 13 Ballparks
Planning is key to handling the volume
With Spring Training in full swing, LTN Global is immersed in one of the busiest times of its year. As Opening Day approaches, the company is providing transmission services at 100 games at 13 ballparks across Florida and Arizona for Fox Sports North, Wisconsin, Midwest, Southwest, and Arizona; NBC Sports Philadelphia, Chicago, and Bay Area; Marquee Sports Network; MASN; and MLB Network.
“Everyone knows the first quarter is our busiest time of the year, and we make sure to do as much planning as possible,” Steve Higgins, director, LTN Sports, explains. “It’s a short amount of time and lots of venues to support. Luckily, we send our deployment team to all the stadiums we are installed at one month before the season to turn up ISP circuits and do end-to-end video testing from the stadium back to LTN NOC.”
For the Grapefruit League in Florida, LTN is installed at Spectrum Field in Clearwater (Philadelphia Phillies), Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota (Baltimore Orioles), Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers (Minnesota Twins), Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland (Detroit Tigers), Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter (St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins), The Ballpark of West Palm Beach (Houston Astros and Washington Nationals), and First Data Field in Port St. Lucie (New York Mets).
For the Cactus League in Arizona, LTN is on hand at Camelback Ranch (Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers) and Maryvale Baseball Park (Milwaukee Brewers) in Phoenix, Scottsdale Stadium (San Francisco Giants), Sloan Park (Chicago Cubs) and Talking Stick Field (Arizona Diamondbacks) in Mesa, and Surprise Stadium in Surprise (Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers).
LTN has rolled out its encoders and decoders at all the ballparks and is also serving some venues as ISP (other venues provide the bandwidth) for transmission to the LTN Network Operations Center.
LTN began its Spring Training installs at the ballparks in February, which allows the company to focus on the task at hand once the games start, according to Higgins. The install team travels to the venues to confirm ISP connectivity, finalize cable runs, and complete video testing with the LTN NOC. Once the venue installs are complete, LTN Events team works with its customers to ensure that bookings are set up correctly and will send out confirmations to all TV partners.
“One of the critical things related to how LTN approaches Spring Training is how our technical teams work to prepare before the first games,” says Higgins. “Every year, we get more and more requests for Spring Training services. Next year, the goal is to install at every Spring Training venue and also be able to add additional services to help our customers during this crazy 30-day period.”
In terms of at-home production, LTN is working with some clients who have used LTN for transmission of the muxed game feeds to a master-control facility. In this workflow, six cameras are muxed at the stadium and connected to LTN, with an IP transport stream from Spring Training to master-control, where the broadcaster integrates the feed for broadcast.
In addition to its Spring Training activities, LTN has also installed a fully redundant transmission flypack at Kino Stadium in Tucson to deliver the upcoming 16-game World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament (March 12-26). LTN’s busy spring also includes Major League Rugby and Major League Soccer games, as well as college sports events for various networks. On Feb. 13, LTN transmitted its 1,000th live event of 2020, and the company expects to exceed 5,000 this year.
“It’s really about the volume [of Spring Training games],” says Higgins. “Five years ago, LTN was installed at one venue, and we did 10 games. Each year, the number of games and teams has grown, and, this year, we will do over 100 games.”