NFL Draft 2021: Bleacher Report’s Live Shows Promise Permanent Production Link Between NYC, Atlanta Facilities

Operations include studio in Atlanta, technical staff in New York, editing support nationwide

A year ago, media outlets across the country scrambled to put together unique production workflows to support live coverage of one of the first major sports events to occur following the pandemic-driven shutdown of sports: the NFL Draft.

Perhaps no one’s workflow was more grass-roots than Bleacher Report’s, which pulled off an impressive weekend of live and on-demand content with nearly all of its staff working from their own homes.

Despite the incredible feat of pulling off the 2020 edition of the NFL Draft — historically, one of B/R’s most highly trafficked weekends — this year’s effort might be more critical to the digital-media giant’s live-production future.

B/R Gridiron Draft Night, Bleacher Report’s live show covering the NFL Draft, will be hosted from a studio in Turner Sports’ Atlanta facility.

Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft coverage will feature three days of live studio coverage on the B/R app, B/R Gridiron Twitter, and the B/R Gridiron YouTube channel. B/R Gridiron Draft Night will stream on Thursday 8 p.m.–midnight ET and Friday 7 p.m.–midnight, while B/R Gridiron Draft Wrap airs Saturday noon–3 p.m. The shows will be produced by crews in B/R’s PCR in New York City and studio and control rooms in Turner Sports’ Techwood campus in Atlanta.

It’s another unusual workflow for the B/R staff, but being back in B/R facilities is a welcome return to normalcy for the crew.

“Absolutely, it feels better,” says Steve Pellegrino, director, video technical operations, Bleacher Report. “[Last year] was a unique way of producing a production. We didn’t have any time to think about it because everything happened so quickly. Did it work? Yes. Was it cool? Yeah. That combined with other experiences we’ve had over the past calendar year has gotten us to this point and this year’s production. We’re taking elements of what would be a traditional studio show done in-house but adding learnings and factors and production elements of things that we had to do working remotely and now injecting them into this production. It’s going to be really interesting.”

Also located in Atlanta are the main studio for B/R Gridiron Draft Night, along with its on-air talent, the director, producers, graphics operators, a tape producer, camera operators, and an A1 mixing local mics. Meanwhile, the rest of the technical crew will be in the New York City PCR.

Pellegrino, who is based in New York, is working hand-in-hand with Bleacher Report Senior Manager, Video Technical Operations, Mark Steinmetz, who is overseeing the studio efforts in Atlanta.

The key transport mechanism connecting the two locations is an SRT-based network through Haivision. Five feeds are being sent from Atlanta to New York for distribution. New York, meanwhile, is also sending a program feed, graphics confidence feeds, and sourcing three set monitors from the switcher in NYC to Atlanta. Additionally, NYC is sourcing seven multiviews to send to the producers in Atlanta.

“We needed those to be very low-latency so that the directors and producers in Atlanta could look at things in real time like the crew in New York could,” says Pellegrino, adding that LiveU is being used as a transmission backup.

Besides the live show, a key driver of B/R’s NFL Draft success is the aggressive churning out of VOD and clip content to the company’s mobile app and social-media platforms. The New York City PCR is being used to socially-distance editors to feed the content beast on that side. In addition, editors working from their respective homes are helping shoulder some of the load. Everyone is synching up via comms. There’s an RTS comms bridge between New York and Atlanta, and remote workers are able to tie into that bridge via the Unity app.

In the New York PCR, Manager, Video Engineering, Michael Del Gatto and Video Engineers Eric Pahlke and Alan Labiner have been working around the clock to set up the technical support for the live show, set up editing and distribution resources for social clipping editors, and arrange workflows for the editors churning out content from home with the assistance of WSC Sports.

The powerful part of this workflow is that it’s being designed and tested with not just the Draft but long-term goals in mind, too. Pellegrino hopes that it opens the door for a significant increase in live production as the company reimagines itself in the WarnerMedia.

“The Draft is the micro focus right now,” says Pellegrino, “but the macro focus is, we are building technology and infrastructure so that, across Atlanta and New York, content teams can do a show in New York but utilize an Atlanta control room or vice versa. We’re creating those swim lines for those things to happen, and it’s exciting.”


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