Live From Super Bowl LVII: Sky Sports UK’s Super Sunday Includes Phoenix Open, Super Bowl in 4K HDR
Flypack will be deployed for coverage of the Big Game
It’s a busy week in Phoenix for Sky Sports UK. Not only is the team delivering the Phoenix Open with the help of EMG’s facilities, but Super Bowl Sunday features both the Phoenix Open and Super Bowl LVII, the latter in HDR. EMG has a facility at TPC Sawgrass to support the golf coverage while the football coverage is supported by a Sky UK flypack.
“It’s going to be quite a time back at Sky on Sunday,” says Gordon Roxburgh, head of production technology, Sky. “We have a control room doing women’s Premier League football via Home Run Production and then Home Runs for golf, plus the NFL.”
Sky Sports UK viewers have been watching U.S. domestic NFL broadcasts, complete with U.S. announcers, all season. So, when it comes to Super Bowl LVII, that’s what they’ll be getting: the U.S. Fox broadcast in HDR, for which Sky will upconvert the 1080p signal to 2160p.
“Back home,” says Roxburgh, “the main Sky Sports channel has an HDR version for those who have the full package on Sky UK Glass. We talked to Jeff Lombardi, senior director, international operations, NFL, and he was really happy to support that.”
The Fox Sports Jewel Event flypack system enabled Sky Sports UK to access the HDR domestic feed. It connects the international compound to the domestic compound and makes signals and feeds easily available to rightsholders.
“It allows us to easily get HDR,” Roxburgh explains. “[The production team] can shoot it into the international compound [from the domestic compound] on one of the IP circuits, and then NFL Films can shoot it across to us. Without it, we would be trying to do fiber runs from the back of their truck up to here. Now we just [reach out] to them when we want it, and they can make it happen. IP technology is the key to doing that.”
Sky also has four unilateral cameras: two in the booth showing the anchors and guests with the field behind them, a standup position that is easier for guests to reach, and a camera for a sideline reporter.
“We’ll also take the Skycam and a beauty cam so they can make the show back home,” says Roxburgh.
Sky Sports has been doing Home Run Productions at Super Bowls since 2018 in Minneapolis. COVID interrupted things, and, last year, the broadcaster returned with a limited production, handling the main studio show at Sky in London.
“This is the first time since COVID that we’ve come back onsite with full presentation,” says Phillips. “All the reporters have been here all week doing features.” Sky has 16 people working on the Super Bowl.
Another key enabling technology for Sky is a flypack that the broadcaster is using in the U.S. for events like the U.S. Open.
“Essentially,” says Roxburgh, “we’ve got a system that is ours and based in the U.S. as we can leave it with NBC in Stamford[, CT]. It has a router, frame-rate conversion, encoding and decoding, and comms nicely integrated together, and we can get it up and running in three hours. That allows the guys to concentrate on the other challenges, like studio fiber runs.”
The Sky flypack helps get the U.S. 1080p/59.94 signal to a Lumen circuit. From there, it goes to NBC in Stamford and is subsequently sent overseas to Production Gallery 1 at Sky Sports in Osterley, UK.
“That gallery is the one we do the Premier League in,” says Roxburgh. “It works truly in 2160p HDR workflows. They’ll convert the SDR signal for our HDR customers and put the 2160p/50 HDR to satellite for distribution. There is no need for HDR conversion because both Fox and Sky use HLG.”
Sky Sports UK Super Bowl coverage kicks off 90 minutes ahead of the Big Game, with coverage featuring plenty of NFL players and experts to give context and analysis, says Rhys Phillips, production manager, Sky Sports: “We have an hour and a half of buildup before kickoff. Then, we go all the way through the night and have to manage the breaks.”
With Sky Sports UK broadcasting four or five live NFL shows or games a week, along with shoulder programming, on its NFL channel, Roxburgh notes a growing audience of viewers who understand the game and will tune in at the top of the 90-minute pre-Super Bowl LVII show.
“The first hour is very focused on the sporting aspect of the game, who the players are, and the tactics,” he explains. “The general audience will tune in for the anthems and the game. But the NFL is a really important property for Sky in the UK. “