MLB Opening Day: Fox Sports Mix of On-Site, HRP Workflows Highlight 2023 Plans

Fox Sports national network MLB coverage offers up its first pitch on this Saturday with a pair of broadcasts, the New York Yankees vs. the San Francisco Giants at 4 pm as well as the Texas Rangers vs. the Philadelphia Phillies (FS1 will also carry the Cleveland Guardians vs. Seattle Mariners on Saturday night).

“We really start off on the right foot with the national broadcasts and we’re really looking forward to those national games,” says Brad Cheney, Fox Sports, VP, field operations and engineering. “Some of them will be produced on site and some will be Home Run Productions to a control room in Los Angeles. And we’ll be doing a World Feed Plus which is adding a couple of unilateral cameras onto the clean feed broadcast from the regional sports networks. We find that approach really satisfies the needs of the production and also gives us the look and feel of a Fox broadcast.”

One thing Cheney and the rest of the crews are looking forward to are shorter games due to the pitch clock that will make the timing of games much more more predictable with respect to when the day starts and when it ends.

Brad Cheney, Fox Sports, VP, field operations and engineering

“Obviously the games are shorter and that’s great because we can start to expect a more consistent timing of a game, so we aren’t in the sixth inning wondering whether its going to end at 10:15 or 11 pm,” he says.

The shorter games also won’t be without their challenges, most notably trying to fit in production elements as well as shots of fans, players in the dugout, and even replays.

“It’s going to be a little harder for storytelling because the speed of the game moves so fast,” says Cheney. “I think there’s going to be a bit of a challenge to getting that timing down and a good cadence all the way through the game.”

The good news is Cheney says the Fox Sports baseball crew does a great job of getting to a very quick sequence of replays and storytelling.

“The goal is still helping the viewer understand what happened and the excitement of a play and then getting them back out to the game,” he adds. “And the team has been doing spring training, so they have a decent feel for the quick turnaround that we’re going to see.”

Relying on the world feed once again also solves one of the still ongoing issues facing the sports broadcast industry across the U.S.: staffing challenges.

“There’s still not enough people [to work the games] in some of these markets so it really does help everyone out,” he says. “Plus, the RSNs are doing 130 games a year with these teams so they know them backwards and forwards.”

The decision to do an HRP or have trucks on site comes down the availability of control rooms back in Pico. The USFL is starting up, for example, and those games rely a lot on the HRP infrastructure.

“It’s a balancing act of how many control rooms we have between all the all the events going on and we dedicate one of the control rooms to Major League Baseball,” he says.

There won’t be a Field of Dreams game this August so that means the Fox Sports team will spend the first half of the season building to a crescendo at the MLB All-Star Game in Seattle in July.

“It’s an exciting place to be, with MLB Network, ESPN, and ourselves on site,” says Cheney. “Everybody who does baseball on a regular basis is in the same place and with Lumen Field next door we can use some space over there to help produce the show.”

As for new toys this year, Fox Sports has been working hard with MLB on the Umpcam and viewers can expect that to debut during the early part of the season. Also look for all games do be produced at a base level of 1080 SDR and, occassionally, at 1080p HDR.

“We’ll produce it the highest quality format we can, and our goal is to continue to capture at the highest level,” he adds. “And obviously the three main truck vendors, Game Creek, NEP, and Mobile TV Group will be involved as well as CP Communications who handles all of our audio during the season.”

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