MLB Postseason 2023: Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Initiates National League Side of Bracket With Debut of B/R Sports on Max
1080p live stream is produced alongside TBS telecast and simulcast on truTV
With the National League Division Series (NLDS) rolling into a pair of Game 2’s on Monday night, and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports is returning to the postseason with both new and familiar technologies. In addition to deploying new workflows, the broadcaster’s operations team knew that the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers would be hosting the first two home games of each series while not knowing that the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks would win the Wild Card.
“Anticipation plays a lot into [the process],” says Lee Estroff, director, technical operations, WBD Sports, “but we were very fortunate to know for the past couple of weeks that Atlanta and Los Angeles had locked in the top seeds pretty early on. We were able to get to the other cities on Monday morning, so we had the weekend to get to those venues.”
Cross-Country Travel: NEP Group Provides All Mobile Units for Bicoastal Series
With National League powerhouses located in cities on both coasts, WBD Sports needed to leverage multiple mobile units from NEP Group to cover the various distances. For instance, Atlanta and Philadelphia are separated by 773 miles; Los Angeles and Arizona, by 375 miles. Four NEP trucks will be responsible for all four sites: ND7 at Truist Park, Supershooter 8 at Dodgers Stadium, Supershooter 1 at Citizens Bank Park, and TS2 at Chase Field. The broadcaster’s trucks reserved for the National League Championship Series, ND7 and Supershooter 8, are parked at the higher seeds and season-long NL favorites.
Since no one knows who will win each series, there’s never a right way to direct the trucks to specific cities. Foresight and luck are involved, but four first-round sweeps in the Wild Card provided extra time to get to the other ballparks.
“We always try to be strategic with truck placement and make sure that our resources are located in the right places,” says Chris Brown, VP, technical operations, WBD Sports. “The hardest part, believe it or not, is getting those trucks built to meet our postseason specs and ready for those first games.”
Driving the effort from WBD Sports is Lead Tech Manager Doug Haskin. With the Braves’ dominance over the past few seasons, the franchise has perpetually been part of the MLB Playoffs. Since winning the 2021 World Series, the National League side of the bracket has run through ATL. WBD Sports’ headquarters, located in Atlanta, is a short drive from the Braves’ home venue, which helps for the local production crew.
“There are some strategic advantages,” notes Estroff, “and, with the Braves being as good as they are, we’re very familiar with the lay of the land. We’ve been having discussions with them for the past couple of months, so it’s a comfortable environment for us. And [being so close] does make our jobs a little easier.”
Like trucks directed to certain sites, broadcast teams have been assigned to certain series. For Phillies–Braves, play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson will be joined by analyst and former Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur and reporter Matt Winer. For Diamondbacks–Dodgers, play-by-play announcer Bob Costas and analyst Ron Darling will be on the call with reporter Lauren Shehadi. For the NLCS, games will be called by Anderson, Darling, Francoeur, and Winer, and studio coverage will be anchored by Shehadi with analysts Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins, and Curtis Granderson.
Game-Day Tech: 30+ Cameras Include Return of Base Cam in Championship Series
For each game in both NLDS series, the broadcasts will leverage more than 30 cameras. Assembled by Manager, Tech Ops, James Bligh; Director, Sports Engineering, Dan Nabors; Brown; and Estroff, the camera complement will include five super-slow-motion cameras, an RF shallow–depth-of-field camera, and a high-frame-rate Sony HDC-4800 hard camera with a Fujinon cinematic lens. When the action shifts to the NLCS, the count will rise to seven super-slow-motion cameras, two shallow–depth-of-field cameras, and two high-frame-rate Sony HDC-4800’s. Deployed in past playoffs, Base Cam will return in the NLCS.
“It’s the biggest [tech] highlight, and it’ll back for the third postseason,” says Lee. “It’s a unique angle that’s great for replays, and it offers one-of- a-kind looks that our folks lean into.”
On the audio side, coaches and, hopefully, players will be miked for live sound. To enhance the MLB on TBS Leadoff pregame show and, potentially, MLB on TBS Closer postgame show, 18 feeds will be sent from each venue to WBD Sports headquarters for an enhanced broadcast presentation. Both shows will feature host Ernie Johnson and analysts Martinez, Rollins, and Granderson. Manager, Transmission Services, Julie Morrison is handling the plan that ensures these feeds arrive in Atlanta.
Elsewhere, the crew will be tapping into new workflows for the postseason slate. Brand Brigade will serve up virtual advertising that fans will see on the batter’s eye and the pitcher’s mound on the broadcast. BPS will provide the broadcast with Statcast, and SMT will power augmented-reality elements.
Playoffs for Digital Audience: B/R Sports on Max Requires Secondary Production
One of the new production wrinkles for this year’s postseason is the introduction of the B/R Sports add-on on Warner Bros. Discovery’s premium streaming service, Max. With its official debut on Thursday, Oct. 5, digital-native fans enjoyed the first weekend of postseason studio shows and live game coverage. Produced alongside the main telecast on TBS and simulcast on truTV, the 1080p live stream will require its own production team and its own Dolby ATMOS for immersive sound.
“There will be [its own] ad inventory,” says Brown, “and we’ll have complete wall-to-wall coverage. There has been a lot of coordination between our other groups within WBD Sports as well as with the larger WBD Sports technology group to bring all the different pieces together. We had a foray with it for U.S. soccer, but we’re really excited to bring this to fruition.”
For tonight’s Game 2’s, Phillies–Braves will start at 6 p.m. ET, and Diamondbacks–Dodgers will start at 9 p.m. Game 3’s will be played on Wednesday, Oct. 11, and, if necessary, Games 4 and 5 will be Thursday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 14. Game 1 of the NLCS will be on Monday, Oct. 16.