Broadcasters score as MLBAM and Sportvision install PITCHf/x in all 30 stadiums

By Andrew Lippe and Ken Kerschbaumer

Major League Baseball Advanced Media is throwing a curveball of its own next season when it installs Sportvision
s PITCHf/x system in all 30 MLB ballparks, part of a six-year deal that will not only enhance its live online and mobile coverage, give regional and national broadcasters an easily available broadcast enhancement both at home and on the road, but also opens the door for unforeseen applications that could transform MLB statistics and services.

The relatively new technology was used this past season by ESPN, Turner, Fox Sports and by regional sports networks in San Diego and Seattle.

“Right now we’re working together with BAM outfitting the stadiums and next year we’ll be able to offer the product to national and RSN broadcasters,” says Mike Jakob, Sportvision COO and CFO. “MLBAM will use it to drive interactive applications like enhancing Gameday.”

The system includes three tracking cameras: one at high home, one on either the first- or third-base line, and one in centerfield. The three cameras then push data to a computer workstation located either in the press box or down by the broadcast compound that then tracks speed, movement and location of every single pitch.

“The baseball’s trajectory is solved by the time it hits the catcher’s mitt,” says Marv White, Sportvision CTO of the systems that uses three cameras to measure the position of the baseball during delivery to the plate. The technology accurately determines the speed and direction of the baseball within a half-inch of its exact location. It then renders a graphic tail for replays that follow the ball as it reaches the plate.

The PITCHf/x system technology was recently used in Fox’s broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers. Fox Sports had the system installed in their production truck to detail speed of the pitch, location and motion.

For Sportvision the deal ends several years of planning and provides broadcasters a chance to license out the data. More importantly, the networks don’t have to worry about only having the enhancement for home games. San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Arlington, Boston and the Chicago White Sox all had the system installed last year.

“This really gives them compelling storytelling for pitch location, path and break of the ball,” says Jakob. “It also gives them new sponsorable inventory that can be woven seamlessly into the broadcast.”

Jakob adds that tracking every pitch of every game could even lead to a new statistic that is a combination of speed, break and location. “Pitch speed could become an official stat,” he explains. “And we could create a tool where broadcasters could query a database of pitches in a specific location.”

And then there is the opportunity to transform video gaming. “We could send live pitch data to an Xbox 360 or a simple gaming application on a phone where the user can try to hit live pitches,” he says. “The key is to enable those services.”

While MLBAM owns the data both Sportvision and MLBAM are partnering to commercialize the data. Additional business opportunities include licensing it out to teams and coaches for scouting and coaching.

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