FoxSports.com taps NewTek for Super Bowl pre-game shows

By Ken Kerschbaumer

Fox Sports continues to tap into low-cost production systems like NewTek’s Tricaster to deliver TV-quality broadband video experiences at FoxSports.com. This week a series of daily live pre-game shows have been streamed online, updating viewers on the latest news out of Glendale, AZ, where the New England Patriots and New York Giants will play on Sunday. “It will allow the audience at work to catch up on what is going on,” says Ed Bunnell, Fox Sports interactive VP of programming. “Primetime for us is during the day and we’re providing really good content to built viewer behavior.”

The programming may never make it to a viewer’s 50-inch HDTV plasma screen but that doesn’t mean it will be low quality. Bunnell says the higher the production quality the better the final streaming product. “We have our own equipment, including HD cameras even though we aren’t streaming in HD,” says Bunnell. “The better quality image you start with the better off the final product will be.”

Fox Sports isn’t alone in using the Tricaster this week. ESPN Radio will use it to stream video versions of its programming and VH1 will use it to stream pre-game musical acts like Maroon 5 and Mary J. Blige. The Tricaster system includes multiple camera inputs, a hard drive for recording incoming feeds (live streams can be passed out directly to the Internet), a small switcher, graphics capabilities, and a small screen for watching the sources for mixing.

The Tricaster will be located in a Crosscreek production unit and give the team a chance to have its own production environment. “We shoot the programming different so it is tailored for the small screen or mobile phone,” says Bunnell. “During a game on Fox Sports they can do a lineup card with seven or eight headshots but we can’t so we’ll do a lot less sports highlights and more talking heads. We’ll tighten the shots, crop some of the highlights and features, and have a larger graphics package.”

Fox Sports began using it this past summer at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in July Fox Sports for streaming batting practice in the afternoon. It was also used at the college football (American) national championship game, operating out of the production room in an equipment trailer.

“We did our due diligence and the Tricaster was the right solution to pull off a show like this,” says Bunnell. “It’s a pretty compact piece of machinery that has lots of inputs and is basically a production truck in a box. As long as we have a beefy Internet pipe we can stream from anywhere.”

Philip Nelson, NewTek Vice President of Sales and Video Marketing, says a goal at NewTek is to drive live, longtail programming. “We’re changing the entire economics of what it costs to do a live show,” he says. “Before the economics, which included renting or buying a production truck, limited what programming made it to air. But for $5,000 to $11,000 you can buy the Tricaster and add supplementary content to the second and third screens. So from a cost perspective it is very low risk.”

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