B2 Networks delivers for parents, family members of USA Hockey Youth Nationals

By Carolyn Braff

This weekend, the nation’s best hockey players ages 10 to 18 will take the ice
in Hackensack, N.J. and Williamsville, N.Y., to compete for the USA Hockey
Youth National Championships. Thanks to a renewed partnership between USA
Hockey and B2 Networks, parents stuck at home thousands of miles away will have
a rink-side seat for the live competition. “A lot of the parents can’t travel
to watch their kids play and this is very important to them,” explains Bruce
Levine, senior vice president of sports programming for B2 Networks. “This
partnership gives them an opportunity to see their kids have a big moment on
the ice.”

The Championships take place Saturday and Sunday and consist
of more than a dozen games in four age groups across two tiers, and will be
played on two different rinks in two different locations. The details should
present a logistical nightmare for any production crew, but B2’s proprietary system
is designed to handle remote location broadcasts just like this one.

“We have a self-proprietary system of encoders, software and
cameramen that we are using to send out to these locations and send the games
to a worldwide audience,” Levine explains. “We’re basically using the same
setup we use for every one of our partners. We’re not changing anything; we’re
just doing it on more of a mobile basis than we normally do.”

Normally, B2’s broadcasts come from one of the 150 stadiums,
arenas and venues across the country that have the B2 broadcasting system
installed. From those locations, B2 pushes 700 hours of live programming each
week to personal computers, television screens, mobile devices and commercial
venues worldwide. Thanks to partnerships with organizations ranging from the
AHL and NLL to Arena Football Leagues and the NCAA, on any given evening,
viewers can choose from upwards of 40 live events from the B2tv.com portal.

For this weekend, however, the Network will effectively be
going in blind.

“Normally when we do an event, we’re going to be in their
buildings for three or more years,” Levine explains. “We have time to run the
options for how we’re going to do all of the equipment setup, where we’re going
to house it, etc. Now we’re going into two places that we haven’t worked with,
so there is a higher level of difficulty. It’s a one-weekend thing, so we have
to do it right and there’s no margin for error.”

Because they are unfamiliar with the arenas, B2 is relying
on a single camera for this weekend’s broadcasts, but Levine foresees moving to
multi-camera shoots for future USA Hockey productions.

“Because we are not familiar with the setups there, the most
important thing is to get it done and get it done right,” Levine says. “We’ve
hired professional camera people to shoot the games and we expect it to be a
top-grade broadcast.”

B2 began its partnership with USA Hockey a year ago, when
the Network broadcast the U12 and U14 Championships from Amherst, Mass. After
that event, Levine saw that the audience for youth hockey can be substantial,
so the risk in producing the event is worth the potential reward.

There is also a sentimental draw to producing this
particular event.

“From a personal standpoint, we made our business in the
hockey world, starting off with the minor leagues and expanding to the NCAA and
junior hockey,” Levine explains. “USA Hockey is the most respected governing
body of amateur hockey in America, and to be able to work with them again is a
big milestone for our company. A lot of us have hockey backgrounds, so it’s
great to be able to bring these events to people who would never be able to see
championships like this one.”

For those who are unable to tune in for the live broadcasts,
which are priced at $9.00 each, B2 offers a video on demand option for $19.95.

“Parents want to have a hard copy that they can keep on the
shelf,” Levine says. “So we offer a video on demand option for parents who want
to get the game shipped to their house so they can keep it forever.”

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