SportsMedia Technology Revamps NBA Ticker, Keeps Score for TNT

As the NBA kicks off its 65th season, SportsMedia Technology Corp. will have its fingerprints all over game telecasts and NBA programming across the country. This season, NBA TV, TNT, and several regional sports networks (RSNs) will deploy SportsMedia graphics packages, score bugs, or tickers in their NBA telecasts.

“All of these [networks] are really pushing the envelope graphically, with really sophisticated graphics packages,” says Don Tupper, VP of business development, SportsMedia. “The fact that we can get graphics on the air easily is one thing, but we’ve also had to master the ability to integrate complex graphics presentations into these broadcasts.”

Ticker Undergoes Facelift
When SportsMedia took over NBA TV’s ticker system last year, it inherited a graphics presentation that was more than two years old and in need of an update. As a result, over the past six months, SportsMedia has worked with Turner Sports, which operates NBA TV, to develop a new look. The resulting graphics infrastructure includes a revamped ticker and score bug built by SportsMedia.

“It’s really a very slick graphical presentation,” says Tupper. “The new ticker is every bit as creatively impactful as anything in sports TV right now.”

The new 24/7 ticker integrates the overhauled graphics presentation and introduces such capabilities as automated live scoring, breaking news, live in-game statistics, and custom movie playout for all ticker features and for each team (NBA, D-League, and WNBA). The ticker is fully automated, which mean NBA TV doesn’t have to hire additional staff to operate it.

“In terms of tickers, you have ESPN — which has a whole department of 30-40 people running it — and then you have everyone else who is looking for automation to drive the ticker content,” says Tupper. “But they still want it to look and work just as good as ESPN.”

According to Tupper, there was a concerted effort to create a more active role for the ticker, rather than just the traditional line of text streaming along the bottom of the screen. As a result, the ticker is constantly displaying real-time stats for the game being televised and lively graphics.

“Tickers are mostly passive. They tend to run in the background so you only want to look at them when there’s a break in the action,” says Tupper. “We’ve thrown that idea out the window. We want to make it a very active presentation. If you’re watching a game, the content of that game is supported in the ticker.

In addition, SportsMedia’s software automatically detects when a game goes final or is close in the final seconds and immediately interrupts the ticker with a “Final Score Update” and displays the game score before returning to the ticker rip.

“As games finish throughout the night, as opposed to just waiting for your favorite score to come across, we have set up these event triggers to interrupt the ticker with dynamic score alerts when a game ends, goes into overtime, and so on,” says Tupper. “We can set those parameters to interrupt the ticker when necessary.”

NBA TV is a 24-hour network that constantly checks in on live press conferences, interviews, and other content throughout the day. However, NBA TV does not always have the staff or resources necessary to turn each of these events into a full-scale production with a complete graphics package. For these cases, SportsMedia has integrated NBA TV’s Chyron Duet-based graphics package into the ticker, providing basic graphics for low-level events like these.

“Say there is a Celtics press conference at 2:00 at the Boston Garden,” says Tupper. “Just putting a graphic that says ‘Head Coach Doc Rivers’ requires firing up a control room and bringing in operators. There is an expense to that. The ticker is the last signal that is in the chain so it’s always on the air. So, if they want to put a [title card] on the air for Doc Rivers, they can just pull up that graphic and put it on the air in the ticker area. It’s the same graphics that you would see on the Duet, but it’s coming from our source.”

Autograph Keeps Score for TNT, RSNs
On top of its work with NBA TV, SportsMedia’s Autograph clock and score system will be deployed by TNT, Altitude (Denver Nuggets), KCAL (Los Angeles Lakers), the Sacramento Kings TV Network, Madison Square Garden Network (New York Knicks) and the YES Network (New Jersey Nets). The Autograph system captures data and scores directly from the on-site game clock, then redistributes it, and instantly publishes it to the broadcaster’s graphics system.

Other graphics enhancements for TNT and the RSNs include more-sophisticated animation packages, multiple team-specific animated elements, and highly integrated stats packages.

“TNT has set the bar graphically. From a functionality standpoint, this drives their show,” says Tupper. “We’ve built the interface to the NBA’s stats system. As Kobe Bryant hits a 3-pointer, our software cues the user to ask if they want to slide out Kobe’s stats. The data intelligence presents the best information to put on the screen at that time. That’s why TNT is constantly sliding out statistics. The computer is suggesting graphics based on the context of the game. They just have to hit the insert button.”

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