Turner Sports Gears Up for NBA All-Star Game

The NBA All-Star Game and a wealth of related activities tip off this weekend at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Tom Sahara, senior director of IT and Remote Operations for Turner Sports, says it will be a return to a normal All-Star Game setup after last year’s game at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Of course, normal is relative when it comes to All-Star Game Weekend, and NBA TV and Turner Sports are set to deliver more than 100 hours of programming this week.

“From a content standpoint, it is probably the highest volume generated on a daily basis,” says Sahara. “And we have to be very efficient and have a lot of sharing and collaboration between each group.”

For example, pooling coverage of interviews with players and coaches allows for the various NBA Digital and Turner Sports outlets to get all of their questions answered without the need for separate interviews.

“We partner on everything with the NBA, and it is such a huge event that we have to approach it as a partnership,” says Sahara. The league handles negotiations with the venue and pregame and halftime entertainment while Turner Sports steps up in a production capacity.

The biggest challenge this week has been the Grammys that were held on Feb. 13 at the Staples Center. Security restrictions around the event required the trucks to be set up a day earlier than usual and ultimately required a tighter setup schedule. The trucks also had to be set up across the street on the Event Deck of the West Garage at L.A. LIVE. They are linked to Staples Center via as many as 216 single-mode fiber-optic cables and between 48 and 96 multimode fiber cables. All of this fiber is part of the extensive infrastructure that links the Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, and L.A. LIVE campus and provides connectivity for broadcasts that originate anywhere on the campus.

“We have to make sure that all of the fiber systems are connected properly and working up to spec,” says Sahara. “Also, the volume of fiber is much higher than we normally use.”

Bexel Broadcast Services is providing the optical/copper conversion needs for TNT and NBA TV and all of the associated hardware between the truck farm and Staples Center, as well as for the Magenta Carpet Arrivals area on the Nokia Plaza at L.A. LIVE. Bexel will station an optical-distribution trailer at Staples Center and on the Event Deck across the street.

NBA Digital, meanwhile, will take advantage of the AEG Facilities located within L.A. LIVE.

“It’s a nice situation, because the studio, editing systems, and control room are all interconnected,” says Sahara. “It’s a really nice setup.”

With respect to the actual production of the game, he notes that basketball is tough when it comes to adding new technologies to enhance the broadcast. But viewers can expect refinements in the form of improved look and timeliness of graphics as well as audio enhancements.

“You can’t just introduce technology for technology’s sake,” says Sahara. “You need to focus on the things that can enhance the viewer’s experience.”

One thing to look forward to is Saturday night’s Slam Dunk contest, when NBA on TNT analysts Kenny Smith and Chris Webber will coach, respectively, Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin and Washington Wizard JaVale McGee. Microphones will bring viewers inside the discussions between teacher and pupil.

“It’s going to be a really good segment to listen to,” says Sahara. “The audio gets a lot more inside of what is going on, and the viewers feel a lot more involved in the game.”

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