Big Ten Network Invites Fans Onto the Field Before Kickoff

Now in its sixth season, Big Ten Network (BTN) nationally televises more than 40 Big Ten football games. However, for fans who want to watch Ohio State’s Brutus the Buckeye’s pregame routine, listen to the Iowa Hawkeyes Marching Band warming up, or feel the excitement of Michigan’s Big House crowd on game day, BTN has introduced Big Ten Field Pass.

“We’re taking advantage of our connectivity at all of our football stadiums by providing a live camera feed on the field one hour before kickoff that we stream live on BTN2Go,” says Mark Hulsey, VP of production/executive producer, BTN. “We’re calling it the Big Ten Field Pass, and it’s where fans can experience the flavor of being on the field before kickoff.”

BTN will isolate a specific camera and stream it live to BTN2Go, the network’s 24/7 multiplatform extension of the television network, available to BTN subscribers on the Web and as a free application on iPhones, iPads, and Android devices.

“Any time I’m in the truck, I just see things that occur before the game the viewers just never get a chance to see,” Hulsey explains. “Week one, we had Ohio State’s first game [of the season], which was Urban Meyer’s first game as coach of the Buckeyes. We were able to provide live coverage on Field Pass of Urban Meyer’s first moments on the field with his team. Before, what you normally see is only a short clip of that, which would run in our pregame show.”

After its inaugural run at Ohio State, BTN rolled out Field Pass in Iowa for week two and Michigan for week three and will introduce it to Nebraska fans this weekend.

“We’ve started to promote it a little bit more each week,” says Michael Calderon, VP of digital and interactive media, BTN. “It’s still somewhat under the radar. We’re still experimenting and figuring out if this is something that has legs, but every fan base has received it very well and enjoyed it a lot.”

BTN2Go was created through a partnership with Neulion. Live video feeds are sent via Elemental encoders to Neulion, and the IPTV provider runs the signals through a de-muxing process to create the formats for the various platforms. Adobe Pass provides authentication services for BTN2Go.

While BTN ramps up the second-screen experience, production crews are no less focused on the first screen. The network’s football schedule features extensive pregame, halftime and postgame coverage on Saturdays; and football-themed studio shows every weeknight.

Mobile TV Group remains the primary vendor for BTN, dispatching 17HDXS, 18HDXS, 19HDXS, and 22HDX throughout the season. BTN will roll out additional subtrucks as needed.

On average, the network deploys nine or 10 cameras for designated A-level games and six to eight on nonconference matchups. For selected marquee games, it will add an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo high-speed camera.

At the network’s Chicago headquarters, BTN has constructed a new side set for more flexibility during its studio show. In the past two months, it has upgraded every editing workstation, redesigned its edit and graphic-design areas, added several producer stations, and upgraded monitoring.

Additional editing stations were added to accommodate BTN’s flagship program, The Journey, which, for the first time, will chronicle the Big Ten football season.

“It’s been obviously a very busy couple of months here as we continue to try and get better [and] improve our production,” says Hulsey. “We’ve added a lot of equipment and resources in the past couple of months, which will hopefully show in [our] productions on the air.”

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