YES Network Has High Hopes for Nets Hoops

Frank DiGraci says the future of sports broadcasting will continue to see more and more super slow-mo capable cameras.

Frank DiGraci says the future of sports broadcasting will continue to see more and more super slow-mo capable cameras.

The YES Network last night tipped off coverage of the Brooklyn Nets from Cleveland, and heightened expectations for what the Nets will do on the court are matched by heightened expectations for ratings.

“I think the team is going to be very good and contend for a championship,” says Frank DiGraci, coordinating producer for Nets basketball at the YES Network. “You can have the bells and whistles and technology, but what is on the court is what drives viewers.”

DiGraci, who will work on his 1,000th Nets broadcast on Nov. 5, has seen plenty of good (the Nets did get to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons nearly a decade ago) and bad. But, for both him and the crew, every season required the same approach: “We give it our all, just like we did when the team was 12 and 70. You have to keep going at that level.”

The second season in Brooklyn will offer some technical tweaks and possibly some technical surprises in January. Game Creek Video is the provider of the remote-production truck, and the YES Mo super-slow-motion system will once again be on hand for coverage.

“YES Mo was unbelievable last season,” DiGraci says, “and the use of replays keeps expanding as our technology is getting up to the national-TV-network level.”

Alongside YES Mo will be 10 Sony HDC 1500 cameras and two robotic cameras.

“We love the look from the robotic cameras,” he adds. “The look you get is near the end of the camera, but, from the far end, you can show all 10 players, and we love to show that. You can start the play farther back and not just show the fast break.”

Although last year came with a number of questions related to the move to the Barclays Center (not the least of which was whether the unique elevator and rotating platform that get trucks into and out of the building would actually work), this year finds the production team at home and comfortable in the surroundings.

“There was a lot of angst before we got into the building, but everything worked out, from the team working with us to keep the announcers in the first row to the truck elevators and even the placement of the trucks close to the court, the press room, and locker room,” adds DiGraci. “It’s been fantastic.”

With his 1,000th game approaching, he has plenty to reflect on, not the least of which is technology.

“I’ve been around long enough to remember 1-inch machines, and the younger kids have no idea what that was like,” he says. “Going tapeless is the biggest change as the tape AD no longer has to lug around 70 lbs. of tape but instead [totes] a little hard drive.”

The highlight for DiGraci? An improbable buzzer-beater by Devon Harris in 2009 (to watch it, click here).

“It went to instant replay, and the shot was good by one frame. That’s how close it was,” he recalls. “After the game, the league official came up and said the replay won the Nets the game.”

As for the future, he sees the continued evolution of super-slow-speed cameras as key: “To me, the future is super slow motion from every angle.”

The constant, however, is not technology but storytelling.

“We always have fun, and we’re a team just like the players,” DiGraci points out. “[Network President, Production and Programming] John Filippelli is the GM, and the producer is the head coach, guiding everyone through the show. But you have to have fun around the game.”

While DiGraci and his team focus on the on-air product, another team at YES will make sure Nets fans see the YES Network Website as a destination for video and other information about the team.

“We’re working a lot more closely with the Nets in terms of original content and promotions,” says Michael Spirito, VP, business development and digital media, YES Network.

For example, the crew spends more time at the Nets’ practice facility to create taped segments, and even live streaming is in the works for this season.

“We want to take the viewer and user to places they haven’t been before,” he says. “Those will be a minute to three minutes, tops.”

Fans can also expect feature interviews with players during shootarounds and even reports that give fans insight into different arenas around the country.

“We want to have something on the site about an hour before the game,” says Spirito.

As for second-screen experience, fans can expect analysis statistics and other scores as well as a social-networking component, contests, and trivia.

“We consider ourselves leaders,” he says. “As fans consume content in new ways, we want to be there with them.”

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