SVG Summit: Bringing National Quality to Regional Sports Networks

While national networks such as ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and NBCSN garner a majority of the media headlines, the regional sports network market is one that continues to rapidly grow.

SNY's Cury Gowdy, Jr. (center) discusses his network's focus on original programming as YES Network's Woody Freiman (left) and Altitude's Steve Hurlbut listen on.

SNY’s Curt Gowdy, Jr. (center) discusses his network’s focus on original programming as YES Network’s Woody Freiman (left) and Altitude’s Steve Hurlbut listen on.

At last week’s SVG Summit, major players in the RSN market shared their thoughts on meeting viewer demands in a crowded programming space and how production technology at the RSN level has come a long way.

It seems gone are the days where some of the most advanced video technologies are saved for big time national events. Now even high speed cameras finding their way onto regional live events.

“You always want to see that extreme clarity,” said Woody Freiman, VP of Production and Programming at YES Network, where this year the network experimented with Replay Technologies’ 360-degree multi-camera replay system. “It does take a little bit of thinking on the producer’s part on how to use a replay like that because it takes so much time both to cue it up and to play it back. You have to think about how you place that package in a telecast.”

New York rival SNY also utilizes a pair of super-mos on Mets telecasts, typically positioning them low down near the field in order to capture powerful images of bat hitting ball, the pitcher’s grip on a pitch, and the dirt shooting up as a player slides into a base.

“Whether its national or regional this is something that the fan just expects,” said Curt Gowdy, Jr., SVP, Production & Executive Producer at SNY.

Super slow-motion cameras have also become a major piece of the puzzle for NBC Sports Regional Network’s collection of Comcast Sports regionals.

“Super slow-mo was a major game changer for us” said Jon Slobotkin, Vice President/Executive Producer-Live Events for NBC Sports Regional Networks.

Time Warner Cable SportsNet's Larry Meyers emphasizes the importance of social media as Hurlbut (left) and NBC Sports Regional Network's Jon Slobotkin agree.

Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Larry Meyers emphasizes the importance of social media as Hurlbut (left) and NBC Sports Regional Network’s Jon Slobotkin agree.

“When the camera was able to be switched out with the standard cameras that we use live, that made all the difference for us because it enabled us to put it on every one of our shows. From an illustrative tool there’s no better way to determine in hockey, for example, if a puck was tipped into the net. The super slow mo gives you things you just didn’t see and that’s the value of it. What we need to do is get our producers to use it as the first look – sometimes the only look – instead of being in a pattern of doing three looks and saving the slow mo for the end. You’ve just wasted my time with the first two slow-mos. Get to the core of the play and often the super slow-mo will do that.”

Social media also plays a major factor at the RSN level as these networks are broadcasting from the angle of a single team. In turn, that typically leads to a much more passionate response on Internet platforms.

The entire panel acknowledged that they had producers who worked on curating, utilizing, and engaging with social media platforms. Some have gone as far as to design original programming around it.

“Perhaps the most desired demographic watching your shows today are highly engaged through personal devices on social media,” said Larry Meyers, Vice President, Content and Executive Producer at Time Warner Cable Sports, the new home of the Los Angeles Lakers. “When we launched we made the decision that pregame that airs 90 minutes before tipoff would be a very social media oriented show. We’re encouraging people to become a participant in the show by using social media to send us content.”

There is, of course, a growing concern that between all of the national, regional, and college sports networks being launched these days that there is a danger of over-saturating the market. All RSNs can do for now though is do their best to stand out from the crowd.

“The key is to go out and develop our own compelling original content,” said Steve Hurlbut, Vice President, Production and Programming at Altitude Sports & Entertainment, home to the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. “News is also another big driver to try and get viewers to tune in every night all year long whether its in the middle of our season or not.”

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