Comcast SportsNet Bay Area/California Ace Busiest Stretch in Network History
Spring means busy season for regional sports networks across the country. With the NHL and NBA entering the playoffs and MLB and MLS getting their campaigns under way, crossover is common. Just not as common as what Comcast SportsNet’s (CSN) Bay Area and California channels just finished dealing with.
Earlier this month. CSN put the cap on a staggering six-week stretch that saw the network produce 124 live telecasts featuring the San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose SaberCats, and the CIF Boys and Girls High School Basketball Championships.
That also included 333 live studio shows, with more than 180 hours of live sports news and analysis. The 124 live telecasts and 333 live studio shows exceed the previous network record of 89 live telecasts and 247 live studio shows set in 2013 during the same period.
“We’ve grown accustomed to this time of the year [being] very hectic and crazy as all of our sports and teams cross over,” says David Koppett, senior executive producer of live events, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and Comcast SportsNet California, “but we haven’t had a lot of years where both the Sharks and the Warriors were in the playoffs.”
Just how did they pull it off? With two studios, two control rooms, and a strong relationship with mobile-production provider MIRA Mobile. MIRA M7-HD is the networks’ primary home truck and does a huge percentage of CSN’s home productions.
According to Peter Schofield, VP of operations and engineering, CSN Bay Area and California, the network muxes three transmission paths from the truck back to the studio and home offices.
“We’ve done something that’s a little bit unique in that we’ve installed a transmission mux in that truck,” he says. “We transmit J2K game transmission plus two MPEG-4 services all in a mux. So, essentially, with the second circuit from the stadium for all of our home games, we have four paths returning to the studio. We also have a return path from the studio out to the [venue]. When we bring our shows on location, it allows the talent to see the studio output.”
During Sharks’ NHL Playoffs and Warriors’ NBA Playoffs, CSN worked closely with the national broadcasters on hand to share resources. For example, during the Warriors’ first-round matchup with the Clippers, both Turner and CSN provided an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo super-high-speed camera system, CSN provided Fletcher cameras on each basket, and Turner provided GoPro cameras on each basket. CSN also brought in an RF camera system and installed a Q-Ball robo in players entrance hallway. During the Sharks first-round games with the L.A. Kings, a lot of resources were shared by CSN and the Fox affiliates from Los Angeles. On the national end, NBC Sports Group even took direct feeds of the CSN telecast to run nationally on its air.
Koppet acknowledges that, while it has been a busy time, the ability to handle such a large workload is one benefit of new technologies and innovations.
“We used to not have the capability to handle it as well as we can now,” he says. “Over the years, we have developed our facilities infrastructure, our studio infrastructure, our mobile-vendor partnership, all of the things that allow us to handle this number of events at once. We’ve found that now it is very busy and there are a lot of scenarios to take into account every day, but it doesn’t feel out of control. Nothing comes up on our schedule now that feels like it can’t be handled with the proper design.”
In the CSN studios are two control rooms and two studios. The main studio features three sets and is connected to a control room that boasts a Sony MVS8000X production switcher and Chyron HyperX 3.1 for graphics. The second studio — which is used for overflow — features a Grass Valley Kayak switcher and works off the same graphics network as the main control room. Sony cameras are used throughout the complex.
Switching between the games was also seamless, with the network’s transmission aggregated at the CNBC facility in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. With all master-control rooms and all satellite delivery systems, that enables easy mobility for switching games between channels. This wasn’t always the case because legacy facilities had CSN Bay Area and CSN California in separate locations.
The network delivered multiple television rating milestones in the market (San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose) during the weeks of March 24–May 3. Highlights included:
- Nearly 6 million television households (5,934,482) watched the Giants, A’s, Warriors, Kings, Sharks, Earthquakes, SaberCats, and the CIF Boys and Girls High School Basketball Championships on Comcast SportsNet.
- More than 3.5 million television households (3,505,845) watched Giants, A’s, Warriors and Sharks Pregame Live and Postgame Live shows on Comcast SportsNet.
- In April, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area was the top-rated cable network in primetime in households and every adult and male demo and No. 2 in women’s demos.
- In April, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area was the overall top-rated television station in primetime in adults 18-34, men 18-34, and men 18-49.
- Of the 22 Giants games on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in the month of April, 14 were No. 1 in households and five were No. 2 during the market time period.
- Comcast SportsNet Bay Area scored its highest-rated Warriors telecast in the history of the network on May 1 – a 7.03 for its coverage of Warriors-Los Angeles Clippers Game 6 in the First Round of the 2014 NBA Western Conference Playoffs. The telecast averaged approximately 177,066 households for the entire game and posted a 9.11 peak rating (approximately 229,498 households);
- Comcast SportsNet Bay Area posted its second-highest–rated Warriors telecast in the history of the network on April 24, with a 6.56 for its coverage of Warriors-Clippers Game 3. The telecast averaged approximately 165,205 households and registered a 7.74 peak rating (approximately 194,884 households).
- The Warriors 2014 First Round Playoffs were up 21% in households from the 2013 First Round Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors averaged a household rating of a 5.75 in the 2014 First Round Playoffs against the Clippers (approximately 144,877 households).
- Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s coverage of the Warriors-Clippers series (Games 2-3 and 5-7) beat the national broadcast/local simulcast by 6% (5.75 Comcast SportsNet Bay Area vs. 5.43 TNT).
- The Oakland A’s in April 2014 were up 13% in households vs. the year-ago month.