NESN Ups Fan-Interaction Factor With ‘Mobile-to-Broadcast’ for Red Sox Coverage
NESN is taking the phrase fan interaction to a whole new level during its Boston Red Sox coverage this season, thanks to a new mobile-to-broadcast workflow that allows fans to submit videos shot on their mobile phones for inclusion in live telecasts. In addition to game telecasts, NESN airs these fan-submitted videos during Red Sox postgame shows, NESN Sports Today, and the next day’s pregame show.
“Our philosophy is that the next generation of media beyond social media will be about fans talking directly to us: that is, personal media,” says Joseph Maar, VP of programming and production/executive producer, NESN. “By personal media, I mean the ability for a fan to have their experience be part of the larger broadcast experience. That is what we are trying to accomplish here. We would like to think we are at the forefront of innovation and using technology to capture and develop that audience.”
Video submissions range from shots of fans cheering at Fenway Park or on Red Sox road games to videos of fans watching at home or at a bar. Prime examples include a clip of a soldier serving in Afghanistan watching on the Armed Forces Network or shout-outs to play-by-play man Don Orscillo and color commentator Jerry Remy,
Bursting Into New Workflow
NESN worked with Boston-based Burst to craft this mobile-to-broadcast workflow to enable users to submit mobile video directly to broadcast TV without an app download.
Fans can submit videos by going to NESN.com/OnTV or by texting their video with the keyword ONTV to 536536. All video submissions arrive in Burst’s “bubble,” a private site that allows a staffer at NESN’s broadcast center to filter out inappropriate videos and select the best clips, which are then sent directly to an EVS XT3 replay server inside NESN’s truck at Fenway Park. Graphics and tape producers in the truck select the best clips and send them to the lead producer, who determines if and when they will be integrated into the Red Sox game telecast.
“It’s all about finding the clips that are the best content for the stories we are tying to tell,” says Maar. “For example, if the last time David Ortiz was up, he hit a home run and [producers] see a clip of a fan reacting to the home run, as David Ortiz is about to come up again, they will tell the [game] producer. The game producer, who sees only the one or two videos, can decide to use that clip and relay to the talent that we are going to have a video from a fan at home leading up to the next Ortiz [at bat].”
Typically, fan-submitted videos are used one to three times per game. However, if it is a blowout or a rain delay occurs, as many as 10 clips can be used during the telecast. Videos that do not make the telecast are often incorporated into montages for the postgame shows, pregame shows the following day, or the following day’s game.
“[Not disrupting the traditional production workflow] was critical,” says Maar. “We needed to make it seamless for the production crew and make sure the production staff was comfortable with what this technology offers. Rather than just being one more thing added to their day [that requires them] to take time out of something else they need to do, it just becomes part of the general workflow. Burst was able to work with us to create something that was truly seamless with the flow of a sports remote-production truck anywhere in America.”
From the Fan to the Booth and Back
In addition, Orscillo has begun submitting his own mobile-phone video, while Remy provides a call to action, asking fans to submit videos directly to him by texting JERRY in their submissions.
“The biggest challenge thus far has been that, every night, we tell people to shoot horizontally but people keep shooting vertically,” says Maar. “We will still run it; if it’s good content, then we will run it. But that is part of the selection process, and we’re trying to condition fans to understand that horizontal makes for better content.”
The Road Ahead for Mobile-to-Broadcast
Burst sees NESN’s implementation as just the beginning of a rapidly growing trend that the company believes will catch on with RSNs across the country.
“As live programming increases in value to broadcasters, making television more interactive for generations accustomed to the participatory underpinnings of YouTube becomes that much more important,” says Burst CEO/founder Bryant McBride. “RSNs — and, for that matter, all broadcasters — want to engage their fans via the device we are all glued to throughout our day: the mobile phone. They are also keen to provide additional services to the teams they partner with and to harness and monetize the treasure trove of authentic, important content being captured and shared around the events they are broadcasting.”