Following World Baseball Classic Success, MLB Network Rides High Entering 2017 Season

Regular season kicks off with 40 live game telecasts in April, including five MLB Network Showcase games.

The 2017 Major League Baseball season may be less than a week old, but, for MLB Network, it may as well be midsummer. The team recently wrapped up its role as the exclusive English-language U.S.-rights holder for the entire World Baseball Classic, where, for the first time, MLBN oversaw both the domestic and world feeds.

“For us, our season started a month ago,” says Dave Patterson, SVP, production, MLB Network. “We planned the WBC for months and even years out, so our Opening Days were about three and a half, four weeks ago. … I look forward to the WBC, and it became a great success story for us. March can sometimes get a little slow with Spring Training games, but, for us, March was just a great month that I was looking forward to, and it turned out to be a success.”

The WBC wrapped on March 22 in Los Angeles — with the U.S. defeating Puerto Rico 8-0 — and, less than two weeks later, MLB Network embarked on an ambitious April, with 40 live game telecasts this month. The schedule, which equates to at least one game per day every day beginning April 4, includes 11 Opening Week games, six home openers, and five MLB Network Showcase matchups.

Last season, MLB Network made headlines when the network teamed up with DirecTV and Game Creek Video to broadcast its Showcase slate live in 4K. The network’s 4K/HD Dualcast was recently nominated for the George Wensel Technical Achievement Award, and, this season, the live 4K-production workflow is already in full swing.

“We have a great relationship with DirecTV. We got off to a start in L.A. last year and got better and better each week,” says Patterson. “I was in St. Louis [on April 4] for our Showcase game, and things went well. We just found out a few weeks ago we got nominated for the George Wensel Award for our 4K coverage, so that’s really great.”

MLB Network refreshed the look of its game coverage with new open, graphics, and scorebug and overhauled the look of its Quick Pitch studio show. The network has returned MLBAM’s Statcast player-tracking system, including the Pitchcast tracking that debuted during the 2016 postseason. This season, Statcast will also feature Catch Probability and Hit Probability, which was first used during the WBC.

“It was time for a refresh,” says Patterson. “We had a great success with our ‘Field of Dreams’ open, and the graphics for that, but, every few years, you want to freshen it up and do something different. I think this is really clean and worked well for what we want to do.”

For the third year, MLB Network will work alongside NHL Network as the latter ramps up NHL Playoff coverage. At the networks’ joint location in Secaucus, NJ, NHL Network recently installed half a hockey rink for on-air demos, interviews, and more.

“It’s just a lot of coordinating and planning with the two networks, but it’s not as crazy as you would think,” says Patterson. “April is an interesting month — as is October, because, in October, you have hockey starting and baseball playoffs — so it’s a lot of coordinating and a lot of people working together.”

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