Booted From Broadcast Center by the Pandemic, FOX Deportes Network Operates From a PCR in a Garage
IP-based digital technology helps Spanish-language network maintain professional quality
In the face of a global pandemic, FOX Deportes, one of the leading domestic Spanish-language sports networks in the U.S., went full-on reverse Silicon Valley and went back to innovating in the garage.
When live sports as we knew it was shut down in early March, many major broadcasters were sent scrambling to figure out how to remain on-air with limited access to their broadcast facilities. For Fox Deportes, the coronavirus pandemic meant moving out of its home at 1440 Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles and working from home for the foreseeable future.
Wondering how to keep the network on the air, FOX Deportes, VP, Production, Orlando Silver called the best person he knew for the job: Director, Operations, Ruben Rocha.
After Silver outlined the reality of the situation, Rocha said simply, “Give me a week.” When Silver asked how, Rocha explained, “We can use my garage.”
Rocha and his team quickly built a temporary production-control room (PCR) while simultaneously visiting the homes of selected talent from around the Los Angeles area to set the entire network up to operate while completely bypassing its broadcast center.
“The industry had been changing over the past couple of years,” says Silver, “but this has been a good moment to try new things and look at things differently from how we made television. It made us take a deep dive into how we do this and how we could be open to more opportunities and blur those lines between linear and digital.”
The temporary PCR was based on a flypack that FOX Deportes typically uses when broadcasting from onsite at various major events that its FOX Sports parent might be broadcasting from: events like the World Series and the Super Bowl. Roche leveraged technology from Dejero, LiveU, and Zixi to establish a network infrastructure leveraging the public internet for connectivity and communications. He also pieced together in the garage a small control room comprising a production switcher, multiviewers, a router, frame syncs, and an audio console.
Thanks to this new setup, FOX Deportes has been able to produce live Liga MX and Bundesliga matches while integrating live commentary from multiple announcers contributing from various spots in the world: be it Los Angles, Mexico City, or locations across Europe.
FOX Deportes was also able to continue churning out original content in the form of El EntreTiempo, a nightly roundtable show featuring a rotation of FOX Deportes talent. Guests appeared on the show via setups at their respective home, dialing into the PCR through a link in the Dejero app, syncing with their co-hosts, laying in their comms, and contributing live to the show.
The final product was shipped to FOX master control, completely bypassing 1440 Sepulveda. To this point, FOX Deportes has produced more than 100 hours of live studio programming using the garage PCR as its backbone.
“Zero glitches, zero losses,” says Silver. “That’s pretty mind-blowing. We’re using professional equipment. When viewers look at our broadcasts, it doesn’t look like an iPhone. It looks clean, sharp. It’s broadcast quality.”
Graphics were a challenge, Silver notes. Unable to reproduce a full-on professional-level graphics setup in the garage, he and Roche opted for a simple graphics package to get the job done. Roche does use technologies like Zoom for redundancies in program return and on-air transmission, Silver adds.
It was a stressful but ultimately successful process, and, although the team has returned to 1440 Sepulveda, the garage setup remains intact and ready to use if needed. And the lessons from it continue to shape the network’s approach to an uncertain future.
“When you use technology to your advantage and you’re not shut down to new possibilities,” says Silver, “you can get amazing things done.”