Fox Sports Networks to deliver 1,000 HD sporting events through 2007

By Ken Kerschbaumer

FSN is stepping up its commitment to HD with the announcement that it will deliver nearly 1,000 live sporting events in HD between now and the end of 2007.

With about two-thirds of all NBA, MLB, and NHL franchises in the U.S. having deals with one of the 18 FSN regional networks the move to double the amount of events is a big step for not only FSN and fans but also the NBA, NHL and MLB brands. NCAA football and basketball will also be impacted.

Randy Freer, Chief Operating Officer of FSN, says the move is the result of a multi-year strategy to streamline production costs with help of dual-feed HD trucks from Mobile TV Group, a major provider of vehicles to the FSN networks, that can house both the home and away broadcaster in one control room. Because FSN has 18 networks it often finds itself broadcasting both the home and away telecasts. The typical set up for a sporting event has one production truck for the home team and one for the away team. But since FSN was writing both those checks the network has housed both broadcast teams in the same truck, resulting in cost savings.

Doug Sellers, FSN senior vice president, production, says the growth will primarily occur in road game broadcasts. “It’s not hard to shoot the games in HD but it’s really a transmission issue [in getting the signal back to master control],” he says. “And we’ve developed the dual-feed system to the point where the visiting team now has three of their own cameras, replay devices, and graphics so they can cut their own show.”

Audio remains the one challenge in the dual-feed system, with a separate trailer with an audio console and related gear or a facility within the venue handling audio duties for the away network. All telecasts are in simulated Surround Sound.

“Dual-feed trucks really set us up for doing more HD a lot sooner than we otherwise could have done,” says Sellers. Other changes include a move to HD robotic cameras for the current NBA season.

“All our cameras, with exception of robotic cameras, are HD,” says Sellers. “So we’re shooting in SD widescreen as a stop gap until we go HD.”