Glowpoint continues to shine during NFL Draft Day; HD over IP on the horizon

By Ken Kerschbaumer

For broadcasters like ESPN and the NFL Network coverage of the NFL draft is as much about what is going on at 32 team sites as it is at Radio City Music Hall, where the draft was held last weekend. Faced with the challenge of coordinating dozens of remote SNG sites both networks instead have opted for a simpler solution: Glowpoint’s video conferencing services and technology, delivering solid standard-definition images from Sony cameras located at each team headquarters.

In fact the NFL Network uses the system all year long as the backbone for all of its remote interviews. “The draft is a minor application for us,” says Glenn Adamo, NFL VP, Media Operations. “We use Glowpoint on a daily basis for the NFL Network and do well over 1,000 remote a year for instantaneous coverage.”

Each NFL team has a Glowpoint portable transmission system that can be moved from the pressroom to the training facility and other places. Those 32 sites are connected to one of Glowpoint’s 14 datacenters located in major cities around the U.S. Connections are then made via negotiations with tier-one Bell operating companies and then cross-connected with leased dark fiber. In the case of the NFL those signals are routed back to the NFL Network in Culver City, California.

The advantage of the system is that Glowpoint leases dedicated lines for each client on a 24/7 basis. Deals typically run in one or two-year cycles, allowing Boland to negotiate deals with network operators that have fairly favorable terms of $1,000 a month for an SD pipe or, soon, $2,500 for an HD pipe (SD signals are transported at 1480 Kbps while HD will run upwards of 2560 Kbps). The camera/transmission systems are $15,000 for SD and $40,000 for HD.

“The client doesn’t have to book satellite time or schedule their talent to be subservient to a satellite transponder,” adds Dan Boland, Glowpoint senior director, broadcasting services. “There is no metered usage and they have access to it 24/7.”

The NFL has its own private IP network that is a bonded T1 line that offers sharper SD pictures and lays the groundwork for HD work. Other networks, like ESPN, bring in its own set of cameras and suitcase-based IP transmission systems. Interview subjects spent draft day jumping between the NFL’s setup and ESPN’s setup.

Next month ESPN is expected to become the first network to use the system for HD transmission related to the NASCAR Now program. “We have new Sony HG90 HD cameras that deliver a 720-progressive line image that is really beautiful,” says Boland.