Good Morning, Japan! ESPN, NTV come together to broadcast MLB opener live from Tokyo

By Andrew Lippe

ESPN, Japan’s Nippon Television Network (NTV) and Genesis Networks will attempt a triple-play combination Tuesday morning with a live broadcast from the Tokyo Dome of the 2008 the MLB regular season opener between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. “I am looking forward to seeing us interface with NTV,” says Matt Sandulli, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “We surely will bring out the local flavor of Tokyo.”

Two games, one Tuesday and one Wednesday will be broadcast live on ESPN2 in HD (they will also be rebroadcast at 2 p.m EST). “NTV will be producing the game in 1080i,” says Sandulli. “ESPN will then convert the HD signal to 720p.”

While ESPN will rely on NTV to provide camera feeds ESPN will have its own 50-foot double expando unit, TeleTech HD 107, on site for the production. The truck contains a Thomson Grass Valley HD switcher, a Thomson Grass Valley Venus router, and an EVS replay server. A Studer audio console will be located in a separate production unit.

Sandulli says 18 cameras will be used. “It’s about the same number of cameras that would be used on a Sunday Night Baseball telecast,” says Sandulli.

The art of negotiation also came into play for the telecast as NTV was considering going “old school” with the use of a high camera behind first base as the primary game camera (in recent years Japanese broadcasters embraced the centerfield shot that is standard in the U.S.). ESPN, however, succeeded in getting the camera to be placed back into centerfield.

To get the signals to the U.S. ESPN is working with Genesis Networks for fiber transport. Genesis Networks has been used by ESPN in the past on numerous events like the Australian Open. Genesis Networks has two people on site to help in the operation.

Graphics will be inserted in Bristol, CT after the feed comes in. “This is a huge event for us,” says Sandulli. “We are reaching baseball viewers across the world.”