Fox Flexes Its BCS Rights on a Second Screen

By Carolyn Braff

Fox Sports has had comprehensive rights to the Bowl
Championship Series for the past several years, but, for Thursday night’s game,
the network went all out. In addition to a full-scale 2D production and a
first-of-its-kind 3D production, Fox Sports, for the first time, offered a
second screen experience online, where six additional camera angles were
available for football fans and marching-band enthusiasts alike.

“We don’t want to stream the game,” explains Clark Pierce,
VP, emerging technologies, for Fox Sports. “You can’t view the game better online
than you can on TV, so what we want to do is offer something new to complement
that. We are gearing ourselves to people that have their laptop open while
they’re watching the game. Our chairman, David Hill, likes to call it the Gemini
experience, with twin content.

To complete that
Gemini experience, football fans had six feeds to choose from through the bcs.foxsports.com portal. The available feeds came
from the overhead cable camera, one camera dedicated to each school’s
respective band (complete with audio), the cart camera (which generally
followed the quarterbacks), an output of the in-game-stats machine, and a sixth
feed that picked up any of the game cameras

The streaming feed came directly out of the camera-control
unit and was downconverted to 16:9 anamorphic SD in an uplink truck provided by
Lowery Satellite Services. The feeds were then encoded and uplinked to a
satellite via MPEG-2 on one carrier. Global Media Services’ digital encoding
facility in Denver
then received the MPEG-2 stream and used Windows Media 9 to stream the camera
feeds to the Web. Twelve channels of audio traveled on DT 12, but, with two
exceptions (the band streams), the audio was minimal.

“Basically, we did international sound or effects, which is
minus announcers,” Pierce says. “That will go on all the game cameras. Only
the two band cameras will be unique sound.”

While Fox Sports is no stranger to streaming, having
provided similar second screens for NASCAR and World Series events, Thursday
night marked the network’s first streaming event where it owned all of the
rights.

“When we partner with baseball or NASCAR, we don’t have total
control over the experience,” Pierce explains. “The first two years of the
contract, we really didn’t take advantage of our rights. This is our first real
shot at this.”

No one was more eager for Fox to take that shot than the
nation’s marching-band fans.