AP Sports Shares Its Super Bowl Infrastructure

By Carolyn Braff

The Associated Press serves as the backbone of sports coverage worldwide, dispersing 200 sportswriters to provide text, photos, audio, video, and multimedia to a host of media outlets around the world. This year, AP Sports is looking to expand its Global Media Services (GMS) reach at major sporting events, starting with the Super Bowl.

“Global Media Services is an element of our video business that provides any type of infrastructure a client may need,” explains Jim Kathman, global director of AP Sports. “We get our infrastructure to the site and help clients around the world so they don’t have to bring equipment or a production truck to get pictures out live. It’s an infrastructure that relies on the video newsgathering setup that we already have in place as the AP.”

That infrastructure can help clients do everything from simply feeding tape to setting up live positions from which journalists can report for their stations.

“We make it easy so reporters don’t need to worry about getting the camera, the crew, the live feed back to their station,” Kathman says. “If they want to go live-to-air, we can handle all of that for them.”

GMS is equipped to handle both scheduled events, like the Olympic Games and Super Bowl, and breaking news. Last summer, GMS had great success covering the Beijing Olympic Games — in part because of how the host country’s restrictions affected other broadcasters — and the company hopes to build off that success to cover more sports in depth this year.

“The Super Bowl is the first test case to expand what we did at the Olympics as a combination news and sports event,” Kathman explains. “We’ve got a truck and facilities all set up.”

The truck is provided by Miami News Net, a local Florida vendor.

AP Sports is working with a variety of clients in Tampa, including international broadcasters — “it’s not a huge event internationally, but there is some interest,” Kathman says — as well as regional sports networks and some stations in Phoenix and Pittsburgh that were unable to get all of their ENG equipment to Florida.

For stations that are unable to send reporters to Florida, the AP is making its own staff available for one-on-one sessions and expert reporting.

“One of the things that the AP has is a ton of journalists that are as good as anybody in the field at covering their beats,” Kathman explains. “We also have a number of traditional journalists that are pretty good on-camera, have done a lot of online video, and are comfortable doing interviews, so we’re trying to make them available if people need them.”

In addition to offering their services as a resource to other stations, the 15-plus AP staff members on-site will be producing plenty of their own content, including video clips, multimedia packages, and game analysis.

“We’re not in the business of buying a bunch of trucks and hoping that we can rent them around major news events,” Kathman explains. “We are doing a number of things to leverage this infrastructure for our own purposes, but through Global Media Services, we’re making it available for our clients as well.”

What type of presence the AP will have at upcoming sporting events depends on the environment at this weekend’s Super Bowl. Kathman’s team will use this trial event to determine whether it makes sense to be more aggressive around future sporting events.

“I think, in a lot of ways, there is an opening relative to the current economic climate,” Kathman says. “For the areas where there is the most intense interest, the local news properties in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, this is a big news event, and they need to send their own crews, but I think in general it’s going to be helpful as we go through ’09.”

For more information on AP Sports’ services available at the Super Bowl, visit its SVG microsite here.