Roots Sports Takes Hold With MLB Coverage

The Roots Sports networks (formerly known as FSN in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountain, and Pittsburgh TV markets and now owned by DIRECTV) take to the air today with home broadcasts of Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies, and Pittsburgh Pirates games. What can fans expect besides a new logo? A renewed emphasis on hometown storytelling, courtesy of RF cameras that will give fans at home more of a sense of being at the ballpark.

Bill Roberts, VP of content for DIRECTV Sports Networks, says the approach is to cover not just the game but the whole experience of being in the stands. “With the RF cameras,” he explains, “we can get into other areas of the stadiums and also interact with the fans.”

Phizzle, the mobile-marketing-technology service provider, will also play a role, allowing fans to text in questions and even send in photos from around the ballpark for use on-air.

“We will also have a ticker so we can engage in a conversation with the fans and do polling,” adds Roberts.

The biggest difference in terms of an on-air look is courtesy of Los Angeles-based Troika Design Group. The design and branding company, which does a lot of work with the NFL and the Fox Sports networks, created customized looks for each of the three networks.

“We wanted a look that was built for each of the cities and teams instead of a generic, one-size-fits-all look,” says Roberts. “We want to be tied into and connect with the city and be, no pun intended, rooted into the community. We don’t want to just be the guys that carry [coverage of the team.]”

Although the graphics deliver visual punch, the decision to have all pre- and post-game coverage out at the ballpark will deliver the content punch. New sets will be located on-site for pre- and post-game coverage of the Rockies and Mariners; director’s chairs on the field will do the trick in Pittsburgh.

“The ballpark is where the energy and excitement is,” says Roberts. “The studio has a sense of convenience and may be good for people working in TV, but the decision last year to move the pre- and post-game coverage in [Colorado to the ballpark] really catalyzed the energy of the broadcast.”

As for game coverage, fans can also expect more super slo-mo at home games, PitchFX graphics on all games. Mobile TV Group will provide production trucks for games in Denver and Pittsburgh; Mira Mobile will be behind the scenes in Seattle. Dual operations, with both the home and away team broadcasting out of the same truck, will continue when possible.

“We have taken the bull by the horns and made something that isn’t generic,” says Roberts of the rebranding effort.

With parent company DIRECTV committed to 3D, can 3D Roots games be far behind? “We’re always exploring the opportunity to do 3D, but the financial part is still the hurdle,” explains Roberts. “There are rumors of more cost-efficient 3D gear at NAB, and, if that is the case, we will be one of the first to do 3D.”