Going HD, Honoring MSG at the Big East Tournament

Conference tournament time can be the most exciting – and most stressful time – of the year for a conference office. For the Big East, who runs, arguably, the biggest men’s basketball tourney of them all at “the world’s most famous arena,” things can get a little hectic.

Working with XOS Digital, the Big East exclusively streams the postgame press conference of the winning team of each game to BigEast.org.

While the live broadcast rights for the Big East Men’s Basketball Championship are property of ESPN – the Big East is the only conference tournament where every game is carried on a national network – there’s still plenty for the offices to do.

Working with its digital network partner XOS Digital, the Big East exclusively streams the postgame press conference of the winning team of each game, shoots interviews with players and coaches after each game, and, for the first time, produces high definition highlight reels of each game (which are posted to BigEast.org within five minutes of the completion of the game). Why the rush? It’s the simple fact that the window of value for conference tournament content is extremely small.

“We have very valuable content that we need to get out there and capitalize on quickly while also not diminishing the overall production quality,” says Ben Fairclough, senior director, external affairs at the Big East. “That’s something that’s very unique to a conference this time of year.”

Since the Big East made the transition to allowing all teams entry into the tournament in 2009, there are three straight days of four games to start. That means for each individual school that advances, the video content from a tournament game has, at the most, a 23-hour shelf life before they are back out on the floor playing again.

“The ability to do fun, creative things in this type of environment is a challenge,” admits Fairclough. “When we get to semifinals (on Friday) we are going to do some standup shots with talent and try some bigger things because it will have more value over a longer window.”

Remembering “The Mecca”
2012 marks the 30th Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. To mark the event, the conference is marketing the Twitter hash tag #Garden30 while also using archived footage during ESPN broadcasts and on the conference’s website.

“In December and January we were planning out our tournament coverage and what we were going to do and how we were going to ramp things up,” says Fairclough. “We wanted to capitalize on some of the best moments we’ve had and we’re working to really create some buzz.”

Fairclough went to ESPN and CBS and obtained a wealth of tapes and old footage and digitized them with the help of XOS Digital. The footage was used to create top 10 lists ranging from best players, best moments, and best teams.

“Our archives, admittedly, haven’t been very good,” says Fairclough, “so we used this as a project to really improve up our archives.”

During a St. John’s game in February, Fairclough and members of his staff did a site visit to check out the Garden, which is currently through the first phase of a three-year-long renovation project. They used the visit to plan ahead on some key changes (new location for video coordinators, drastically improved Internet connectivity) while also shooting talent standups and footage for videos used during the #Garden30 campaign.

Courtside, underneath the stands, DVSport has a capture station where school video coordinators can record an HD feed of ESPN's broadcast for scouting purposes.

Scouting the Competition
The Big East again partnered with DVSport, a Pittsburgh-based software company that specializes in digital video acquisition, analysis, and play-back software, to provide its member institutions with a fully-capturable high definition feed of ESPN’s broadcast for the first time. Fairclough sees it as a step forward to helping the schools make the full transition to HD.

Each school provides their own video coordinator, which is positioned at DVSport’s capture station. They can than plug in and capture the HD feed from ESPN and transport that onto their coaching staff for scouting purposes.

Streamlining the Schools
This season, Fairclough and the conference office coordinated with its member schools and ESPN to formalize a regular season melt reel distribution policy.

“A lot of the schools said they needed to share footage among themselves to help each other out for things like coaches shows and the ability to create higher quality content for various distribution platforms.” said Fairclough.

The policy required that each school post a melt reel, with the help from ESPN – if they broadcast the game – for every interconference game to XOS Digital’s Media Xchange platform. Than all of the schools, and even the media, would have access to the content over FTP for use in coach’s shows and other original programming they may produce for their websites or local television partners.

XOS’s Media Xchange is a media delivery service which allows local news outlets – and in this case, other Big East schools – to access downloadable content and data from teams, leagues and conferences. The data transfer speed is much faster than a traditional FTP service, due to the Signiant platform that XOS Digital Xchange is built upon.

“Now its our turn to reciprocate,” said Fairclough in regards to the Big East Tournament. “Now its our event and we are trying to serve our member institutions. So I made it a point this year to really make sure we did whatever we could to get the melts from the tournament to the member schools as a means to say its our show now and we’re going to help you out.”

“Its a classic example of how a conference can serve its member institutions.”