Fox Sports Oklahoma’s NBA Finals Coverage Resonates With Thunder Fans

Since moving to Oklahoma City four years ago, the Thunder have established a team-first philosophy apparent both on the court and off. As Kevin Durant and company battle a 2-1 deficit for the city’s first-ever NBA title, Fox Sports Oklahoma continues to be an integral part of the team, committed to telling the story of the 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder and putting a local stamp on the NBA Finals.

Former NBA player Stephen Howard (left) and host John Rhadigan on the set of Fox Sports Oklahoma’s Thunder Live NBA Finals set

Fox Sports Oklahoma, the team’s local television home and an offshoot of Fox Sports Southwest, is providing special Thunder Live postgame shows after every game in the NBA Finals.

Small Production, Big-Game Feel
Shifting from full-game to postgame production, Fox Sports Oklahoma has opted for a NewTek TriCaster, rather than roll out a remote unit to Oklahoma City and Miami.

“We are utilizing a TriCaster on location to do basic production, provide simplified routing for us when we need to feed something that we shot ENG or take [a direct feed of] the press conference rather than off of satellite,” says Senior Executive Producer Mike Anastassiou. “We take that feed and run it through our HD studios in Dallas to add finishing items like tickers, bumps, [and] our insert look, so we’re able to give it a finished look without necessarily having to use a remote truck on location. It’s worked really well.”

With the TriCaster on-site, the production team can ingest camera feeds to create highlight packages and B rolls for the postgame show. The setup eliminates the need for downlinks and multiple backhauls at the venue. In the field, Fox Sports Oklahoma is deploying three cameras, including an ENG unit.

“[The TriCaster] allows you to easily rout different feeds to a single uplink backhaul, whether it’s a host position or a locker-room drop or the press conference,” Anastassiou explains. “It eliminates a lot of the extra technical equipment [and] engineering support, and then we do the heavy lifting in the control room by packaging it for air.”

On-Air Talent Stay Part of the Team
Although ABC has exclusive rights to the championship series, Fox Sports Oklahoma has ensured that the regular-season broadcast team continues to feature prominently.

“We’re utilizing the folks who worked on the events during the year,” says Anastassiou. “The producer [Todd Minhinnett] and the director [Eric Date] of the regular-season telecast are out in the field doing the same for us, as well as our event talent Brian Davis, Grant Long, and Kelly Crull. It’s just a natural fit to have the team guys who worked on the regular season to stay involved through the playoffs.”

Davis, Long, and Crull are joined by Thunder Live analyst Stephen Howard and anchors Dana Larson and John Rhadigan to break down the games and offer a local perspective. In addition to the game highlights, postgame podium press conferences, and interviews from the Thunder locker room broadcast live on Fox Sports Oklahoma, postgame press conferences are posted on FoxSportsSouthwest.com.

Hitting the Road
From the Chesapeake Energy Arena at home to Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, Fox Sports Oklahoma accompanies the team to produce Thunder Live on-site. In South Florida, the production team takes a more simplified approach to the postgame show; however, the aim of the show remains the same.

“It’s really the same philosophical approach,” says Anastassiou. “You may lose a camera cut, but that’s not really what is making these compelling;  it’s the analysis. We can spend a little more time focusing in on [the Thunder], we go a little deeper, we ride the pressers much longer than people normally do, but we think that’s what the fans want to see.”

Although Fox Sports Oklahoma maintains a fully separate production from Fox Sports Florida, the two networks are open to sharing relevant material, even if their respective teams are battling on the court.

“We’re always in a sharing mode,” says Anastassiou. “When things are relevant, we share, but it’s difficult to share the facilities: two separate feeds, separate teams. [However,] if there’s compelling sound that the other show may have that is relevant to ours, we’ll use it. That always goes on in the Fox world.”

A Win for OKC
Heading into Game 4 tonight in Miami, the Thunder will attempt to keep their remarkable run in perspective. Fox Sports Oklahoma, not wanting to jinx an already improbable season, has no public plans for programming beyond producing Thunder Live throughout the NBA Finals. However, regardless of the NBA Finals outcome, the 2011-12 season has been a win for the team, the fans, and Oklahoma City.

“The fan base is absolutely in a frenzy during these games. It’s a very loud arena, it’s a likeable group of guys on the team,” says Anastassiou. “It’s just a good time to be a Thunder fan.”