CBS US Open Coverage Offers Twice the Fun

CBS Sports coverage of the US Open this year has fans doing a double take, literally. The network’s broadcast coverage is complemented by coverage on CBS Sports Network, and, while it means double the options for tennis fans, who can choose between matches on both networks, it hasn’t doubled the cost or infrastructure because CBS Sports has leveraged personnel and technical resources efficiently.

“The new wrinkle is such a natural fit, and we’re all hoping that this is the beginning of more and better things,” says CBS Sports Senior Engineer Nick Muro. “They’ve been great people to work with, and it’s going well.”

This past Saturday showed the first benefit of CBS Sports Network’s involvement in US Open coverage. CBS Sports was broadcasting the Notre Dame-Navy college football game from Dublin during the morning broadcast window that typically sees the beginning of CBS US Open coverage.

“We came on at 11 and were operating out of F&F GTX-16 with our normal people and crew as if we were going to air to CBS, but it was diverted to the CBS Sports Network,” Muro explains. “When football ended, CBS [broadcast] took the main coverage from Arthur Ashe, and CBS Sports Network took the rest.”

Overall, US Open coverage on CBS Sports (and for the international feed) is very similar to last year’s, with 74 cameras — including nine robotic cameras, five super-slo-mo cameras, and a high-speed unit — covering the action. There are also 31 EVS replay, edit, and SpotBox units on hand. The only tweak to the production plan (other than the CBS Sports Network coverage) was that the Tennis Channel requested that NEP SS16 be switched from outer-court coverage to court two because its control room has more space than NCPVIII.

“We also have a twin pack of 500-kW generators, and we doubled that this year because ESPN has bought into the plan,” adds Muro. “Previously, they were sitting on shore power.”

CBS Sports Network was on the air six days ahead of CBS, providing tennis fans with coverage of qualifying matches. The process of getting on-air for those matches while preparing for the start of the tournament on Aug. 27 (plus Arthur Ashe Kids Day on Aug. 25) exemplified how to get the most out of facilities and personnel. NCPVIII is used to cover Court 17 during the actual tournament but covered Courts 17 and 11 during qualifying.

“It was an island unto itself for the qualifying rounds,” explains Muro, “and we continued to build around them as if the show wasn’t happening.” When the tournament started, the production switcher in NCPVIII was split, and a switcher panel was dropped into SS27, allowing the former to produce Court 17 matches and the latter to produce Court 11 matches. SS27 also has fiber connectivity, allowing the outer courts to be connected via fiber.

“For the price of an empty control room,” Muro notes, “we have two trucks worth of resources.”

A Lyon Video production unit, MU7, used for Court 13 coverage has also been leveraged by CBS Sports Network. On Friday, Court 13 coverage ended, allowing the truck to be turned over to CBS Sports Network.

“It’s a natural segue,” says Muro, “and we extend the use of the Lyon truck for weekend coverage.”

One subtraction this year? No 3D, because Panasonic financial resources went into supporting the massive Olympic 3D effort.

“[Not having 3D] simplified things, but you hate to go backwards,” says Muro. “The hope among all is that 3D will return to the US Open next year.”