Seven Network Looks Beyond the Action in Australian Open

This weekend, Seven Network Australia wraps up its role as host broadcaster for arguably the continent’s biggest sports event: the Australian Open. “This country loves sport and knows everything about it and is passionate,” says Cory Southey, general manager of network sport for Seven Network. “And everyone working on the TV side would pay to be here because it is so exciting.”

Seven Network’s Cory Southey manages operations for the Australian Open.

Seven Network’s Cory Southey manages operations for the Australian Open.

Fortunately for the Australian economy, the staffers do get paid as they create not only the domestic feed but also the host broadcast feed and a world broadcast feed. The world feed is of use by many a nation around the globe, as the presence of broadcasters, with the exception of ESPN and Wowow, is minimal.

The tournament began with seven courts of tennis action produced for TV out of seven dedicated control rooms located in a two-floor production building near the outer courts. The two-floor temporary structure was built beginning on Nov. 15 and will be torn down two weeks after the men’s final (which will be this Sunday). The footprint left behind will once again be the glorious carpark it was in November.

“We’ll bolster the production as the tournament progresses and have 35 cameras on center court for the finals,” says Southey. “And the coverage is staggered down, so that [the smallest court] will only have three or four cameras.”

Gearhouse Broadcast is providing all the production kit for Seven Network, the host feed, and the world feed.

“Gearhouse does it all, and they do a great job for us,” says Southey. “And all the gear is part of their tennis-tour [kit]. It’s a pretty big operation to get it here from the UK.”

The control rooms are fairly straightforward: one for the domestic feed, one for the world feed, and one control room for every court. And each host broadcast feed is produced from a control room that has only one director (who also works as technical director and producer) and an operator doing scoring via the IDS system.

In Australia, Seven Network has to broadcast tennis on the main free-to-air network. And, when it is time for the news, the action moves over to digital channel 7.2 before returning to the main channel an hour later.

“We will always show the best match rather than store it for later,” says Southey of the programming philosophy on Seven Network. While streaming all of the courts to the Internet sounds like a great idea, it, unfortunately, is not allowed under the current rights agreement.

All the Grand Slam events have a different feel when it comes to the host broadcast and world feed. Southey says the Australian Open philosophy involves delivering as much emotion as possible.

“The live action is like shooting ducks in a barrel, so we go out of our way to take the viewer to an emotional level with replays and super-slow motion,” he says. “So rather than just showing tennis, you may be looking at their eyes later in the match or reaction shots from their family and supporters rather than just shots of the players.”

In terms of production tools, aggressive use of Spidercam and super-slow-motion replays from two Ikegami NAC cameras sets the coverage apart from the other Slams. This is the fourth year the Spidercam has been used, and the decision was made after the first year to use the Spidercam in the host feed.

“If you don’t put it in the host feed, you cannot fully integrate it,” he says. “The guys from Spidercam are really good, and, on almost every break, we’ll use it for a move.”