Fox Nets Prep for Champions League Final

It’s a rainy final day of setup for the Champions League Final at London’s Wembley Stadium, and the Fox Sports domestic U.S. team is on hand along with four other Fox networks: Fox Soccer, Fox Deportes, and two Fox Sports Latin America Networks. Leveraging shared resources within the NEP Visions OB units that the networks have called home this week and also with BSkyB and Sky Deutschland, the coverage this year is expected to be richer than ever.

“This is a fairly big show, and working with a single vendor and pooling our resources helps us work as one team and achieve a lot of efficiencies,” says Mike Davies, VP of field operations, Fox Sports. “And that allows for a more robust show.”

Working with European News Corp. counterparts will also have an impact.

“They help us out to a great extent,” he adds, “and it pays off for us in terms of access and taking advantage of their European know-how, as they are doing these types of shows week in and week out.”

The biggest change from last year will be a new set, and U.S. soccer fans will get a sneak peek at it on Friday night as the Fox Soccer channel broadcasts a match preview. Last year’s set featured a large studio desk, and, this year, viewers will be treated to a set with a coffee-table–and–chair look that also makes it easier to give viewers a sense of what is happening in the stadium and on the pitch. The addition of a lighting director will also spruce up the coverage.

“We decided this approach is much more appropriate given the sight lines,” adds Davies.

During the match, Fox Sports will take the host-broadcast feed (produced by UK broadcaster ITV) and will also have access to a unilateral camera position located on a camera gantry hanging below the first deck near the midfield line. The main production unit operates out of HD1 and NEP1, and Visions Voyager is on hand as an edit truck.

“We added a tape truck here because we were too crunched space-wise in the other configuration,” says Davies, adding, “With Visions right down the road, the expense was minimal.”

Prior to the match, Fox Sports director Derek Manning met with the host director to get an idea of the coverage plan.

“That allowed us to make decisions on which cameras we would like to take,” says Davies. “We take about 12 feeds into our tape area to build highlights, and then the unilateral camera is something we can control if we dump out of the [host feed].”

Level 3 will handle transmission with JPEG2000 encoders helping get signals back to the U.S. And, this year, broadband connectivity and phones are also riding over the Level 3 pathway.

“It’s like being at home,” adds Davies.

Another advantage over last year is that Fox Sports has done about 10 unilateral broadcasts this year as the network continues to get ready for the 2015 women’s World Cup and the 2016 World Cup in Russia.

“The key for us is to have some very trustworthy sources on the ground in Europe, and, the more we learn about how they work and the more they learn about how we work, the shows get better,” explains Davies. “So have Visions and a group of local people that have really looked after us. This is the culmination of that work as we strive to make sure we’re doing things the right way and as efficiently as possible from a dollars perspective.”