MASN Doubles Up on Orioles and Nationals, Preps for New Truck Build in 2015

If the sixth-month grind of covering a baseball team is enough to wear you out, imagine handling two.

For the fifth straight season, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) will serve as the home broadcaster for both the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals, two exciting young clubs on the rise.

MASN-LogoOn the production end, both team’s telecasts feature practically identical technological deployments. Both feature 15 cameras for home telecasts, including a healthy dose of robotics, three Fletcher I-MOVIX devices, and the Sony HDWF900R in the booth to shoot the announcers.

From there, the uniqueness rests on the creativity of the production teams.

“The only difference really is, each team might decide to put cameras in different locations,” says Ken Stiver, VP of engineering/tech operations at MASN. “Some guys want them looking down third, another one wants it in the inside-third [camera] well looking into dugout. So we’ll adjust to how those producer-director teams want them placed.”

MASN is in the final year of using Game Creek Video’s Freedom for both Orioles and Nationals home broadcasts; the truck travels back and forth between Camden Yards and Nationals Park throughout the season. According to Stiver, the network is looking to build a new truck for the 2015 season and will likely work with Game Creek again to design a truck similar to those the mobile-production provider has rolled out over the past few months for the New England Sports Network (NESN) and SportsNet New York (SNY).

“[Game Creek] has done a great job,” he says. ”How do you change a group that’s done an excellent job for you and given you great rates?”

Stiver and the MASN team got the chance to check out both 94 (NESN) and Amazin’ (SNY) this month during spring training. They were impressed, but Stiver says NESN requires a B unit to accommodate an excess of robotics operators and extra graphics stations.

“They are going to build it so it could be a standalone unit [and], during the other parts of the season, they can use it for whatever,” he says. “But, for us, we’re going to have a B unit. Otherwise, it will be like the NESN and SNY trucks. Basically, I’m taking the best of everyone’s world.”

MASN has already begun preparations for its next-generation truck by establishing a new set of fiber circuits (courtesy of The Switch) that will connect the network’s home studios in Silver Spring, MD, to both ballparks. That opens up the file-based workflows now deployed by both NESN and SNY.

The biggest challenge at MASN, though, is simply programming. With two teams and one network, MASN executives have to strike a careful balance to ensure that each team gets fair time on MASNHD and the network’s overflow channel MASN2.

The Orioles and Nationals will each have 94 games air live on MASN, with the Nationals getting an additional 63 games on MASN2 and the Orioles 62 games on MASN2. Six Orioles games and five Nationals games are preliminarily scheduled to air on national networks this season.

The true challenge for the production team lies in when the two clubs play each other, which they will do July 7-10 with two games at Camden Yards followed by two at Nationals Park. MASN will shift from the way it has handled those games in the past, when the network brought in one truck and combined its production and on-air talent teams on a single broadcast. This year, each team will have its own production.

“We’ll bring in two full trucks and the full crews just like it’s a road game for the road team,” says Stiver. “The fans really wanted to hear their own announcers, so we’re going back to each one of them having their own truck, own crew, and own announcers, and treat it like any other game.”