MLB Network Sets Sights on (Stateside) Regular Season With Facility Upgrades, New Show

With two widely anticipated Australian games under its belt, more Sports Emmy nominations than ever before, and upgraded facilities in New Jersey and New York, MLB Network is taking 2014 by storm. And it’s not even April yet.

baseball wall“It went really well,” says MLB Network SVP, Operations and Engineering, Susan Stone of the league’s venture Down Under. “There was barely a hiccup considering how far away everything was [and] considering we shipped all of our graphics equipment. It was just a really productive, great partnership with MLB International to make all the technical specifications go so seamlessly.”

New Gear in NJ…
Stateside, MLB Network recently expanded its EVS infrastructure, adding a dozen EVS XT and XS series media-production servers, including multiple XT3 units, at its Secaucus, NJ, headquarters. The digital production workflow is supported by nearly 40 workstations running various applications and gives MLB Network the added flexibility of built-in proxies, live multi-angle review, and 10-gig connectivity.

With the EVS infrastructure expanded beyond the main control room, production personnel can access server content from multiple locations throughout the facility. “As we’re continuing to get more and more busy, [rather than] having to carve out a place in the main control room, now they can use smaller control rooms if they need to,” explains Curt Bose, engineering manager, MLB Network. “We’re in the process of making it a little bit easier for the operators in our main control room to access those facilities as well so they can see what’s being recorded on those machines.”

Over the offseason, MLB Network upgraded its routing capabilities with Miranda Technologies gear, adding more NVISION 8500 Series routers, equipped with fiber-optic connectivity, to its workflow, which was already managed with NVISION routing. The expanded system now includes two NVISION 8576 (576×1152) and one NVISION 8280 (288×576), with fiber tielines. The original NVISION 8576 now serves MLB Network’s operations functions, and the new NVISION 8576 is dedicated to production.

Rounding out the upgrades, MLB Network boosted its switching capabilities by adding two Grass Valley Kayenne switchers with K-Frame. MLB Network worked directly with Grass Valley on development of the product, given the sheer number of inputs and sources the network switches on a daily basis.

“[The upgrades] have been great,” says Bose. “They’ve allowed us to separate systems to give a little more redundancy and also give us room for future growth as we continue to grow.”

…And a New Show in NYC
On MLB Opening Day March 31, MLB Network will launch a brand-new weekday studio program, High Heat With Christopher Russo. The one-hour live program will originate out of a Sirius XM studio in New York City. MLB Network worked with many familiar faces from recent studio build-outs in Secaucus — Clickspring Design, Ferri Lighting Design, blackwalnut — to build out the space. Azzurro Group provided integration of the on-site control room and will manage the fiber network.

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo alongside MLB Networks’ Kristina Akra Fitzpatrick, on the Manhattan set of his new show, "High Heat."

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo alongside MLB Networks’ Kristina Akra Fitzpatrick, on the Manhattan set of his new show, “High Heat.”

MLB expanded the Riedel intercom system in the New York studio for seamless communication within the studio and to Secaucus, where cameras and audio will be fed and the show will be produced.

“[Sirius XM] carved out a spot for us, and we pretty much built a mini facility or mini studio right over here with three fully robotic cameras,” says Bose. “We’ve sent back eight microphones across all camera paths so that we can mix them in New Jersey and break them apart and control them just as if they were down the hall.”

MLB Network Showcase Returns
MLB Network will televise nine games during Opening Week April 1-6, including its first MLB Network Showcase on Friday April 4 at 2:00 p.m. ET featuring the World Series champion Boston Red Sox’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The next day, the 2013 National League champion St. Louis Cardinals will face the Pittsburgh Pirates in a rematch of the 2013 NLDS on Saturday April 5 at 7:00 p.m. MLB Network will begin a new slate of Sunday matinee games for the first half of the season as the Baltimore Orioles travel to Detroit to face the Tigers on April 6 at 1:00 p.m.

MLB Network will launch a new graphics package on its MLB Network Showcase schedule, debuting the new look on next Friday’s game in Boston. “Our graphics department just got nominated for three Emmy Awards; the caliber of the work that creative services does is outstanding,” says Stone. “As always, [the graphics] will be rich and additive and visually interesting.”

Wall-to-Wall Opening Day Coverage
MLB Network’s coverage of Opening Day begins earlier than ever this year, with 17 live hours of studio programming starting at 9:00 a.m. ET on Monday March 31. Lauren Shehadi and Matt Yallof lead off the day alongside Peter Gammons and Al Leiter on The Rundown and set the scene for the day’s 13-game schedule, followed by the one-hour regular-season edition of Intentional Talk with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar live from MLB Network’s Studio 42 at 11:00 a.m.

Following Russo’s new studio show, MLB Network’s flagship program MLB Tonight begins 12 consecutive hours of live look-ins at games in progress, plus news and analysis. Closing out Opening Day is the return of Quick Pitch at 1:00 a.m.

On April 1, MLB Now will debut at 4:00 p.m. with a new look for the 2014 season. Brian Kenny returns to host a one-hour live daily panel discussion that will cover breaking news and the most recent trends in the game, with perspectives from baseball journalists, current and former players and managers, and more.