NBC Sports Ready for Slate of Upcoming Championship Events

NBC Sports is shifting into championship-season mode, offering more than 15 hours of coverage from Churchill Downs this weekend. Later this afternoon, NBC Sports Network will broadcast the Kentucky Oaks, and then, tomorrow, the Kentucky Derby takes center stage at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET.

“This is the beginning of our championship season, as we have nine championships coming up,” says Ken Goss, SVP of remote operations and production planning, NBC Sports. Highlighting that slate are the other two Triple Crown races, the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, the final day of the English Premier League, the Players and U.S. Open golf championships, the French Open tennis tournament, and the Tour de France.

From left: NEP’s John Roché and NBC Sports’ Ken Goss and Tim DeKime

From left: NEP’s John Roché and NBC Sports’ Ken Goss and Tim DeKime

NEP’s ND3 (A, B, C, and D units) and SS24 (A, B, and C) are completing a triple crown of their own, marking their third consecutive year at the center of NBC Sports coverage on NBC and the NBC Sports Network (next year, NEP’s ND1, which will hit the road in August, will replace ND3 as the main unit). Also, as in previous years, BSI will provide RF mic and camera coverage, and CP Communications will work in a support role.

Overall, 260 NBC staffers and freelancers are on-site managing 13 announcers/reporters and making sure that images and sound captured by 52 cameras and more than 25 mics not only travel through properly more than 100,000 ft. of cable but also make their way to 16 EVS servers and a front-bench production area featuring a Sony MVS800A production switcher.

The big story, literally, at Churchill Downs is the massive 4K Panasonic videoboard that dominates the skyline, with 171-ft.-wide by 80-ft.-tall physical presence on the backstretch. And Tim DeKime, director of sports operations, NBC Sports, is capitalizing on that vantage point via a robotic camera from Fletcher.

“We would have had a manned camera position up there, but the logistics didn’t work out,” says DeKime. “We will have the time to plan for that for next year.”

NEP Technical Manager John Roché notes that the position on the videoboard is 50 ft. taller than the camera crane in turn two.

“This show is definitely the Super Bowl of horseracing. It is twice the size of the other Triple Crown races,” he explains, “but, if the Belmont is a race for the Triple Crown, that show will grow.”

The other big change from last year is that the Chyron Mosaic graphics platform has replaced the Duet. Goss says the faster processors make a difference.

DeKime adds that the production team in Sochi realized the advantages of processors. “We arranged to have them here after that.”

Last year, the shared vision of Churchill Downs and NBC Sports’ successful ‘Big Event Strategy’ to assemble the broadest-possible audience led to the 2013 Kentucky Derby’s becoming the second-most-watched in a quarter century, with 16.2 million viewers. And women composed 51% of that audience, the highest percentage of female viewership for any major sports event in 2013. The goal is to continue to build on that momentum, and, with a horse like California Chrome once again heading into the Belmont Stakes on June 7, to plan a massive show to capitalize on the potential for the sport’s first Triple Crown winner since 1978.