Top-Rated Root Sports Pittsburgh Riding High With Penguins Coverage

With the highest average household rating of any U.S.-based NHL team for five years running, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the gift that keeps on giving for local rightsholder Root Sports Pittsburgh. Helping maintain those ratings, the RSN provides a heavy dose of Root Sports’ signature flavor to its Penguins telecasts. From heavy use of a wireless RF camera in the stands and popular music in the telecast to the placement of analyst Bob Errey between the benches for home games, VP/Executive Producer Doug Johnson and his team inject plenty of Root Sports attitude into its Penguins coverage. 

“Since Root Sports launched in April of 2011, the operating mode has stayed true to the original plan of taking our game broadcasts to a higher level and improving the overall viewer experience,” says Johnson. “Every year, our discussions involve the same questions of what are the next [tech] game-changers and what will make the most impact on our shows.”

Doubling Up on Slo-Mos
This season, Root is experimenting with the addition of a second super-slo-mo system from mobile provider Mobile TV Group (which also provides the 30 HDX unit that Root Pittsburgh has deployed for three years). The original slo-mo is situated at a reverse position; the second, at a low-left handheld position.

“[We want] to see what it can get us close to the ice,” says Johnson. “It will be a great look at the left goal but also provide some great color shots of tight faces.”

The pair of slo-mo systems joins the RSN’s 13-camera complement for its Pens coverage, which also includes a roving RF camera in the stands and three robos, two of which are primarily at the left and right rocker but can be moved to goal lines and center-ice speed positions. The third is a POV camera under the scoreboard and is a shared resource with the in-arena video team.

“[The RF camera] has been a great tool to bring the fans closer to the game and give them an angle they had not seen before,” says Johnson. “It allows us to go places that before were not possible.”

Getting Into the Analytics Game
Also new this year will be the use of Bloomberg Sports (which was acquired by STATS in September) hockey-analytics service within telecasts. Root Pittsburgh began using the platform for its Pirate coverage this past season with much success, according to Johnson.

“The NHL service is a new one,” he says. “And our hopes are that it is a great teaching tool like the MLB version has been.”

In the Truck, In the Booth, Between the Benches
New director Andy Kosco, a 20-year industry vet and 14-year member of the network’s telecasts (in varying roles), will be taking the front bench to use all these new toys.

Meanwhile, Paul Steigerwald and Errey return to the booth, with Errey once again working between the benches for most home games and selected road games.

“It is something we started doing last year, and it has really paid off for our shows,” says Johnson. “We were concerned that having him down there would make it hard for him to see parts of the game, but that has not been the case. He can get a real feel for what’s happening on the ice and the overall mood of both teams. It also allows us to talk to head coach Mike Johnston and a Penguins Player at each game.”