MLB Network Leverages Full Studio Capabilities for Robust MLB Draft Coverage

Multiple sets and a sea of managed content filled out the production

Draft coverage of the major North American sports have come quite a long way. Just look at the festival that the MLB Draft has grown into over the past decade-plus.

You wouldn’t have to turn back the clock too far to return to a time when MLB clubs selected college and high school players through a conference call resembling more a mundane corporate meeting than a television spectacular. Last night, MLB Network, again, showed how fantastic a show it can put on for this event.

A studio set and 13 cameras covered the MLB Draft from MLB Network’s Studio 42.

For nearly six hours, MLB Network offered wall-to-wall live coverage of the MLB Draft on linear (the first round) and on MLB.com (the second round). Anyone who has worked a Draft knows that it takes a significant amount of prep work and requires a lengthy asset-management plan to ensure that content is prepared for any possible draft scenario. Fortunately, the growth of video technology has helped make the process of acquiring content from around the country more efficient and effective.

“When I first started doing the Draft, there was a lot of grandma’s cellphone: very grainy and in SD,” says Marc Weiner, a coordinating producer for MLB Network who worked his sixth consecutive Draft last night. “As we have gone on, the colleges have these great networks, and their technology is better, but it was always [for] high school players that we struggled over the years trying to find good video. Now everything’s HD. Even grandma’s cellphone is good quality now, so that has allowed us to get more video and get it to our analysts so that they can really dig into it.”

Producers Dan Presser (left) and Marc Weiner played critical roles in the planning of MLB Network’s coverage of the MLB Draft.

The live production — which began with a pre-event show at 6 p.m. ET before the Draft itself kicked off at 7 p.m. — originated from the PC-1 control room in MLB Network’s Secaucus, NJ, facility. The show used two of the network’s biggest studio sets — Studio 42 and Studio 21. All the selections were made by Commissioner Rob Manfred before an audience of 30 team reps, players, family, and reporters in Studio 42.

Studio 21, which is in a neighboring building, is the network’s newest studio and home to regular programming MLB Now and Intentional Talk. It features an array of tech enhancements, including large, crisp displays.

“It gives us another great place to go to [during the show], says Susan Stone, SVP, operations and engineering, MLB Network. “We can be more expansive and take full advantage of our resources and give [this show] its due. Different studios have different feels to them, and [Studio] 21 is a very technology-focused studio with all of the LED there, and we can showcase all of our work on the analytics side of things.”

MLB Network’s coverage of the MLB Draft soldiered on for over five hours and continued on to MLB.com until after midnight.

A critical factor to the success of MLB Network’s coverage of the Draft is connectivity to numerous locations around the country, including team war rooms and the homes of highly rated high school prospects to obtain their reactions when they are selected and interview them afterwards. The network has video connectivity to most of the war rooms, but it’s on a case-by-case basis whether they choose to grant the network access. The Minnesota Twins, for example, were a team that traditionally has not granted camera access to their war room, but, with the team holding the first overall pick, they allowed access.

In addition, four MLB Network video crews were sent to the college campuses or homes of draft prospects around the country and connected to Secaucus via Dejero technology. In fact, one crew working Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final for NHL Network on Sunday night was asked to stay in Nashville and hop over to the campus of Vanderbilt on Monday to embed with pitcher Kyle Wright and outfielder Jeren Kendall.

Following the First Round and the Competitive Balance Round, the Draft continued on MLB.com for Round Two, but the production remained the same from inside PC-1. This marked the first time since 2009 that MLB.com carried the Second Round as a streaming program. That year, the production flipped over to the MLB Advanced Media staff with its own workflow and plan. That’s no longer the case: the various branches of Major League Baseball have come together in a more unified way.

Says Stone, “It really illustrates how far we have come in our partnership and our collaboration where now we see ourselves as more of one unit together.”