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FOX Sports Unveils New State-of-the-Art Digital Studio

The project took nearly three months to complete and prepare for its debut, and implements emerging technologies to pair with modern consumption trends.

Derek Futterman

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Courtesy: FOX Sports

FOX Sports has unveiled a new state-of-the-art digital studio at its studio lot in Los Angeles, Calif., and it will be the place that showcases a variety of original digital productions. The network revealed the studio on Tuesday with the taping of Flippin’ Bats with Ben Verlander and Alex Curry featuring interviews with National Baseball Hall of Fame members John Smoltz and Cal Ripken Jr. The project took nearly three months to complete and prepare for its debut, and implements emerging technologies to pair with modern consumption trends.

The studio itself is 3000 square feet and contains 360 degrees of shooting space complete with a moving LED floor. In looking at the space, there is clear influence from FOX Sports Studio A, the home of its Major League Baseball and National Football League coverage. FOX will look to refresh the brand of its growing digital portfolio through the space, which includes The Joel Klatt Show, State of the Union and The Skip Bayless Show among other programs.

“It was during the pandemic and we were doing all of digital content out of my garage,” Ricardo Perez-Selsky, senior director of digital production operations for FOX Sports, told Barrett Sports Media. “I had actually built a small control room out of my garage in Santa Monica, and we were facilitating all of our digital shows and FS1 programming out of that garage.”

FOX Sports’ digital department was assigned space on the FOX Sports lot in January 2021, a seminal moment for the growing sector of the company. Today, it is responsible for taping about 30 episodes per week and will now be able to minimize the setup and breakdown time required for production. Moreover, the studio is designed to be easily adapted to produce new programming at a moment’s notice and primarily operates with LED displays. In total, the studio has eight movable LED walls, a movable stage and set furniture designed to be repositioned.

“It really gives us maximum flexibility and versatility so that we can create content that’s going to be different,” Perez-Selsky said, “[and] stop you when you’re scrolling on your timeline. All of this content is obviously going to live on our social channels as well as the FOX Sports app.”

Most of FOX Sports’ digital content is produced at a 16:9 aspect ratio conducive for viewing in a horizontal orientation. Rather than crop and zoom the content for vertical viewing, FOX Sports designed the new studio space with vertical (9:16) content in mind. After all, younger generations are consuming this type of content more regularly than some linear programming as the popularity of streaming continues to grow. In fact, the most recent Gauge Report by Nielsen Media Research demonstrates that streaming encompasses 36.4% of daily television consumption for P2+ and the rise of free ad-supported television platforms (FAST) including FOX Corporation-owned Tubi.

The landscape of sports media contains various programs that utilize remote production, including First Take on ESPN. While there have been advancements in technology that more effectively facilitate these shows, Perez-Selsky believes in the value of in-person production and the chemistry it engenders.

“Nothing is really going to compare to getting people together, but being able to physically interact with your set; physically interact with things on an LED wall or on an LED floor…. That’s what you kind of miss out of these remote-style productions,” Perez-Selsky said. “….If everybody else is doing remote production or Zoom-style shows for whatever reason, that’s another way that our content’s going to be able to cut through.”

The control room within the space has direct access to the company’s video router, which gives the team the ability to view over 2,000 cameras simultaneously. Home run production is also possible through the space, expanding the capabilities of the facility to power remotes and stream graphics.

Furthermore, the space can be fitted to include various producers, associate producers and graphics operators or, conversely, contain one director operating everything themselves. It is a contemporary, modern facility with a wide array of capabilities that those within the company view as an important step to enhancing its content and making it distinct in the saturated media ecosystem.

“I’m very bullish on it,” Perez-Selsky said. “I’m hoping to fill this studio seven days a week [with] multiple shows a day [and] just increase the amount of production – not just on the quantity side, but on the quality side. We’ve grown a lot in three years. Three years ago, producing shows out of my garage and everybody in Zoom boxes, where now being able to have a 360-degree space where, really, the possibilities are endless.”

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Report: TNT Still in Play to Retain NBA Media Rights

The report states that no official offers have been finalized at the moment, hence the lack of having to match an offer.

Barrett Sports Media

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TNT Sports Logo
(Illustration) | TNT Sports Logo – Courtesy: Warner Bros. Discovery | Studio J – Courtesy: Raeford Dwyer Photography

Negotiations for the next round of media rights for the NBA remain ongoing as we await a final resolution. Reports have stated that The Walt Disney Company and Amazon Prime Video have reached the framework of agreements for respective rights packages, presumably leaving one more series of games that could go to the incumbent Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT Sports or Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

If Warner Bros. Discovery were to lose the NBA, there is ambiguity towards provisions surrounding matching rights; however, the company has not yet reached that point, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports. The “B” package would reportedly contain a conference final every other year while the “C” package would reportedly include the in-season tournament, play-in games and early-round playoff series.

TNT Sports, formerly known as Turner Sports, is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, which has had a relationship with the league in various iterations since the 1984-85 season. Although TNT Sports president and chief executive officer Luis Silberwasser stated at the company’s Upfront event last week that it was looking forward to next season and reaching an agreement that makes sense for all parties, it reportedly may need to pay more for less inventory. NBCUniversal is reportedly set to bid $2.5 billion a year for NBA rights, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, which would more than double the reported $1.2 billion paid annually by Warner Bros. Discovery.

The report states that no official offers have been finalized at the moment, hence the lack of having to match an offer. Alex Sherman of CNBC reported that potential litigation could take place if Warner Bros. Discovery matches but the league decides to accept NBCUniversal’s deal. Charles Barkley, studio analyst for Inside the NBA, has expressed on numerous occasions that the negotiations are stressful and that there is uncertainty surrounding the result. Barkley, along with his colleagues Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, all reportedly have opt-out clauses in their contracts should Warner Bros. Discovery lose broadcasting rights to the NBA.

TNT will be the broadcast home of the Western Conference Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves beginning on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. EST. Kevin Harlan, Stan Van Gundy, Reggie Miller and Allie LaForce will be on the call, while the Inside the NBA crew will provide pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. Golden State Warriors forward and four-time NBA champion Draymond Green will join the show throughout the series as well, first reported by Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch.

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TNT Sports Draws Its Largest Early Round NBA Playoff Audience Ever

The game delivered 8.41 million viewers across TNT and truTV.

Barrett Sports Media

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TNT Sports Logo (2024 Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront)
Courtesy: Derek Futterman, Barrett Sports Media

This past weekend, TNT Sports had one of the best sporting events you can have, a Game 7. The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Denver Nuggets were tied at three games apiece in their second round NBA playoff matchup and with superstars Anthony Edwards and Nikola Jokic and a Sunday night primetime slot, it was set up to do a big number. According to Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch the game delivered 8.41 million viewers across TNT and truTV making it the most viewed first or second round playoff game ever to air on TNT.

Lewis reports the previous high for TNT was an Orlando Magic-Boston Celtics Game 7 in 2009, but also notes out-of-home viewing was not being tracked back then so it isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. He said the game had the fourth-largest audience for an opening or second round game since 2012 on any network.

The Pacers and the Knicks also played a Game 7 which went on while the final round of the PGA Championship was happening and brought in 6.45 million viewers on ABC.

Overall, Lewis shared the NBA playoffs are averaging 3.77 million viewers, which includes games on ABC, ESPN, TNT, truTV, and NBA TV. That number represents a decrease of 11% in viewership from a year ago.

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Stephen A. Smith’s ‘Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media’ Now Out on ESPN+

“We’re diving deep into the heart of the game, breaking down barriers and showcasing the evolution of sports discourse.”

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Graphic for an ESPN+ Original Series, Up for Debate
Courtesy: ESPN

The new three-part ESPN+ Original Series, ‘Up For Debate: The Evolution of Sports Media,’ debuted earlier today. Viewers can now stream the series on ESPN+, which delves into the history of sports talk debate programming over the past seven decades– from Howard Cosell to Stephen A. Smith to Cam’Ron– and examines how this type of sports discourse has evolved and reached its current state, as well as what the future may hold for it.

“We’re diving deep into the heart of the game, breaking down barriers and showcasing the evolution of sports discourse,” said Executive Producer Stephen A. Smith in a release. “From the legends who paved the way to the current Kings and Queens of the mic, we’re bringing you a front-row seat to the passion and intensity that fuel debates in today’s generation of sports. So buckle up! Here we come.”

Religion of Sports’ Gotham Chopra, also an Executive Producer on the series stated, “We’re thrilled to partner with Stephen A. Smith, a pioneer and undisputed legend in the world of sports talk, on this entertaining and fascinating series. Highlighting both the evolution of sports media and a wide range of beloved personalities, we know that fans of sports, media, and passionate debate are going to love it.”

Several sports personalities are featured in the series including Troy Aikman, Mina Kimes, Molly Qerim, Shannon Sharpe, Michael Wilbon, Hannah Storm, Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, Jemele Hill, Bomani Jones, Cari Champion, and Cam’Ron, and others.

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