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NBC Sports Group Assembles Production Army to Cover U.S. Motorsports

NEW YORK—This year marks the first time that the NBC Sports Group will hold the broadcast rights to NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula 1. “Does this mean that we intend to own U.S. motorsports on TV?” said Ken Goss, senior vice president of Remote Operations & Production Planning for NBC Sports, NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel. “The answer is an absolute yes!”

NBCSG will begin its coverage of NASCAR with the July 5, 2015 Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway. Photo credit: Larry McTighe

To cover all three of these motorsports, NBCSG has assembled a veritable army of mobile production vehicles and equipment. “When you see the sheer volume of the resources we’ve amassed to cover the 2015 motorsports season, it is awe-inspiring,” said Rich Assenzio, senior director of Remote Operations and Production Planning for NBC Sports and NBCSN.

“In regards to motorsports, this is the biggest operation we have done,” echoed Rich O'Connor, NBS Sports Groups’ producer for IndyCar and F1. “It's an even bigger production plan on the NASCAR side than what we did when we had NASCAR rights from 2001-2006.”

BY THE NUMBERS

NBCSG is deploying 16 mobile production units to cover 51 NASCAR, IndyCar and F1 races in 2015. The triple-threat race coverage will require 172 broadcast, robo- and in-car cameras: 55 for NASCAR, 34 for IndyCar and 83 for F1. Fifty miles of camera cable will be required to connect these units back to their respective mobiles.

That`s not all: NBCSG`s staff will travel 11,804 miles to cover these events, using 368 microphones and 26 miles of microphone cable to do the job. In total, NBCSG`s production crew will travel 90,921 miles to cover NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, IndyCar and F1 races in 2015, equivalent to circling the Earth at the equator 3.6 times.

THE BIG NASCAR PUSH

Thanks to its existing IndyCar and F1 contracts, NBCSG already had 11 mobile production trucks and structures on tap to cover these races, with IMS Productions and Formula One Management respectively.

To add NASCAR to the roster, starting with the July 5, 2015 Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway, “we hired Game Creek to build five new mobiles,” said Goss. “Collectively, these mobiles can do the full range of production tasks, plus host the pre-and-post-game shows.”

In a comment that signals how far 4K has progressed in gaining acceptance among broadcasts, “these mobiles will move beyond traditional HD to also provide high frame rates with some of our cameras,” said Assenzio. “This is why we have adopted the latest 4K cameras in the form of Sony HDC-4300s, in place of the HDC-2500s HD cameras that are widely used today. The 4300s offer variable frame rates. We want to be ready if and when 4K becomes popular during our ten-year contract with NASCAR.”

The leading-edge doesn’t stop there. NBCSG’s Game Creek mobiles will be equipped with the latest in mobile production equipment including Grass Valley Kayenne video switchers, Power audio mixers, EVS XT3 six/eight channel video servers, and ChyronHego Mosiac graphics engines. “We will also be using the latest Robovision Robo cameras and Broadcast Sports’ in-car wireless cameras,” Assenzio said.

LIVING WITH 200 MBPS

During its coverage of the 2014-2015 NFL season, NBCSG’s remote production teams typically had access to 500 Mbps of data bandwidth on the fiber-optic links between the stadiums and NBCSG’s production headquarters in Stamford, Conn. “For NASCAR, it appears that the best we can expect is 200 Mbps at the various racetracks,” said Darryl Jefferson, vice president of Post Operations and Digital Workflow for NBC Sports and Olympic.

Still, this is enough bandwidth to allow NBCSG to keep some of its graphics staff back in Stamford, where they can produce and ship graphics by fiber. “It saves us money to not have to fly everyone out to location,” said Jefferson. “Meanwhile, the 4-6 times faster-than-real-time video file transfers that we do will allow us to get key clips from the game for assembly into highlights packages in Stamford, rather than having to dispatch editors to the racetrack to produce them.”

On the streaming side, NBCSG will offer web viewers access to the main broadcast feed, plus feeds from a number of iso cameras. “The home screen will feature a mosaic of the shots, with the user being able to click on the one he wants for a full-screen view,” Jefferson said.

Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett on set at NBC Sports Group's International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn.

AIMING AT MOTORSPORTS DOMINATION

Adding NACSAR to its IndyCar/F1 roster gives NBCSG an opportunity to dominate and own U.S. motorsports TV viewing. And they know it. This is why the schedule has been crafted to keep viewers tuned in as NBCSG goes from one form of racing to another. “Some of our people will be jumping into their cars to get from F1 duty in Stamford during the morning to onsite NASCAR coverage the same afternoon,” said Goss. “But the effort will be worth it: In 2015, NBC will be the place for U.S. motorsports fans to get their fill of NASCAR, IndyCar and F1 racing.”

“Intertwining all three series, and following them through to the championship, is incredibly exciting,” added O’Connor. “There are individual niche fans in all three series, and by the end of the year, we want them reaching out and touching all three series, and being a fan of all three.”