NESN revamps use of fiber to support all-HD programming

The New England Sports Network (NESN) is changing the way it supports transmission of the production signals between its new 44,000sq ft HD production center in Watertown, MA, with Boston studio facilities at Fenway Park and TD Banknorth Garden, and an uplink facility in Needham.

As the official network of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins, NESN embarked on an ambitious plan to originate all content in HD rather than airing only a few games in this format and broadcasting the remaining events in SD.

To do this, NESN is using Telecast’s Viper I, Viper II and Adder modular fiber optic systems from Telecast to utilize 14mi of leased dark fiber network from RCN to send all communications between its headquarters, sports venues and uplink facility; perform monitoring; and move actual audio and video signals from Red Sox baseball and Boston Bruins hockey games to production facilities in Watertown.

With the new implementation, NESN is able to put three uncompressed HD feeds and a combination of analog and Ethernet feeds, as well as L-Band satellite return monitoring feeds, on redundant RCN fibers. This four-channel and eight-channel optical multiplexing (CWDM) capacity enables the network to use far fewer cross-town fibers for its transmissions, with room for additional channels or signals in the future. Postgame shows and other programming from the linked venues can be controlled from the Watertown facility, with sources coming directly into the network's new control room. Because the HD signal remains uncompressed from capture through production and is compressed only at the satellite uplink, NESN is able to maintain clean, pristine images of the area's most popular sports events.

NESN has also integrated a new HD-capable Viper I portable "Mussel Shell" into its operations. Before every home Red Sox game, the network's camera crew conducts interviews and joins the fan festivities outside Fenway Park. Today these signals connect through the private fiber network all the way back to the new control room for remote production. Previously, network staff had to manage this HD feature from the much smaller and congested control room at Fenway Park.

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