Turner creates second-screen experience for sports fans

Sports content producers continue to find new and creative ways to reach and expand their fan base. This has become increasingly important as fans appear willing to consume sports content wherever they are and whenever they want.

Turner Studios, in Atlanta, is using the Broadcast Pix Slate 3000 integrated production system to produce a second-screen experience for fans. With the Slate 3000, one person can do the work of three, while serving as the technical director, graphics and video operator.

Accessible via the Web or mobile devices, live webcasts now complement Turner Sports’ live NBA basketball and NASCAR coverage on TNT. While watching the live event, viewers can log on to TNT Overtime on NBA.com (or TNT.tv) or TNT RaceBuddy on NASCAR.com (or TNT.tv) and see additional HD camera views of the live action, as well as timely scores, stats and exclusive interviews. The Slate 3000 system is located within the broadcast TV compound, and its integrated router receives feeds from all of Turner Sports’ HD broadcast cameras covering the live event, as well as unique, dedicated cameras and coverage exclusively for broadband.

Bill Chapman, vice president of creative development/emerging technologies for Turner Studios, called the Slate 3000 a great solution because it lets a single operator control all aspects of the webcasts, as well as up to five simultaneously streamed outputs, all from a single, compact system.

Using the system’s SoftPanel and user-programmed macros, Chapman can work from any location, and he often does.

“Rather than having to resort to a conventional HD production switcher and control room, which would add considerably to the cost and complexity of this cutting-edge Web application, I can direct these multicamera shows from a touch-screen interface, or on my laptop, from virtually any remote location,” Chapman said. “If I decide to work from a remote location, like my office, the network connection to the Slate doesn’t need to be robust because I’m only sending the commands, not a heavy HD video load.”

Two of the four on-screen windows on TNT Overtime feature cameras following specific players, while one of the TNT RaceBuddy windows is a viewer-selected in-car camera. Featured NBA players can change every quarter, while NASCAR drivers can change every 50 laps. The online audience decides which players and drivers they want to see by voting on the TNT Overtime and TNT RaceBuddy sites. The other windows showcase different camera perspectives of the basketball court or racetrack, including unique commentary from courtside or the pit lane.

“The Slate doesn’t just remember switcher moves, it recalls all of the setups you’ve customized for the needs of a particular production, including multiview monitoring, router inputs/outputs and camera and playout settings,” Chapman said.

The system allows him to import all the integrated ads, graphics and other media content for the show from the Internet right into the Slate’s still and clips stores at game time, and then manage them from within the system. All the cameras for this multiscreen presentation can be performed from a touch screen, which also allows him to create lower-third supers and transitional graphics and roll them in at the appropriate times.

In the six NASCAR races so far this year, TNT RaceBuddy drew an average of 492,000 unique visitors per race and delivered a total of 2.4 million live streams. During Game 5 of the 2008/2009 NBA Playoffs, TNT Overtime delivered 768,143 streams and 78,565 unique views, while Game 4 delivered more than 700,000 streams.