HEAT Group Lights Fire Under Miami’s Playoff Run With Live Streaming
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 12:30 pm

When Miami HEAT RSN partner, Sun Sports, finished its TV-coverage commitment following the team’s Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, many South Florida fans were left without HEAT-focused shoulder programming for the remainder of the postseason. However, thanks to some quick thinking by team production arm HEAT Group and a NewTek TriCaster supplied by the NBA, HEAT fans around the world have enjoyed live pregame, halftime, and postgame programming for every playoff game since via HEATV on HEAT.com.

“A few days before the playoffs began, we decided internally that we would try an experiment: creating a Webcast using our talent that have been following the team all year,” says Ed Filomia, senior director, broadcast services, The HEAT Group. “We have produced the same show that you would have seen on our regional network partner, but we are producing it exclusively for HEAT.com.”

Broadcast Quality on the Web
Filomia and company have produced HEATV Webcasts for every second-round game and Eastern Conference Final from the “Today show-style” studio at AmericanAirlines Arena that Sun Sports uses for its HEAT telecasts. The Webcasts also feature the same talent as Sun Sports, including host Jason Jackson, play-by-play man Eric Reid, and color analyst Tony Fiorentino (all Miami HEAT employees).

HEATV on HEAT.com features a 45-minute pregame show, a 15- to 20-minute halftime segment, and an hour-plus postgame show for both home and away games. The live streams also incorporate ad breaks for sponsors.

“The show has all the things you would see in a typical pre- or post-game show, but all the elements are being produced internally by full-time HEAT employees,” says Filomia. “We’re doing features, covering practices, and conducting interviews, and providing a lot more content. Our coverage is parallel to that of the networks.”

A Studio Without a Control Room
When the local NBC affiliate declined to renew its lease for the studio at AmericanAirlines Arena after last season, the HEATV in-house broadcast-production team took it over. And while the glass-backed studio looks impressive on the surface, its control room is still a work in progress.

“The [control room] for that studio is basically at the bare-bones minimum right now. We have an A/V system that can take in feeds, but it’s far from a completed control room.” says Filomia. “We are planning to have it launched in time for the start of next season. But, for these [Webcasts], we basically created a little control room on our own using the TriCaster.”

Although Sun Sports uses the space to shoot its shoulder programming, the RSN brings in its own cameras, SMPTE fiber and triax cabling, and production truck for these telecasts, eliminating the need for a control room. The HEAT Group, however, has been unable to produce programming out of the studio without a fully functional control room. Enter the TriCaster.

“By using the TriCaster and our in-house resources — cameras, SMPTE fiber, engineers — we created a low-cost production with broadcast quality,” says Filomia. “The only thing we rented was the TriCaster, which we got directly from the league since they use TriCasters for the [NBA Development League]. Aside from some minor equipment from Bexel — intercoms, for example — it is all our own gear and our own people.”

On the Road
The HEAT Group’s efforts are not limited to AmericanAirlines Arena, however. The group has sent a four-person team (one talent, three crew) to both Boston and Chicago to deliver live on-site reports during both series. The crew produces pregame reports at center court as well as halftime interviews and postgame reports from outside the HEAT locker room.

Any video sent back to Miami during the day (up to an hour before game time) is transmitted via the NBA’s venue-to-venue fiber network; the pregame and postgame shows are delivered on Level 3’s Vyvx CDN.

For live interviews during the game and at halftime, The HEAT Group uses Teradek’s Cubelet encoder-decoder transport setup. The camera-top encoding system delivers an HD-SDI signal over an open Ethernet or WiFi connection to Miami, where a Cube decoder receives it.

“It’s a very cool toy, and we were very happy with it, but the issue is bandwidth,” says Filomia. “Right now, I have not been able to get the 4-6 Mbps that I need at the venue to deliver HD. I’m only getting 2-2.5 Mbps, so we had to scale it down to SD. Someday, we will hopefully tap into some 4G networks, but, until then, we can only do SD. But it came across perfectly, and, because it is an Internet show, we were able to get away with it.”

Big Traffic Opens the Door to Bright Future
If the numbers during the Eastern Conference semis and finals are any indicator, HEATV on HEAT.com has been an overwhelming success. During the series-clinching Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, the live page logged 75,000 streams. That traffic has continued to skyrocket ever since, with HEATV posting 90,000 streams during Game 2 against the Bulls and 114,000 during Game 3 on Sunday night.

“It’s very exciting for us to be able to tap into the kind of medium, and it’s really starting to catch on,” says Filomia. “This opens up a brand-new door for us. We now know that we can produce our own original programming and we can stream it — all while handling it ourselves. If we are lucky enough to move onto the Finals, I think we’re going to have some great momentum.”

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