MLB on TBS’s Sunday-afternoon slate returns for a fifth consecutive season, leading off with an AL East showdown between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The exclusive home of all four MLB Division Series and the American League Championship Series, TBS will showcase 26 regular-season matchups, one played every Sunday afternoon from April 8 through Sept. 30.
“We are excited about our first eight games [with] the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox on three times and also a rematch of last year’s ALCS in the third week, Texas at Detroit on April 22,” says Glenn Diamond, senior coordinating producer, MLB on TBS. “We’re also excited for our returning announcers: Eck [Dennis Eckersley] and John [Smoltz]; play-by-play this year will be Ernie Johnson, Brian Anderson, and Dick Stockton. Along with Eck and John, Ron Darling and David Wells will also be with us as analysts.”
Behind the scenes, Turner Sports’ baseball coverage will be almost entirely file-based. The network will use an EVS server integrated with Dalet Digital Media Systems technology, which was installed for Turner Sports’ NBA coverage this season.
MLB on TBS Goes Widescreen
After introducing the 16:9 aspect ratio in last year’s postseason coverage, Turner Sports will broadcast every game in HD widescreen and use the letterbox for standard-definition consumers.
“We’re making use of all the screen real estate, not having to protect for the 4:3,” says Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “Viewers [with HD TVs] are not getting shortchanged by [our] having to frame for 4:3; they’re getting the full experience.”
The network will also roll out the graphics package introduced during last year’s postseason and continue to use Sportvision’s PitchTrax virtual-strike-zone technology. Umpires will again wear wireless microphones.
As evidenced by the widescreen format and new graphics, Turner Sports generally saves its innovations for the postseason.
“We might try things here and there, but there’s nothing that I can really say that we’ve committed to,” says Sahara. “Not a lot of splash, but again, [MLB on TBS] is a premier property that we continue to support with a top level of our production crews and resources with our trucks.”
Because Turner Sports does not have exclusive rights to its Sunday-afternoon games, the network must find room for its truck and nine-camera setup amid the home and away broadcast teams.
“Since there are three telecasts each Sunday, we will try to move our cameras around and look for different angles as we go along,” says Diamond. “It is just a little more difficult when there are three telecasts — the visitor, the home, and us — going on all at once. But we are continuously trying find new things.”
According to Sahara, forging relationships with the various clubs and broadcasters is key. As is having an abundance of patience.
“We’ve had very few times where we’ve had any conflicts,” says Sahara. “Sometimes, we exchange cameras where we might have a camera that they want. There’s always a way of working it out with [the other broadcasters]: a lot of one-on-one discussions between producers [asking], How do we each get the shows that we want [while] having to work within the constraints of each of the stadiums?”
Planning for Postseason
Turner Sports’ schedule currently extends to the end of May; the network plans to announce future games coinciding with its selection windows. In October, the network will again provide exclusive coverage of all four Divisional Series and the American League Championship Series.
For Sahara, it’s never too early to start thinking about postseason baseball.
“We’ve already started. That’s just the nature of the business, with the competing schedules overlapping between professional sports and college sports,” he explains. “We have to stay far ahead because of limited resources, trucks, and crews, so we try to stay a few months ahead. Anything as intensive as the postseason, we have to start that very early.”