By: Brandon Costa
ESPN, Fox Sports, Univision will deploy at-home model
Entering its 23rd season, Major League Soccer stock is up. The league is welcoming another glitzy new franchise in Los Angeles and striding in off a 2017 campaign that delivered a 4% increase in broadcast-television ratings at a time when many U.S. sports leagues are happy simply treading water.
In 2018, MLS’s national broadcast partners ESPN, Fox Sports, and Univision will look to continue to innovate production as the beautiful game grows its roots domestically. Most notably, MLS matches have become a hotbed for progress in at-home production: the concept of forgoing a full-fledged remote-production truck and instead sending camera and audio feeds directly to a centralized control room, minimizing the need for equipment and personnel at the stadium.
All three broadcasters have at-home models in place and will use them aggressively this season. According to sources at each of the networks, ESPN will produce more than half, Fox about 60%, and Univision all of its matches using a form of this approach.
Here’s a look at how all three U.S. domestic rightsholders plan to approach the 2018 MLS campaign.
Perhaps the most aggressively innovative of all of MLS’s U.S. broadcast partners is its Spanish-language domestic partner, Univision. The network opens its season on Saturday evening when Houston Dynamo hosts Atlanta United (3:30 p.m. ET).
Univision has been a pioneer in the at-home production model in its work with MLS and this year, again, will produce 100% of its match coverage using this method. With a small mobile unit onsite (provided by NEP), the network is able to shoot camera and audio feeds to its sparkling new facilities in Miami, where the final show is produced and distributed.
Of the average 12 cameras that Univision deploys on an MLS match, the highlight may be its Antelope Pico camera, a robotic unit that provides unique views in high resolution and super-slow motion.
New this season to Univision’s coverage will be a fresh graphics package and further use of the network’s “teleport” concept for in-studio shows. The technology allows players, coaches, and other personalities to essentially be teleported into the studio in the form of a hologram and interact with the host. The network plans to use the tech during its first match on Saturday during prematch show La Barra MLS.
“We believe our production standards are among the highest in the industry for MLS games,” says Miguel Angel Garcia, SVP, live event, Univision Deportes. “We are proud of the technology and innovation in terms of coverage that we’re able to deliver fans. It’s easy to do when we work with a progressive league like MLS that is always willing to take risks and innovate with us.”
Source: Sports Video Group