The regional sports network with the largest reach is now enhancing its telecasts from a state-of-the-art production center and studio.
After a six-month renovation, Fox Sports South unveiled a new state-of-the-art facility at its Colony Square location in midtown Atlanta last month. There, the RSN is currently producing pre- and post-game shows and other flanking programming for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, as well as college sports fare that airs on other Fox networks is syndicated to other RSNs.
The 1,800-square-foot studio is one of the most technologically advanced for an RSN, utilizing Viz Multiplay from Vizrt that provides the production team with a simple, flexible way to control content across multiple studio screens from a single interface.
“This is not used widely on the regional level,” said Fox Sports South senior vice president and general manager Jeff Genthner, who leads the service that counts 13 million subscribers in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
The studio also sports a modern, broadcast network look. “We were lucky to have Gary Hartley work with us,” he said, referring to Fox Sports Media Group executive vice president and creative director, the man responsible for designing the NFL on Fox studio set and Fox Sports robot.
“With the studio renovation, our intention was to create a sense of ‘place’ for the fan,” said Hartley. “We hope they feel that this is their home - for their teams - and that the studio feels comfortable and approachable.”
The process began last May, when Genthner said the facility was “put off line and personnel relocated throughout the building.” It also meant that the RSN wielded an upgraded truck, as Atlanta Braves games and related fare all were produced remotely through the end of the 2014 MLB season.
With construction and the updrades completed, the studio reopened in mid-October, with fresh editions of The New College Football Show and ACC Gridiron Live!
“It’s all been great right out of the box,” said Genthner. “There haven’t been any hiccups.”
The main studio now showcases 10 monitors: five large screens behind the desk, which is flanked by a pair on either side, and one within the central structure (pictured, above).
The facility also provides versatility, with separate studios featuring sport-appropriate designs where discussions and demonstrations surroud basketball (court), football (field) and baseball (diamond).
Genthner said Fox Sports South is contemplating a hockey addition. Presently, flanking fare for the network’s pro hockey clubs,’ the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes, is being produced on-site and from the road.
There is also “a conversation deck,” where players and team executives engage in front of an appropriate plexiglass backdrop, say for Hawks’ baseball, or the Fox Sports globe (pictured, right).
Genthner said all of Fox Sport South’s major “customers” demand high-level productions.
“With the high-definition format and digital signals, viewers expect a network quality experience from regional sports networks,” he said. “Our MPVD partners want us to providing high-quality, high-production value throughout the week, and sponsors want to run their commercials from top-level programming."
As for teams, Genthner said there are three options: “They can go elsewhere, or start their own network, or they can renew. You certainly want them to return. We want to provide great presentations for all of our constituents.
A fifth group is also benefiting from the upgraded facilities. As mentioned earlier, the first shows produced from new studio in mid-October The New College Football Show and ACC Gridiron LIVE!, run on other Fox RSNs or are syndicated to other sports networks like MSG Plus.
“By running the shows across the RSN and selling to others, we’re generating revenues. That helps justify the investment," which Genthner put in the “multiples of million dollars.”
FS South is also considering adding weekly ACC basketball show. “It’s on the chalkboard,” he said.
It’s all a far cry from when Fox Sports South bowed in 2005 with 25 Braves games. Today, the network holds the rights to all of the MLB squad’s regional games.
Last month, Fox Sports South renewed a long-term deal with the Hawks. Genthner also said the RSN has a long-term pact in place with the ACC, and signed the Hurricanes and Predators to new deals over the past two or three years. For their part, the Grizzlies and Hornets are in the Fox camp several more seasons.
“We’re in good shape from a rights’ perspective,” he said.
Fox Sports South is also in a good Nielsen place with its pro hockey and basketball teams early in their 2014-15 campaigns.
After 14 games on spinoff Fox Sports Tennessee, Predators’ ratings have surged 88% in the Nashville DMA from the corresponding span last season.
On the hardwood, Hawks’ ratings on Sports South were up 30% in the Atlanta area through the first 10 telecasts, while Hornets ratings rose 50% through 15 games in the Charlotte DMA.
As for the Grizzlies, the holder of the NBA’s best record, the Marc Gasol-led club has generated ratings of 4.2 better in three of its last four games in Memphis.
Key Specs for Fox Sports South Revamped Studio Facility in Atlanta
Over 1,800 square feet
Production Floor (four sections):
Demonstration area with multiple floors
Hardwood basketball floor
Seated interview area
Green screen wall
Monitors: 11 total
Five 75-inch monitors and two stacked columns with two 55-inch monitors each surrounding the news desk that are all controlled by the Viz Multiplay system
One 46-inch monitor in the seated interview area
One 55-inch monitor in the anchor desk for interchangeable program titles and presenting sponsor branding
Four Ikegami news cameras; three on pedestals and one on a jib
State-of-the-art, four-person desk modeled after the Fox Super Bowl and Fox World Series desks – the first of its kind for a Fox Sports regional network
Interchangeable LED lighting for consistent team branding and colors
The all LED lighting reduces room heating load leading to decreased cooling needs and less electricity usage, bringing significant cost savings in the long term
Fox Sports South is the first regional studio among the Fox Sports Regional Networks to use all LED lighting
Texolve, Oakmont, PA – Systems Integrator
Tishman Speyer, Atlanta – Building Management
Turner Construction Company, Atlanta – Construction/Contractor
Source: Fox Sports South