Sports producers and broadcasters were looking to remote live production to help them deliver content more efficiently long before Covid-19 struck. What is remarkable is that producers are using the same technology to raise the game’s production value even while events continue behind-closed-doors. 

That’s the case at Liga Endesa, also known as the ACB, the top flight Spanish professional basketball league. When the 2019-20 season was curtailed in March the tenacity and vision of producer Telefónica Broadcast Services (TBS) enabled the league to deliver an exceptional end-of-season tournament broadcast to millions of fans worldwide on Movistar+.

TBS had produced more than 325 ACB and Eurocup games since the 2018-2019 season using a remote production solution based on Net Insight’s Nimbra MSRs. Feeds are transported over Telefónica connectivity for remote production at TBS’ Madrid hub. That meant that when Covid-19 struck the league was ready to pivot.

However, to keep within safety protocols, the format of the finals changed. A single venue in Valencia became a ‘bubble’ for all teams and staff while it hosted a record 33 matches in 15 days. Confident that the Net Insight remote solution would allow them to strip back the number of crew needing to travel to a bare minimum, TBS went several steps further and doubled the camera coverage.

The aim was to produce a unique ‘Premium Extra’ presentation that would immerse fans across 125 countries in the high-octane action and that would capture the interest of the NBA.

As the Production Director at Movistar+, Pablo Guerenabarrena, explains, “When we analyzed all the circumstances, we knew it was time to opt for remote production and take a quality leap in this type of broadcasting. This type of production allowed us to reduce the equipment shipped, which protects our staff, and produce a large number of matches at a very low cost. The result has been excellent.”

Instead of the seven camera chain of regular season ACB broadcasts, TBS ramped up to 14 Grass Valley systems cameras, including Super Slow Motion, in addition to various ISO signals, such as Instant Replay. A 10 Gb macrolan was installed between Valencia’s ‘Fuente de San Luis’ arena and TBS’s headquarters to meet the bandwidth demands of the project.

In Valencia, TBS deployed two remote units each with Nimbra 640 working in daisy-chain to provide connectivity redundancy, as well as a monitoring system and display. A Nimbra 680 was located in Madrid connected over two macrolan of 1 Gb and 10 Gb. Two additional Nimbra VAs running on a 600 Mbps FTTH and a 4G backpack provided further back-up.

Twelve J2K encoded video signals and 16 VLANs were included in the main 10 Gb circuit. The VLANs carried camera control and control of the video and sound matrix, intercom, control data from ISO-cameras, tallies and management. Each field of the Slow Motion was sent through the Nimbra 640, arriving perfectly synchronized to be recorded in the EVS in Madrid.

All in all, the teams delivered one of the largest remote productions ever made in Spain.

Says Xavi Vázquez, Television Production Director at ACB, “The ACB Finals in Valencia were a challenge due to the number of daily matches and because we had an entirely empty arena to generate a package that was a complete experience for the viewer at home. We sincerely believe that we achieved it with the use of an innovative audiovisual production system that, for first priority, allowed us to comply with national health protocols.”

The business advantage of live remote production is clear. By sending raw camera feeds, audio and equipment control over a digital infrastructure to a central studio, the capital outlay compared to operating costs decreases.

Now the televisual impact of richer production value can also be realized, while reducing costs, and all while the pandemic maintains its grip

“The remote production of the ACB finals has been a highly complex technological challenge,” says Raúl Izquierdo Alía, Gerente de Explotación Técnica (Technical Operations Manager) at TBS (Telefonica Broadcast Services). “Net Insight’s remote production solution allows us to produce more sports content with high quality while keeping the same level of reliability than with OB vans and satellite contribution.”