Tournament Veteran SMT Adapts to CBS-Turner Twist
Now in its 13th year of providing graphics and data services for CBS Sports’ NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament coverage, SMT (SportsMEDIA Technology Corp.) is well-versed in the Madness that is March. But this year’s tournament is a very different animal, since SMT technology must feed live scores and statistics to two sportscasters, CBS Sports and Turner Sports, instead of just one. However, SMT’s long-standing relationships with both CBS and Turner have alleviated potential growing pains.
"We already had two very distinct systems in place," says Don Tupper, VP of business development for SMT. "We have always supported CBS during the tournament, and we’ve always supported Turner for their NBA coverage. From our perspective, there were two separate infrastructures in place, and we just modified what we already had in place with Turner to accept all the NCAA Tournament data."
Driving the Data to Four Networks
SMT's technology synchronizes clock, score, and statistics and drives the data to the tournament graphics package for CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV. Its Autograph Clock and Score System captures clock data from scoreboards during the games. Data Matrix (DMX) Switchboard integrates the clock feeds and real-time in-game statistics with season and career statistics. DMX Switchboard instantly publishes this information for use by the CBS-Turner graphics system and by on-air talent both at venues around the country and at the CBS and Turner studios in New York and Atlanta.
SMT's Data Operations Center (DOC) in Durham, NC, serves as the centralized hub where scores and statistics from each tournament game are integrated in real time. The DOC has been outfitted with three levels of redundancy to ensure that game clock and score information is available at all times.
"It's been a very seamless transition," says Tupper. "We've been doing the tournament for so long on CBS that it's almost like breathing for us. We have had very few, if any, issues in the studios or on the remotes. It has been a very unified and cooperative approach between [CBS and Turner], and we haven't seen any kind of leadership battle. That has made them great to work with as a vendor."
Catering to the Talent
In an effort to make Turner's on-air talent more comfortable, SMT built out a game-score display system at the Atlanta studio that was similar to Turner's NBA system. This allowed the talent to see an up-to-date scoreboard on their personal monitor that was nearly identical to the NBA scoreboard normally used. However, a last-minute wrench was thrown into these efforts with CBS and Turner's decision to interchange talent between New York and Atlanta.
"All of a sudden, the CBS personnel were in the Turner studio looking at a layout that was built specifically for the Turner people," says John Dengler, VP of technology for SMT. "At that point, we added some CBS display-presentation clients at the Turner Studio and [Turner clients at the CBS studio] so that they could see what they're used to seeing."
Tests, Tests, More Tests
Leading up the tournament, CBS and Turner conducted three live simulations during regular-season college basketball games (in early January, mid February, and late February) to test out both the new partnership and the new SMT system.
"We knew where the potential pitfalls were well ahead of getting to the opening round of the tournament because of these tests," says Tupper. "I thought that investment by CBS and Turner paid off in spades because, once you start to multiply this out to eight sites, it's a completely different ballgame. You can't allow one site to change something without its having a ripple effect on another site."
On Hand at CBS College
SMT is also providing a variety of services and technology to CBS College Sports Network's tournament coverage. CBS College is not permitted to show live video of a game that's under way (although the network is re-airing games). As a result, the network is catering to the hardcore fan, diving deeper into each matchup with detailed statistics, analysis, and press-conference coverage.
SMT services include integration of real-time clocks and statistics with the network's Chyron CG system, the ticker, and the GOTO Board. Driven by SMT technology, the GOTO Board is a massive touchscreen that displays live game statistics instantaneously and allows on-air talent to interact with the tournament brackets.
"During the games, CBS College sees itself as the destination of the serious fan," says Tupper. "During their [studio programming], they have a full scoreboard on the right side of the screen with all of the active games going on with a network ID. The real-time clocks and scores from those games are being generated through our system. Combine that with the GOTO application, and it allows them to do 12 hours of live programming with no actual game video."