Brady, Mahomes and a pandemic: How a Durham company is preparing for Super Bowl LV

By Lauren Ohnesorge, Senior Staff Writer, Triangle Business Journal

On Super Bowl Sunday in Tampa, dueling quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes won't be the only ones under the spotlight.

The pressure is on a Durham technology firm to perform in front of millions of viewers. Once again, SMT (formerly SportsMedia Technology) takes center stage. But this time, a pandemic is elevating the stakes, even before Sunday's kickoff.

SMT, whose technology highlights the line of scrimmage and first down line for TV viewers watching live football games, has a wide variety of technologies supporting this year’s Super Bowl. Its virtual graphic enhancements will be available on seven CBS game cameras. SMT’s “Camera Tracker” technology is being deployed on two SkyCams. When TV viewers see onscreen graphics such as the first down line, the virtual play clock and the kick distance – it will be because of SMT’s handiwork.

Lee Brinson vice president of client services, is among those leading the effort for SMT’s Super Bowl response. And while SMT has worked plenty of Super Bowls, the pandemic makes this one different.

“We’ve been limited by the amount of people we’re able to put on site" at Raymond James Stadium, he said. “And we’re limited by the in-person meetings to discuss it.”

Virtually all the planning has been done through video conferencing calls. But the biggest change is what happens on the ground. The site has strict Covid protocols, from testing to social distancing.

“When you travel in, you take a Covid test, then you have a Covid rest day, and you’re tested throughout the week,” Brinson said. “They put backup protocols in place so that, if someone tests positive, there’s a relief pitcher, if you will.”

SMT does have one advantage: it deploys its technology in multiple sporting events – from golf to basketball to football. It has an internal process that mirrors what’s happening in the stadium, said Patricia Hopkins, SMT’s corporate vice president of marketing. So far, SMT has not had any incidents where Covid has disrupted a game day, Hopkins said.

This weekend, seven SMT employees will be on the ground in Tampa, with the rest of the support happening remotely from a Durham studio. For Super Bowl LV, SMT will be supporting an entirely new graphics package CBS is deploying for the game.

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