By this time next year, Fox Sports Net (FSN), which has 18 regional networks, will produce more than 450 basketball, baseball and hockey games in high-definition—a 60% boost over the past year’s HD output. Randy Freer, FSN COO, discussed FSN’s high-def ambitions with B&C’s Ken Kerschbaumer.
Everyone talks about the lack of an HD business model. Why invest in HD?
Sports tends to drive the adoption of new technology as it relates to video and other areas, so by moving to HD we create more value for our distributors. Delivering HD adds up to a better offering and puts us in a better position in the market.
As more sporting events are done in HD, it increases the demand for HD production trucks. Are there enough trucks available to serve the market?
The lack of hockey last year gave us a chance to refurbish our trucks and build a couple of new ones. It was cost-prohibitive to have two HD trucks at one event, so our 11 trucks now have dual HD and SD feeds so we can cost-effectively do both home and away games.
How do you make those who don’t have HD realize what they’re missing?
They really have to see it. We’ve been working with DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and others on setting up areas where fans can see HD. For example, we’re sponsoring a club with DirecTV at the Key Arena in Seattle that will be an HD environment. We’ll let them see that HD truly makes a difference in the look and coverage of sporting events.
The real issue is affordability of the sets. People don’t just wake up and say 'I’m going to buy a new TV.’ It’s usually something that is done for an occasion, like moving or remodeling. So we need to work with distributors to make sure the HD offering is a positive one without any hurdles.
What is your favorite sport in HD?
It’s one that we don’t have: football. But the clarity of HD across all the telecasts is incredible. It lets the viewer get closer to the action because they can more clearly see faces, eyes and expressions.