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How to broadcast a game in Japan all the way from Seattle

Mar 29, 2012, 4:30 PM EDT

old TV

It was kind of lame that no national network wanted to broadcast the A’s-Mariners series in Japan.  That left it up to Root Sports in Seattle to broadcast it.  Except:

The Seattle crew quickly determined it would be too costly to send announcers and support staff to Japan to broadcast the games in person, with a total cost 2 1/2 times greater than a typical road game broadcast in in the United States, according to Randy Adamack, Mariners vice president of communications.

So they made arrangements with NTV to transmit the signal via transoceanic fiber-optic cable to the studio in a Seattle suburb about 15 miles from Safeco Field.

I was aware that the announcers were back in Seattle when I was watching the games the last two mornings, but it really didn’t matter. Indeed, it wasn’t even noticeable apart from their own comments about it being 3AM where they were.  And until I read it in this article, I hadn’t missed the couple of types of observations that they weren’t able to make such as how big a lead a runner was taking or how the outfield was shaded.

Anyway, a neat look at what they did in order for us to have a TV broadcast of these games at all.

  1. sknut - Mar 29, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    You would think that MLB would be able to help out with some of the costs since it was their idea to play these games in Japan and what not. I am glad it worked out though, it will be interesting to see if other teams follow this in the future.

  2. cktai - Mar 29, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    The Ichi-meter lady could afford to go to Japan. Allowing the broadcasters to go to Japan would have added about 4% extra cost to the entire away-game budget. Seems worth it to me.

    • Lukehart80 - Mar 29, 2012 at 5:17 PM

      Where does you “4%” figure come from? Was the broadcast diminished by the announcers not being there?

      • cktai - Mar 30, 2012 at 2:04 AM

        4% comes from 85/81, which, after using a calculator, actually seems to come down to 1,05 instead of 1,04.

    • hittfamily - Mar 29, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      The game was on at 3AM. Give that “4%” to charity instaed on Delta airlines and Japanese hotels.

  3. thewrongalex - Mar 29, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    In 2004 I worked at ESPN as a baseball researcher when the Yankees and Devil Rays opened the season in Japan. ESPN did the same thing, with the Baseball Tonight crew and me sitting in a studio in Bristol, taking the Japanese TV feed and calling the game straight from that (with no mention of doing so). I specifically remember the Japanese broadcast showed numerous closeups of Mike Mussina’s release throughout the game, probably because they found something unique in his knuckle-curve. Harold Reynolds got pretty fed up with trying to describe closeup after closeup of Moose’s release point with no apparent justification to the US audience. Also, ESPN never once showed Reynolds, Ravech, and Gammons in the studio, because they were just wearing hoodies etc. at 6 a.m.

    • sportsdrenched.com - Mar 30, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      I remember watching that game. I knew the announcers were in Bristol. I thought it was kind of weird. I thought the ROOT production was a lot more seamless. I’m not sure how much telecast technology has advanced from ’04 but I thought it worked out OK.

      I had the A’s – M’s game on as background noise while I was cooking breakfast, and I remember them judging the runners lead by whether his foot was on the turf or entirely in the dirt cutout.

  4. denny65 - Mar 29, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    I thought it was an excellent broadcast. After about the first inning of the first game, the fact that Sims and Blowers weren’t in the Dome was immaterial.

    I caught the later innings–come on, a guy’s gotta get to bed at some point!–on radio with Rick Rizzs and really, the coverage sounded the same.

    (Side note: despite the homer last night, expect to see Cespedes down at Sacramento before the end of April. The guy is just not ready for prime time. King Felix had him absolutely quaking in the box in the opening game.)

  5. killabri - Mar 29, 2012 at 7:48 PM

    A friend of the family used to provide commentary for ESPN’s old K-1 martial arts broadcasts, and they almost never sent him or the crew on site. They’d fly him up to Bristol where they’d stick him in a sound proof studio that had the feed they were beaming in of the fight, and they’d do PxP and commetary on a small monitor. He said it was difficult, and he definitely preferred being live (I believe they sent him and the crew to do their equivalent of the World Championships in Tokyo), but he said you ultimately get used to it.

    As thewrongalex points out, the biggest challenge challenge you face is you have no creative control over the broadcast. Often times the broadcast can be tailored to fit developments or storylines that occur throughout the game that the announcing crew picks up on. If you don’t have any creative control, however, you just kind of roll with what’s being put in front of you. As someone who’s called football, baseball, basketball and soccer at the high school level, I can tell you that it’s difficult enough doing it when you’re actually there. Having to rely on a TV monitor has to be incredibly tough.

    For those interested, here’s about a 10 minute video on what goes on at GOLTV to broadcast a soccer match from Spain’s top league. The two announcers that they have (Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson) are two of the best in the biz, and I’m even more impressed given that they appear to be calling the game on something no bigger than a 20” monitor.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 29, 2012 at 10:03 PM

      Martin Tyler > everyone, and I’m really liking Efan Okuku (sp) since the last WC. He had some great rapport with Ian Darke during some of the games.

      • APBA Guy - Mar 30, 2012 at 12:21 AM

        Efan Ekoku-he’s Nigerian born.

        And you are right on both counts. Martin Tyler is the best, Efan and Ian were great at the World Cup.

  6. simon94022 - Mar 29, 2012 at 8:06 PM

    How about euthanizing this lame “tradition” of opening the season overseas?

  7. sahyder1 - Mar 29, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    ESPN used to do this with the World Cup up until the the 2006 one. Pretty sure NBC does the same with the Olympics.

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