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Tech Special: Sony Joins Lineup at New Yankee Stadium

Tech Special: NBC's Super Bowl Comeback

The New York Yankees made big news this winter, spending heavily on free-agent pitchers and hitters as the team enters a new $1.3 billion stadium for the 2009 Major League Baseball season. But the Yankees are also making a major investment in the in-stadium video experience at their new home, installing a range of professional and consumer high-definition video technology from Sony Electronics.

The deal includes a corporate marketing relationship that will place the Sony brand throughout the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will install Sony high-definition HDCAM and XDCAM HD cameras and create a new high-definition broadcast-quality control room. Video from that room will pump to the giant LED scoreboard in center field, as well as to more than 550 flat-panel Sony Bravia and professional LCD HD television sets in the luxury suites, lounges, concourses, restaurants and administrative offices.

Neither Sony nor the Yankees will disclose the terms of the arrangement, but Steve Stubelt, director of Sony Electronics' sports sales and marketing solutions group, confirms that it represents a multi-million-dollar investment by the ball club. The Yankees deal is one of several large stadium contracts currently being managed by Sony, which has been seeing growth in its sports division even as its mainstay consumer electronics business has been hampered by the slowing global economy (Sony forecast on Jan. 22 that it will lose $2.9 billion this year).

“'Giving away' is not anything associated with the Yankees,” Stubelt says. “Their investment in technology at the broadcast level is higher than for the majority of stadiums I've seen.”

That said, Sony is receiving significant marketing benefits as part of its Yankees relationship. Sony's HDNA campaign will be featured on a right-field-wall sign, in addition to diorama ads in four concourse locations, and Sony will receive designations as the “Official LCD Television,” “Official HD Television” and “Official Consumer Electronics Manufacturer” of the New York Yankees. Prior to each home game, a 30-second Sony promotional segment will be displayed on the HD scoreboard, and the Yankees highlights feature will be presented by Sony.

All of the Yankee Stadium video displays, including the 101-by-59-foot Mitsubishi Diamond Vision LED display in center field, various large LED displays from Sony partner and stadium scoreboard specialist Daktronics, and 42-, 47- and 52-inch Bravia 1080p LCD consumer sets, will be fed by an IP-based network supplied by Cisco Systems.

The IPTV system from Cisco represents a significant improvement over the traditional closed-circuit television (CCTV) system used at the old Yankee Stadium, says Michael Bonner, New York Yankees senior director of scoreboard and broadcasting. In addition to improving picture quality with the move to high-definition, the IPTV system affords infinite flexibility by assigning an individual IP address to every in-stadium screen. It could be used to target MPEG-4 compressed video to displays in individual suites, or conversely, to simultaneously flash the same image, such as a “Home Run!” graphic, to every display in the stadium.

“It's the wave of the future,” Bonner says.

The production gear that Bonner and his team use to capture in-game video and assemble editing packages is also getting a major upgrade, with a range of high-definition equipment from Sony and other major vendors that is equivalent to technology used by top mobile and news production facilities. Sony gear includes an MVS-8000G production switcher, HDC-1400 portable cameras, XDCAM HD PDW-700 camcorders for newsgathering applications, HDCAM and XDCAM decks, and a complement of professional LCD monitors. Other key equipment includes Avid Adrenaline, Nitris and Mojo nonlinear editors; EVS replay servers; a Yamaha audio board; and Chyron HyperX graphics systems.

“We're getting to the point where network folks will come in and see our control room and say, 'Wow,'” Bonner says. “These are not just small scoreboard digs—this is a full-blown HD production facility.”