The SEC Network may be in its infancy in its first year on the air, but South Carolina is at the top of the growth chart when it comes to its commitment of having Gamecock sports content available. South Carolina currently leads the 14 SEC institutions, having already broadcast more than 30 live athletics events via the SEC Network's web site or digital channel, known as SEC Network+.
"We are thrilled with the production quality of our broadcasts," said Charles Bloom, senior associate athletics director for external affairs. "We have a talented and dedicated crew of staff who spend countless hours pulling off network-quality productions. You will not find a better trifecta of SEC Network `behind-the-scenes' people like (Director of Live Operations) David Cockfield, (Associate Director of Live Operations) Mark Slice and (Assistant Director of Live Operations/Graphics) Justin Stoll. They put everything into a broadcast and it shows."
In addition to the 450 live events that will be seen on the SEC Network's television channel in year one, there were expected to be a minimum of 550 additional live events broadcast on SEC Network+. The network guaranteed a minimum of 40 events per school to be broadcast on this digital platform, but walk-off wins at home on the baseball and softball diamond on the same day last spring prompted Athletics Director Ray Tanner to commit to the investment in technology, equipment and personnel. This foresight allows South Carolina to locally produce and broadcast multiple home events simultaneously.
"I have to give Ray Tanner a lot of credit," said Scott Hecht, ESPN/SEC Network senior remote operations manager. "We've told that story so many times. Five years from now when we go back and look at the history of the SEC Network, that's going to be one of the real major points. When Ray said he was going to build a second control room and buy more equipment, a lot of other A.D.'s basically said `if Ray's going to do it, then we're going to do it.' I really think it's a major turning point in the history of this (SEC Network) project."
South Carolina was able to locally produce and broadcast all home games not carried by other television outlets on SEC Network+ for women's soccer, men's soccer and volleyball this fall, and will do the same for men and women's basketball, baseball, softball and sand volleyball.
"The expectations for me this year were modest," Hecht said. "I wanted people to execute clean telecasts and to document the games so the viewer at home understands what they're watching and it makes sense. This university in particular is doing a really good job of documenting their games, and they're now starting to throw more of the story lines in. That's the hardest part."
"This group here just dove in head first. I love that type of attitude where they say 'we'll make it work.' It's a big deal when you can watch a baseball game and a softball game simultaneously."Scott Hecht, ESPN/SEC Network
South Carolina was the first of the 14 schools to locally produce two live sporting events simultaneously for SEC Network+ on October 19 when it aired the women's soccer game against Ole Miss and the volleyball match against Texas A&M. Other schools have had events broadcast simultaneously on the full tier SEC Network as well as SEC Network+.
"The one thing that impresses me about this group, more than anything, is that they take on a lot," Hecht said. "This group here just dove in head first. I love that type of attitude where they say `we'll make it work.' It's a big deal when you can watch a baseball game and a softball game simultaneously."
As of November 1, South Carolina was one of only two schools to locally produce more than 20 live events on the digital platform. All of South Carolina's broadcasts have used the four-camera set up preferred by the network, while some schools opted to use only two-camera shoots for some of their productions.
Two of the top four SEC Network+ non-football broadcasts in terms of unique viewers to an event also belonged to South Carolina with the volleyball match against Georgia Tech ranking third, and the men's soccer match against Clemson ranking fourth.
South Carolina's production staff received high enough praise from the network that it was asked to produce the linear television broadcast, instead of having a crew from ESPN/SEC Network come down with its own production truck, for the SEC Network's broadcast of the volleyball match against Alabama on Nov. 9.
"We're very selective on who is doing linear productions for us right now," Hecht said. "There are certain schools that have shown us over time that they are ready to do a linear production. The fact that we were here for the weekend speaks volumes for what this group has done and the direction that they're going."
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