Satellite Hook-Up: PMTV's Brian Powers

by R. Sanborn Brown

Pennsylvania-based Producers Management Television (PMTV) has been contracted by Host Broadcasting Services (HBS) to provide numerous digital video flypack systems and technicians for the 2002 World Cup. These will be used to feed the matches to every TV Network rights holder worldwide, among them, France's TF1, Brazil's TV Globo, the BBC, and ITV. PMTV President Brian Powers spoke with Soccerphile recently on the work he will be doing at the upcoming World Cup.

Soccerphile: Thank you for speaking with us. We want to know essentially what you and your company do and what you will be doing at the June World Cup.
Brian Powers: I started in the industry working for a company with editing facilities, sound stages, and a couple of TV PD trucks. Then I got involved in a marketing capacity. This was before PC's were common, so I took notes on legal pads for every truck, wrote up their specs, and when the company I was working for went bankrupt, I started PMTV, which has probably the preeminent database of mobile television facilities suppliers, etc., in the world. I was trying to figure out our competition, so I called all the companies—a couple of hundred—that I could identify in the USA. I went home and called my competitors and asked them if they could cover events I had commitments for. I lined those up and called the clients. In my first year in business I probably did a hundred TV events.
…We provide the TV trucks and hire all the crews city by city. We basically package the truck, the crew, and the satellite uplink, book the satellite time, coordinate with the venue, arena or wherever the event is happening to make sure space allocated and power is qualified. We are basically a high level, value-added broker…(I don't really like that word). The key is, what sets us apart, we have the most extensive databases that are updated daily: 450 trucks around North America, 9,000 TV PD crews here in North America, 500 uplink trucks, lighting companies, generator companies, etc. We have all this data compiled over…well, this is our 14th year. There's really no one in the US who does this to the extent we do. There are a couple of regional companies, but no one with our reach. We're averaging forty events a month, and our international business is growing.

Soccerphile: How did you get involved with the World Cup?
Brian Powers: A few years ago, we got an opportunity to provide facilities for the German national soccer team exhibition game here in the United States. There was a very prestigious German company involved—the ARD/ZDF German TV Networks. It was basically right after the Super Bowl, so we pulled two of our premier trucks up to Jacksonville [Florida]. ARD/ZDF was doing the home feed to Germany—they had their soccer crews and we were really impressed by them—and we did the American feed. We combined our audio, video, slo-mo tape operations with their crews and it was very successful. That is how that relationship developed. We also provided facilities for the Women's World Cup here in the States for ARD-ZDF, again with very good results. Then, one of the ARD Engineering managers left the company to work with HBS, the host broadcaster for the World Cup 2002. When they started looking around for a supplier chain for the 2002 World Cup, they contacted us. Originally, we looked into sending big TV PD trucks—48- to 55-foot—from the US. Once we did a thorough analysis of who was available and pricing, though, and the time it took to ship these trucks over and pricing—and the problem of moving such large vehicles, especially in Japan, of anything over a thirty-five feet—we realized that might not be the best solution. HBS decided to go all with fly-packs video systems, which are much more transportable in smaller lots.

Soccerphile: Could you explain exactly what a fly-pack is?
Brian Powers: Well, the TV trucks themselves are permanent installations that cost from 3-5 million dollars. But when it is not possible to use the trucks, [in the fly-packs] there are the same components of equipment [you would find in the trucks]. This equipment is neatly racked and mounted in smaller cases, and it has been pre-cabled for easy interface and setup on location. That's what we ended up getting part of the contracts with HBS to do. We're doing four stadiums in Japan, which is 20-plus cameras. We're also providing studio-interview fly-kits for all 10 venues in Korea, so at the venues the TV rights holder networks can do "customized" interviews live from the stadiums. All the fly-kits will be moving around, so it will be logistically challenging.

Soccerphile: Who will be able to watch your feeds?
Brian Powers: HBS is Host Broadcast Services. They were created by FIFA and Kirch Media. If you're watching the matches, you're watching the signals created by HBS's production teams at every stadium. Then the TV network in your country-- TV Globo in Brazil, the BBC, in America ABC and ESPN--take HBS's signals and redistribute them around the world. Basically all of the game coverage for every network in the world is being serviced through HBS. In addition to this, we are sending seven satellite trucks from the US that are production-capable. These will be servicing TV Globo and GloboSat in Brazil, TF1 France, British Telecom-BBC in the UK, ITV. We send the satellite uplink trucks over, and these companies go to the team hotels and team practice fields and do their daily coverage and news stories. There will be 3-3.5 billion viewers for this World Cup.

Soccerphile: Could you tell us about any problems you have had?
Brian Powers: With the exception of having to modify our original plan to send seventy-five foot tractor trailers—which were at the Nagano Olympics, where the trucks did not have to move—no, not really. The problems are that we are bringing in millions of dollars of equipment, and we need to have everything properly processed, etc. And all of the satellites need to be carneted and licensed by the television ministry. Just a time-consuming exchange of information. The Japanese are very administrative, but they are making it happen for us. There really aren't any problems. We will be bringing 40-foot trucks, and there are some restrictions about where and when we can drive.
Our trucks will be arriving in mid-May in Korea. One of our trucks will be in Korea the whole time, one in Japan for the duration. Several will move in mid-tournament en masse from Korea to Japan to follow the team a particular network is covering. The trucks are basically dedicated to the broadcasters. We will be working all the through to the Final. Once a team is out, though, there will be customized coverage for that network. It's possible though, for example, if one of our client's teams got knocked out early, they might release one or two uplinks. Everyone will keep at least one; they have paid millions for this. Three days after the Cup, the trucks will be loaded on ships and on their way back to the US.
It's kind of an interesting story how the world is coming to see the soccer, and the world's broadcasters are coming to cover the soccer. It's all very much in a spirit of international cooperation. We are very honored as an American company to have the opportunity to provide these services.
Also, one last thing, is a special site that we have created to explain what we are doing.

Soccerphile: Thank you very much for you time.
Brian Powers: It's been my pleasure.

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