The Art of Televising Soccer: Interview with Larry Tiscornia

The Major League Soccer 2011 season got started on Tuesday night with a nationally broadcast match carried by ESPN.  Fans of all sports are frequently critical of the television presentation of  sports events and soccer fans are no different.  Anger is directed at  announcers, camera angles, crowd sounds, commercial intrusion and more.  We thought it would worthwhile to dig a bit deeper into the world of broadcasting soccer to explore the process involved in bringing the beautiful game to the screen.  To make sure we cover the issue, we will present a number of interviews with broadcast professionals and industry insiders over the next couple of weeks to provide insight into the art of televising soccer.

We start with Larry Tiscornia, the Senior Director of Broadcasting with MLS.  This is Mr. Tiscornia’s 12th year with the league.  Prior to his time with MLS, Mr. Tiscornia worked for ABC and before that USA Network.  Thanks to Mr. Tiscornia for his thoughts

Footiebusiness.com:  How much input does the league have in how its various broadcast partners present MLS matches?  Is it a collaborative process or does the league have a number of requirements that the broadcasters must meet?  Does the league’s requirements or “wish list” differ if the broadcast is national versus local?

Larry Tiscornia:  We are in constant communication with all League partners, both locally and nationally, on how all MLS broadcasts are presented to the fan. We have annual seminars, weekly conference calls and various meetings throughout the season. The League also has minimums that are enforced on the local broadcasts to ensure that all broadcasts are presented in a professional manner.

FB: Does the league look for consistency in its broadcasts regardless of the event or are you cognizant of different audiences for an ESPN game of the week versus an all star game against a European power or Superliga game attracting fans of Mexican teams?  If the league is looking to address the distinctions between these audiences, how does the presentation differ?
LT: We’d like the look of all our games to be consistent; however, there is more emphasis to have a big-time feel  for our marquee events, such as MLS Cup.

FB: How many cameras are typical at nationally broadcast MLS match?  What different views/angles have you found are best?  Where are crowd mics typically placed?
LT: On a national broadcast, there could be anywhere from eight to 18 cameras for a regular season game. It is the League’s preference that all high game cameras are lower to the field to bring the viewer closer to the field. For bigger events, we like to see various super slow motion cameras, slash cameras and reverse angle cameras to maximize the viewers’ experience. As for audio, microphones are typically placed throughout the stadium, within the stands and on the field to maximize the natural sound and make sure that comes across to the viewer.

FB: What type of research does the league do into fan preferences for viewing?  What type of fan originated suggestions have you implemented?

LT: The broadcast department started a Twitter account to gather feedback from our fans. We will pass along the constructive comments to our partners throughout the season.

FB: Finally, should fans expect any new technolgies during MLS broadcasts in 2011?
LT: We are always looking to improve our broadcast with new technology, and this year we’ll be incorporating OPTA stats into our broadcasts.

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7 Responses

  1. What drives me batty about the ESPN MLS games are the midfield camera angles when the action is on the far side of the field. ESPN makes a standard practice of including the first 12-15 rows of stands in the shot, which takes up nearly the entire top half of the TV screen. This isn’t the case for ESPN EPL games or for games televised by FSC/FSP. It seems deliberate for ESPN MLS games. Maybe ask Mr. Tiscornia and other ESPN guests why this insist on doing this. Thanks.

  2. […] week, we posted our first entry in an ongoing series on the art of broadcasting soccer.  Today we are fortunate to have some […]

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