No big changes or additions accompany the 31st year of live coverage of the Eastern Maine high school basketball tournament by Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN).
Then again, with broadcasts of all Classes A, B, C, and D regional semifinals, finals, and state finals already being provided, there isn’t much left to add — or space on the broadcast schedule to add it to.
“It’s always confusing, busy, and hectic this time of year for us,” said Gil Maxwell, MPBN’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. “It takes a lot of people and a lot of work to bring this all together.”
“This” is an annual endeavor that now involves three locations hosting eight tournaments, five public television stations, three broadcast feeds, one Internet streaming signal, and 52 games over six days.
MPBN’s coverage begins Wednesday at 10 a.m. with broadcasts of two Western Class D semifinal games from Augusta.
Eastern Maine tourney coverage tips off at 2 p.m. that same Wednesday with Class B semifinal game broadcasts from the Bangor Auditorium.
The MPBN broadcast schedule resembles something of a cross between a full color periodic table of the elements and a satellite TV programming guide.
“Even color coded, it’s sometimes hard for even me to understand,” Maxwell joked.
Complicated or not, the end result is live coverage of all tourney basketball action — regionally speaking — in each respective region of the state.
That means viewers in Northern and Eastern Maine will see B, C, and D games from the Bangor Auditorium and Eastern A games from the Augusta Civic Center. Southern and Western Maine viewers will see B, C, and D games from Augusta and A games from the Portland Expo.
“The way I rigged it, anyone watching off-air [no cable or satellite system] gets both games,” said Maxwell. “On basic cable, they’ll also get both games, as they will with the digital cable plan.
“If you’re watching on satellite, it depends on your provider. You’ll basically get the Bangor Auditorium games and won’t get Augusta, unless you have HD, and that just gets more complicated.”
For Eastern Maine viewers, whenever there’s a scheduling conflict between Class A games in Augusta and B, C, or D games in Bangor, the A games will air on local Time Warner Cable access channels like channel 12 in the Bangor market and the B-C-D games will air on the regular MPBN channels (cable channel 13 and digital channel 9 in Bangor).
“I really have to thank Time Warner. Without them involved in this, most people wouldn’t get all the games because of the way they have the games scheduled,” Maxwell said. “I don’t have enough people to do all six games because we couldn’t be in three locations at once.”
“We also get assistance from NESCOM [New England School of Communications in Bangor], which provides students and equipment.”
With remote trucks and extra personnel from NESCOM, Time Warner and MPBN, MPBN can broadcast live from all three locations.
The Class A broadcasts are also made available to other cable companies (Windjammer Cable, Bee Line Cable, etc.) and their cable access channels as well.
Games will also be streamed live online at www.mpbn.net.
One new wrinkle in the tourney TV coverage this year is the addition of highlights packages taped from the state cheerleading competitions last week. Short snippets will be interspersed with tourney coverage during breaks, but the actual state finals routines will be aired at 6 p.m. on Feb. 20 and continued on Feb. 27.