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Why Power Quality is Critical to Football Broadcasts

Power Quality and Football Broadcasts

January 2015


Technician Ken Felker sets up a Fluke 435 Power Analyzer at a Super Bowl media hub.

GLENDALE, Ariz.—No doubt most of the estimated 150 million people watching the Super Bowl on television do not care about what is going on inside that maze of gray trailers and satellite trucks that jam big sections of the parking lots outside University of Phoenix Stadium.

But they do notice if the picture cuts out or the audio from the broadcast booth is lost and they can't hear the call for a big play.

To ensure the proper working of low-voltage electronic equipment, power is obviously needed. But not just any power. The power must be "clean"—free of dips and spikes that could damage sensitive, expensive communication gear and data equipment.

One of the ways to ensure clean power is to test the incoming power. At the Super Bowl, much of the power is delivered by massive generators outside the stadium and distributed by a myriad of cables and distribution stations.

WBL Services is a Seattle-based company that sets up and runs telecommunications and data networks at the Super Bowl and many National Football League games. That includes the annual NFL game at London's Wembley Stadium as well as other mega-sporting and entertainment events.

For such occasions the WBL team first builds out complete overlay networks and power supplies—separate from the stadium or house systems. WBL also has failsafe servers and telecom switches that, if they go down, trigger UPS (uninterruptable power supply) backups and trip over to backup servers and telecom equipment. In addition, each broadcast trailer is equipped with its own electrical circuit and ground.

The incoming power quality is then tested with a Fluke 435 Power Quality and Energy Analyzer and the Fluke 1730 Energy Logger to ensure the proper voltage and current is delivered while checking for dips and spikes that could bring down the equipment. The logger can be left in place to monitor the power over time.

"We bring in clean, critical or technical power to run all our systems on," said Bill Lipscomb, president of WBL Services. "We don't want to be effected by any brownouts or missed phases within the electrical systems."

Given the variety of stadiums and arenas WBL works in, power quality can vary.

"The thing that concerns me most about being at these venues, is they use a lot of generator power," said Shane Conner, a WBL contractor and owner of an electrical design company in Lebanon, Ind. "So if those generators are spiking or get out of sync that will definitely affect us."

Ken Felker, a technician from Michigan who works for WBL, concurs. "We have to make sure power is at a constant, there are no dips or spikes and we need to make sure we're not overloading our circuit," he said. "The Fluke tool measures all of that and more."

By logging the power quality and then uploading to a computer, WBL is also able to generate reports.

"If something goes down, you have the data," said Conner. "That can help you figure out what happened."


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