Fox Sports is rolling out services that will provide fans with unprecedented… (Fox Sports )
For one glorious weekend, Southern California prep football fans are going to feel as if they've been transported to Texas, where prep football is worshiped and entire towns shut down to support their team.
On Friday and Saturday night, thanks to a technological revolution underway in the TV and Web business, Fox Sports West is going to broadcast all 13 Southern Section championship games.
If you stay home and have a computer, you can watch seven games simultaneously on Friday night. The Northern Division final will be on FS West at 7:30 p.m. The Inland Division final will be on Prime Ticket at 8 p.m., and finals in the Central, Northwest, Southeast, Southern and Western divisions will be shown on FoxSportsWest.com.
Then, on Saturday, the Pac-5 Division final will be on Prime Ticket, and championship games in the Southwest, Eastern, East Valley, Mid-Valley and Northeast divisions will be shown via FoxSportsWest.com. And, if you miss anything, every game will be archived and available 24/7.
A simple click of a mouse or touch of the finger will allow viewers to see any game they choose because of a new video player developed for Fox Sports. It will show five games in boxes, and a single click will allow focus on one game.
It's unprecedented exposure for high school football in Southern California, and Tom Feuer, executive producer for Fox Sports West, is confident of pulling it off. He has hired announcers and commentators for all 13 games. And the big personalities will be participating, including Chris McGee and Petros Papadakis.
Behind the scenes, the Web games will have three cameras each. There will be replays and graphics. You can even watch while sitting in the stands if you have an iPhone or iPad.
"Without the technology revolution, it couldn't happen," Feuer said.
The key development is being able to balance bandwidth, whether someone is using Firefox, Safari or a Chrome browser, and whether they have Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast or Earthlink. Equipment recognizes whether a signal is strong or weak, and gives more or less bandwidth to the end user.
Then there's the technology developed by LiveU, where contained in a backpack is the equivalent of 13 cellphone signals that's sent from a high school football field to the Fox Sports building in Los Angeles.
Few could have dreamed of this happening five years ago.
FoxSportsWest.com has been showing four games a week on Friday nights on the Web since the season began, trying to work out any problems.
The Southern Section isn't worried that some people might decide to stay home and watch games on their TV or computer, cutting down on game attendance.
"We've always been under the belief if you're going to provide the top-notch atmosphere for these athletes who might not put on a uniform again, you try to give them as big a feeling of high school athletics," spokesman Thom Simmons. "If we lose a couple of people who decide to stay home, we're going to make that up by the Fox relationship."
Championship games have been shown on TV and the Web before in Southern California, but never with a one-stop format on such a large scale.
"I don't know anybody that's doing this," Feuer said.
The opportunity to replicate for other sports is there. And the technology can be easily acquired by schools themselves if they have the money, which could open a whole new discussion.
Time Warner Cable is also jumping in to televise the City Section Division I and II championship games live from East Los Angeles College on Friday night.
So everything is set for a championship weekend full of fun and pageantry seen from computers and TVs, whether you're watching in Murrieta, Lompoc, Westlake Village or London. Who could have imagined Southern California trying to copy the Texas experience for one weekend?