OCEAN CITY — Jostling through the crowd, craning one’s neck and pushing to the front is as much a tradition at the White Marlin Open as the big fish and big checks themselves, but a new wrinkle this year will help spectators and sportfishing enthusiasts enjoy more of the latter.
Hooked on OC, the popular locally owned and produced television show that documents every facet of the fishing scene in the resort area, is partnering with the White Marlin Open this year to live-stream all of the action at the host Harbour Island next month on two large screens mounted to the scale itself. The two, six-foot by 10-foot LED screens mounted on the north and south sides of the scale will capture all of the memorable sights and sounds of the world’s largest billfish tournament for the thousands of spectators who cram into Harbour Island on each day of the tournament and for the countless others watching the action from afar.
“It’s really going to be something very cool for the tournament,” said Hooked on OC’s Scott Lenox this week. “One of the big complaints we hear is they can’t see past all of the people. We’re going to alleviate all of that.”
For years, the tournament has broadcast the action at the scale with a live feed on its website and that won’t change this year. What will change is the quality of the production including crisp images of the boats pulling into the marina, the potential million dollar-plus fish being pulled from the boats and the dramatic moments when the scales teeter up and down before locking in on a final weight.
Last year, the tournament dabbled with improving the live feed on the tournament website and a large screen streaming the action was set up on the opposite side of the marina directly across from the scale on the east side. After some early glitches and Internet issues, Lenox and his partner Dave Messick of Unscene Productions got the big screen across the harbor up and running with the help of Livestream, an on-line live broadcasting platform.
From just Wednesday through Friday during White Marlin Open week last year, the live-feed broadcast was seen in over 60 countries by more than 26,000 unique viewers in just three days. The 2015 broadcast was also viewed over 67,000 times for a total of more than 619,000 total minutes. Lenox believes those figures will be easily surpassed this year.
“We’re going to have Dave front and center during the entire tournament,” said Lenox. “He’s going to be down in the boats when the fish are getting unloaded, we’re going to focus on the scale when the fish are being raised and we’re going to be doing live interviews with the anglers and the captains. It’s almost going to be a live version of Hooked on OC throughout the week.”
White Marlin Open spokesperson Madelyne Rowan said mounting the two big LED screens on the north and south sides of the scale is an idea whose time has come.
“This is something we’ve talked about for a while and we’re really excited it’s coming to fruition this year,” she said. “It’s really going to enhance the experience and make it a much more interactive experience. We’re always trying to improve the tournament and this is going to be a great way for everybody to see the fish. It’s such a huge spectator event and we’ve always run into issues with people not being able to see everything that is going on. We’re really excited about it.”
Veteran WMO spectators know how to navigate the tournament, but many newcomers find themselves on the outside looking in among the huge throngs of people, according to Rowan.
“The people that are familiar with the tournament get there early at 3:30 p.m. and get their spots and set up, but people that are new to the event come later and find themselves standing in the back and can’t see any of the action,” she said. “The old live-feed served a purpose, but it was a static camera generally fixed on the area around the scale … it didn’t really show all of the action and the scope and scale of the tournament. There was a lot of down time between weigh-ins and something happening, but we’re going to fill in all of the gaps. It’s going to high-def quality and the sound will be remarkable.”
According to Lenox, opportunities for sponsoring commercials on the big screen are now available. Information is available by calling him at 410-430-1016 or emailing [email protected] or [email protected],