Sports Broadcasting

Sports Broadcasting

by Matt Kastner '14

All my life, I've loved sports. As a result, athletics have become a big part of my identity. This love for sports, which has continued through my collegiate careers in both soccer and baseball, was the origin of my exploring potential career paths in sports.

Last fall I began to investigate options for internships in the sports industry and fortunately, I learned that NBC Sports collaborates with Williams to run an annual one-month internship program with Williams students during January. I applied for and received a spot in this internship and spent January in New York City interning at NBC Sports.

I have watched sports on television my entire life, but I quickly learned that I had no clue about what went on behind the scenes of those broadcasts. There are many aspects of sports television production that the viewer does not see. When I first arrived at NBC, I was assigned some entry-level tasks—filing, for example, and retrieving old videotapes for NBC's weekly NFL show Football Night in America.

NBC Sports has thousands of tapes. They record every show they've put on air. These tapes are used to locate old highlight clips, which are then edited down for preview shows during the current season. While the search for particular clips within this enormous archive could at times be an arduous process, it is necessary to ensure the quality of the program.

This task is about to become easier and more helpful in the future, as NBC is in the process of digitizing all of their tapes, which will place all of this content onto an AVID computer system. Once this process is complete, producers will be able to pull footage directly off of the computer, instead of spending hours searching through a film library. I didn't get to learn digitizing during my internship because it is reserved for the production assistants.

An infielder Kastner
hit .301 in 26 games
last spring

Another important part of my intern job was to make and distribute DVD copies of the weekend's shows. These DVDs included the footage from all games and from NBC's own sports analysis shows. These DVD copies are distributed internally to departments such as the Promo Department, but they are also distributed to other networks requesting footage.

Work hours were typically Monday – Friday from 9:30 – 5:30, however, I was fortunate to be invited on my first Saturday of work to a behind the scenes look at Football Night in America.

Since it was an NFL playoff weekend, there were fewer games to cover, making it a bit easier and less stressful for the crew. Because it was NBC's last NFL game of the season, the broadcast team wanted to finish strong.

Even though there was no one following and teaching me that day, I was able to learn a lot from just observing, especially when I was granted access to the control room. Being in that room seemed quite hectic and gave me insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

The writer and the teleprompter operator were working in the back of the control room. They worked together in order to figure out exactly what they wanted famed sportscaster Bob Costas to say on camera.

The people working in the middle row were in charge of the animations and graphics that appear on the screen. This crew also had to make sure they were giving correct placement to the advertisements of NBC Sports' sponsors and to cue the animations at the right time.

The three most important producers were located in the front row. One producer was constantly calling out the camera angles he wanted in order to get the best shots. The producer next to him listened to his every command and was instantaneous with his responses. On the other side was the producer in charge of keeping track of the time, measuring every segment down to the second; making sure no particular interview, commercial or animation went over time.

Kastner had 2 goals
& 1 assist in 2012

The most important man in the front row was Sam Flood '83 who was directing all of the traffic. Flood was in charge of setting the schedule, deciding the order each segment would appear. Flood's directions determined which analysts would speak, what they would talk about and how long they would talk. It was up to Flood to ensure that everyone was on the same page and working together, as a team with a goal of producing the best show possible.

Sitting in the control room was my most interesting, exciting and insightful experience during my time at NBC Sports. This opportunity gave me a clear picture of all of the little things that go on behind the scenes in order to produce the weekly shows we see on television.

I enjoyed my experience at NBC Sports and gained a lot of knowledge and I realized that there was so much more to learn about sports television than just the production process. This led me to pursue something further for a summer internship. I wanted to experience a different side of the sports television industry, more specifically the business side, and was fortunate to be granted a sales and marketing internship with the Major League Baseball (MLB) Network, in Secaucus, New Jersey, which ran from mid-June to early August.

Similar to my experience at NBC Sports, the MLB Network internship included some typical entry-level duties. For one, I had to take inventory of all the promotional items that the network creates and sends out to current and future affiliates. Since the MLB Network's current cable deals are coming to an end this year, it is especially important to create and maintain strong relationships with the cable providers.

Another duty I performed was to reply to telephone messages and emails from viewers who had questions about which games would be televised, why certain games were chosen to be aired and why specific teams were not allowed to be shown in certain regions of the country. Throughout my internship I got an in depth look at the blackout practices of sports television.

Contrary to the impression most consumers have, the MLB Network is merely an affiliated television network and is a separate entity from Major League Baseball. However, the Major League Baseball does set the blackout regulations for each region, or DMAs (Designated Market Areas) by which the MLB Network must abide.

These DMAs are established so that local television producers are able to have success with their local viewers. By not allowing the MLB Network to show Yankees' games to the New York DMA or Red Sox games to the Boston DMA, Major League Baseball is ensuring that both the YES Network (Yankees), the New England Sports Network (Red Sox) and/or local stations will not lose viewers to the bigger network. Such regulations make it tricky for the MLB Network to choose the matchups that will be most enticing while also reaching the largest audience in order to make sure ratings are as high as possible.

In the second half of my internship, I got to experience more of the sales side. I was assigned to log and look at all of the upcoming affiliate deals and update which clients had been sent new contracts, which had re-signed and which we were still negotiating. When making this log, there were many important aspects that had to be taken into account in order to plan for future contracts, such as the number of subscribers, or viewers each cable provider had, with the larger networks such as COMCAST, Time Warner Cable and DirecTV.

Not only did we need to determine how many subscribers these providers had, but also how many of these subscribers were carrying the MLB Network. This enabled us to confirm whether the contractual requirements that they agreed upon, which included the percentage of their subscribers the MLB Network was being carried on, were being maintained. We also monitored other aspects of the relationships including tracking which package each provider was carrying the MLB Network on and what rates the MLB Network was charging per subscriber.

This internship provided an invaluable hands-on-experience in the business practice side of the sports broadcasting industry that I had hoped for.

The thing that I enjoyed most about my NBC and MLB Network internship experiences were the people I worked with and the relationships I built with them. Initially I was quite nervous about working in the industry having no experience with sports television other than as a viewer. Soon I learned that the people I was working with were genuinely good people who were there to help me learn more about the ways in which a love for sports could intersect with the work behind the scenes. Not only were they helpful, but also they were people who I could easily relate to, as they all shared the same passion for what are, at their hearts, simple games. Most of all, I gained invaluable experience and confidence through both internships in communication, making real time decisions and organizing my time. Finally, the exposure I've had through these internships to multiple aspects of this business will allow me to narrow my focus in the intimidating process of seeking a full-time position in sports television production after graduation.

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