Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 17
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Media strategies will go from pandemic to permanent

Production trucks have fewer staff in the days of social distancing as networks find ways to cover events remotely.
Photo: getty images
Production trucks have fewer staff in the days of social distancing as networks find ways to cover events remotely.
Photo: getty images
Production trucks have fewer staff in the days of social distancing as networks find ways to cover events remotely.
Photo: getty images

It’s no surprise that the biggest sports media trend over the past four months has been the move to remote production. The biggest questions center on how many of these changes will become permanent once the coronavirus pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

 

Two more stories that broke last week show that many of these changes will be sticking around.

One story is that longtime CBS Sports executive Ken Aagaard has joined a group of sports media veterans that launched BitFire, a company that promises to make it easier to produce sports events remotely using IP technology. 

Aagaard and former TEGNA and Scripps TV executive Bob Sullivan already have done work with outfits including Fox News and CBSSN. The ACC will use BitFire for its annual media event later this summer.

Sullivan is president and CEO of the company; Aagaard is on its board of directors. “We’ve already got a lot of people circling us, and our press hasn’t even hit yet,” Aagaard said. 

The other story is that Fox Sports has signed a deal that will move all 25 years of its video content to Google Cloud.

“This gets us closer to not being called a legacy media company,” said Brad Zager, Fox Sports’ executive producer and executive vice president/head of production and operations. “This will put us in position to evolve so much faster. We will be less reliant on brick-and-mortar physical resources.”

In other words, it will allow Fox Sports’ behind-the-camera staff to work remotely much more easily.

“If you’re a feature producer and you’re looking for content, you’ll be able to search on your phone for, say, an amazing shot of Tom Brady the same way that someone would search YouTube,” Zager said. “Everything is going to be accessible everywhere. This has been a year process.”

Networks have felt the need to work remotely during the pandemic, with most moving functions — like graphics production — off-site. For example, CBS and Golf Channel have gone from having about 12 people working in the main production truck to having four or five because of social-distancing guidelines. 

This is a trend that started before the pandemic hit. But the social-distancing guidelines that are in effect have sped up the trend considerably.

“It’s quadrupled that time frame,” Aagaard said. “It forced us. We had no choice. … In golf, we have some guys who are doing replays from their homes thousands of miles away. The tracking and tracing in golf is being done by a New Zealand company from New Zealand.”

Many of these trends will become permanent, Aagaard predicted.

“The biggest technical innovation that made this all happen was solving the latency issues. Now if you’ve got a producer sitting in Stamford talking to a cameraman in Ohio, and he says, ‘Pan right’ or ‘Pan left,’ we can do that. That really changed everything.”