Sports production pilot program nears end of successful first year
February 10, 2017
When you watch a game on TV, you usually hear just two voices – the play-by-play announcer and the color commentator.
But what seems on the surface like a two-man operation actually takes the collective work of dozens of trained professionals behind the scenes, tasked with bringing the sounds, images and descriptions of the action in the stadium, ballpark or arena into your living room.
Like many industries, broadcast production is aging, with many workers approaching retirement age and a relatively small number of young professionals entering the space to replace them. That’s why the Television and Video Service Department at Cuyahoga Community College utilized student success money to launch a sports production pilot program this past November.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people in the industry, and there is a need for young people to enter the space,” said Christine Hickey, a writer/producer for the College. “We set up this pilot program with the idea of giving interested students a chance to do all of the behind-the-scenes work in sports broadcasting.”
The program has attracted more than a dozen students in its first year. Most have come to the program via the College’s Student Production Office, but enrollment wasn’t limited to students specializing in mass communications or media arts.
“It was open to students from across the College – anyone who is interested in sports broadcasting,” Hickey said. “That’s what really made this program unique. Anybody could join. All you needed was the interest, the time and the willingness to work.”
Over the course of the 17-week program, which concludes this month, the students are attending workshops directed by veteran Cleveland sports producer Pat Murray, who has a resume that includes hundreds of Indians and Cavs games. They have put that knowledge to use in broadcasting Tri-C men’s and women’s basketball games.
The students in the program will livestream a total of six games this season. Two remain – the men’s game on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2 p.m., against Cincinnati State Community College; and the women’s game on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 5:30 p.m. against Lorain County Community College.
From game to game, students rotate among the various production roles. By the end of the season, every student will have gained experience carrying out most, if not all, of the behind-the-scenes tasks during a game broadcast.
“This is completely hands-on, so we wanted each student to understand how to operate a camera, the audio board, the switcher, the character generator that puts type on the screen, and so forth,” Hickey said. “We rotate them through the positions and get an idea of who excels in a given role.”
The students don’t just handle the in-game responsibilities – they set up and tear down the equipment as well. That means transporting 10 carts of broadcast equipment from the television studio at the Metropolitan Campus to the men’s games at the Metro Campus rec center, and to the women’s games at the Eastern Campus.
“If the game starts at 2 p.m., we’ll typically have the students arrive around 8:30 in the morning,” Hickey said. “They’ll haul the gear over, set it up and run cable. We have a large equipment closet at the men’s court where we’ll set up a studio, and we’ll have four cameras set up around the court to get different angles of the action. And after the game is over, they have to tear it all down and haul it back.”
The remaining games will be broadcast live at http://livestream.com/TRI-C. Games can also be seen on Tri-C Smart TV, available on Time Warner Cable channel 195 in the city of Cleveland. Smart TV is additionally available on Brunswick Area Television, channel 24 and Cox Digital Cable channel 216 in Broadview Heights, Brooklyn Heights, Cleveland, Fairview Park, Lakewood, Olmsted Falls, Olmsted Township, Parma, Parma Heights, Rocky River and Seven Hills.
In addition to hands-on work during game broadcasts, the program will also give students a primer in the business side of the field, with a small business management workshop on Feb. 20.
“Most of the people in this field are freelancers, so they have to handle their own business affairs,” Hickey said. “We wanted to give them some exposure to the business skills they’ll need in order to succeed.”
After the program concludes, the College plans to survey the students with the goal of making the second year even better.
“We’ll form an advisory committee and go over the results of the surveys,” Hickey said. “We hope to continue this next year and work out some of the kinks. Probably the biggest one right now is that the program doesn’t have its own equipment, so we really can’t offer it as a full course yet. They’re using our equipment from TV production. But other than that, we like the reception we got in the first year, and hopefully we can build upon that in the coming year.”