CBS Sports Executes ‘Whistle-Stop Tour’ During Inaugural BIG3 Coverage

The half-court basketball league benefits from a well-trained operations staff

The BIG3 three-on-three professional basketball league is currently in the thick of its 2019 season. The 12-team organization is in its third year, and, after two seasons on the Fox Sports networks, CBS Sports picked it up in the offseason. Despite the league’s being a bit different from what the media company is accustomed to carrying, it’s a breath of fresh air during the long summer months.

“It has been a great new property for us to add,” says Steve Karasik, VP, remote productions, CBS Sports. “Normally, during the summer, the main events that we have going on is within the PGA TOUR, but to add a property that we have on either our broadcast or cable network every single weekend is fun.”

A Traveling Circus: Performing Efficiently on Back-to-Back Nights
With matchups in two cities on two consecutive nights, the Eye Network has deployed multiple squads through the first eight weeks of competition. Although the pair of cities are fairly close to each other geographically — two weekends ago, for example, the games were in Chicago’s Allstate Arena and Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum (a distance of 80 miles) — the BIG3’s unique playing surface has to be shuttled from one night’s venue to the next.

“The interesting thing about that is that the BIG3, which is essentially a traveling road show, [ship] their court,” says Karasik. “At the end of each show, they take the court apart, pack it up in a truck, and drive it to the next site for the next day.”

To get that job done, both the BIG3 and CBS Sports needed to call on the right people for the job. The duo found their answer in the form of the individual sitting atop the league’s hierarchy.

“Since [BIG3 co-founder] Ice Cube used to tour a lot on the road, there are a lot of employees that have done something similar in the music industry, where they are going to different venues on consecutive days,” Karasik says. “[Positive Impact Sports + Entertainment President/CEO] Michael Rowe has been our liaison for all of the logistics, and his entire team has been spectacular. They’ve been a huge help to us every step of the way in getting us prepared for the games and also when we’re live on the air.”

With veteran employees filling this savvy logistical team, high-pressure scenarios and a low margin for error have not hampered the operation.

“We were mostly concerned about the quick turnaround since most of these games are same-day setups — the trucks and onsite staff come in the morning on the day of the game — but it has worked out seamlessly,” says Karasik. “Our operations team has done a really good job at getting everything in place, and the BIG3 has also done a great job at getting the court around [to each location] and setting up their whole infrastructure twice in a weekend.”

Playing in the Schoolyard: A Half-Court Surface Leads to Up-Close Encounters
The BIG3 prides itself on fast-paced action and providing longevity for retired players as well as opportunities for those who want to pursue an athletic career outside the NBA. In that vein, the league opted for the contrarian approach by cutting the court in half. For Karasik and the game-day production crew, the layout generates a viewing experience that is hard to replicate in a full-court setting.

“For the BIG3, access is a big deal, and it’s what makes [this league] a little different. Fans can get an inside look at what’s going on in the huddle or a conversation between a referee, player, or coach,” he says. “Being able to do this on every single game has been a big plus for us. We’re trying to use our [technology] to make it a little bit more intimate and personal.”

Along with two wireless mics, each game is outfitted with a super-slo-mo Antelope Pico camera behind the backboard, another super-slo-mo handheld that runs along the baseline, and two Marshall POV cameras. A total of seven manned cameras (four hard and three handhelds) complete the camera complement. For added color commentary, analysis can be provided with the help of FingerWorks telestrators.

Inside one of NEP’s ND6, SS28, or SS23 mobile production units, the technical team creates the broadcast’s graphics package with ChyronHego’s Duet Mosaic and an SMT clock-and-score unit. Five EVS machines are also at the ready for replay purposes.

Mixing Nostalgia With New-Age Flair
The BIG3 has displayed its fair share of razzle-dazzle throughout the regular season, but fans can expect the production value to crank up a bit for the postseason.

“[Our equipment] varies from week to week, especially the games that we have in primetime,” says Karasik. “The shows that we have in the playoffs will have a little more equipment than we do during the rest of the season.”

For example, above-the-rim robotic cameras will be on hand during the semifinals in New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center and the finals in Los Angeles’s Staples Center. In addition, an onsite pregame show will take place before the championship game.

With a lineup full of familiar faces and a reimagined take on the traditional sport, the league has captivated fans in both old and young demographics.

“When we heard that the BIG3 was going to be on CBS, we were very excited,” Karasik says. “It’s always nice to have [a league] where the players and coaches are known commodities, like Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Charles Oakley, Rick Mahorn, and Lisa Leslie. That [star power] makes working games exciting because some employees may have grown up as a big NBA fan and have liked watching them for a number of years.”

The BIG3 season rolls on this weekend, with six games unfolding at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 17 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.