Coronavirus Impacts Sports Studio Shows: Fox Suspends Production, ESPN Shows Stay On-Air, CBS Shows Displaced, NBC Taps Replacement Programming
NBC RSNs continue live studio shows, NBA on TNT hosts special edition on Thursday, ACCN's Packer & Durham takes hiatus
In addition to the postponement and cancellation of sports events, the coronavirus pandemic has also begun hitting studio-production operations for sports broadcasters. Friday morning, Fox Sports announced it is suspending production of its FS1 daily studio shows until at least Friday, March 20. Meanwhile, ESPN continued with live studio programming on Friday and CBS Sports shows continued after many were displaced when CBS’s New York City Broadcast Center was shut down earlier this week. NBCSN and NBC Sports Regional Networks also continues to broadcast live, but NBC, NBCSN, and Golf Channel are expected to lean heavily into historical video and encore presentations of sporting events for replacement programming.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to suspend production of our live FS1 daily studio shows through at least Friday, March 20,” a statement from Fox Sports read. “Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly.”
FS1’s daily studio programming includes First Things First With Cris Carter and Nick Wright, Skip & Shannon, Undisputed, The Herd With Colin Cowherd, Speak for Yourself, NASCAR Race Hub, and MLB Whiparound.
ESPN continues with live studio programming. As of Friday, flagship morning show Get Up has aired with multiple additional live airings throughout the day, SportsCenter is currently on-air, on ESPNEWS. First Take also aired earlier today on ESPNEWS.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” an ESPN spokesperson said in an official statement to SVG via email. “We have great relationships with our league partners and are confident we can address all issues constructively going forward. Our immediate focus is on everyone’s safety and well-being.”
One note on ESPN-operated networks – ACC Network’s Packer & Durham morning show will be taking a hiatus, co-host Mark Packer announced via Twitter.
As of mid-afternoon on Friday, NBCSN was broadcasting live coverage of Mecum Auto Auctions from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. An NBC Sports spokesperson told SVG that replacement programming across NBC, NBCSN, and Golf Channel would lean heavily into historical video and encore presentations of sporting events.
“NBC Sports’ replacement programming on NBC, NBCSN, and Golf Channel will include encore presentations of events, specials and feature programming across NBC Sports properties, including Olympics, NHL, Premier League, IndyCar, NASCAR, golf, rugby, figure skating, skiing and snowboarding, as well as live sports news from Sky Sports News,” the statement said.
The spokesperson also stressed that NBC Sports was doing what it could to keep its employees safe. “The health and safety of our employees are our highest priority,” they said via email. “We will continue to follow the guidance of numerous health and government authorities, and work within the guidelines of our league partners. NBC Sports Group is following NBCUniversal’s guidance, which has been to encourage employees to work from home. Our production is reduced to essential personnel only.
NBC Sports is, of course, the U.S. network home of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and, as of Friday, no announcement has been made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as to whether that event – which is scheduled to host its Opening Ceremony on July 24 – will be impacted. Olympic Channel (which is operated by NBC Sports in the U.S.) aired the Olympic Flame Lighting in Athens, Greece on March 11. On Friday, Tokyo 2020 was informed that the Greek leg of the Olympic Torch Relay has been cancelled. However, the Hellenic Olympic Committee has agreed to carry out the handover ceremony as planned on March 19th with no public in attendance.
Earlier this week, after two employees tested positive for coronavirus, CBS shut down selected operations at its New York City Broadcast Center, displacing multiple productions, including CBS Sports. Some CBS News and CBS Sports programming shifted to alternate broadcast locations. CBS Sports aired its programming from the CBS Sports HQ studio at CBS Interactive headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The CBS Broadcast Center is now being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and CBS will advise when broadcasts, newsgathering operations and digital teams can move back into the Broadcast Center.
CBS Sports added: “We are fully supportive of Augusta National’s decision to postpone this year’s Masters Tournament. We’ll continue to work closely with our partners at Augusta National as we prioritize the health and well-being of everyone involved.”
NBC Sports Regional Networks
According to an NBC Sports Regional Networks spokesperson, Peacock RSNs are following NBCUniversal’s guidance, which has been to encourage employees to work from home. All NBC RSN productions have been reduced to essential personnel only.
NBC Sports Regional Networks are continuing to air live studio shows and radio simulcasts in their markets, where possible. In addition, NBC RSNs’ digital platforms, including the RSN websites and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app, are being continuously updated with news and analysis. NBC Sports Regional Networks programming will also include encore presentation of games, including classic match-ups and best-of game schedules.
“The safety of our employees is always our top priority,” said the NBC Sports Regional Networks spokesperson. “We have been in regular contact with our team and league partners throughout the process, and are working within their guidelines to adjust as necessary.”
Turner Sports presented a special edition of the Inside the NBA on Thursday night that focused on the coronavirus’ impact on the NBA. The episode featured the NBA on TNT’s Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith in the studio interviewing league commissioner Adam Silver remotely. Analyst Charles Barkley called into Thursday’s show to explain he was under self-quarantine for a possible coronavirus case.
MLB Network and NHL Network
From their shared facilities in Secaucus, NJ, league-owned networks MLB Network and NHL Network released a joint statement that said, “We echo Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League’s message that the health and well-being of everyone in our community is of utmost importance. We are staying in constant communication with the leagues and our partners while taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of our employees.”
In regards to programming changes, MLB Tonight will air a live one-hour program on a daily basis at 6 pm ET. Other afternoon programming for the following week will feature MLB Network Countdown programs, Top 100 Players Right Now! and Top 10 Players Right Now!. Primetime programming will feature MLB Network Presents documentaries, including Only In Hollywood, Mr. Padre, Nasty Boys, The Bird and Atlanta Rules: Story of 90s Braves.
On NHL Network, NHL Tonight will air a live one-hour program on a daily basis at 7 pm ET. Other programming to air throughout the afternoon and in primetime for the following week are NHL Network Originals, Raising The Cup, Franchise Classics and Stanley Cup films.
SVG’s Ken Kerschbaumer, Brandon Costa, Jason Dachman, and Kristian Hernandez contributed to this report.