YES Network’s ‘YES, We’re Here’ Digital Campaign Keeps Content Train Chugging
Using Zoom, the New York RSN is turning around one-on-one interviews with key Yankees, Nets personalities
Thursday was a visceral reminder of what the sports industry has temporarily lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic: Major League Baseball’s Opening Day came and went. With no live games to air, regional sports networks across the country are formulating new content plans to keep fans entertained, informed, and engaged.
At YES Network, the New York City-area RSN — which carries the rights to New York Yankees, Brooklyn Nets, and NYCFC — is going all-in on its digital and social efforts, launching a company-wide content campaign called YES, We’re Here, which features YES Network talent conducting Zoom-based video interviews with current and former players, fellow on-air talent, and other interesting personalities.
“With what was supposed to be Opening Day upon us, we realized that Yankees fans traditionally look to YES [Network], so we wanted to create that same community feel during these unique times,” says Kevin Sullivan, managing editor/director, digital media, YES Network. “[YES, We’re Here] has really been a wide mix of content with the hope that we can produce something for everybody, especially now when everybody is looking for some sort of distraction to help ease their anxieties given what’s going on in the world right now.”
So far, YES Network has produced longform video chats from talent ranging from Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay; host Bob Lorenz,Chris Shearn, and Nancy Newman; Yankees reporters Meredith Marakovits, Jack Curry; Nets play-by-play voice Ian Eagle; and Nets analysts/reporters Sarah Kustok and Michael Grady. They’ve been able to line up a star-studded list of guests, including Yankees manager Aaron Boone, former Yankee pitchers David Cone and Jim Abbott, and Nets swingman Garrett Temple.
The series came as a result of a massive idea session spearheaded by YES Networks President, Production and Programming, John Filippelli. According to Sullivan, hundreds of ideas began pouring in from the YES team.
“There were so many ideas that, at times, it felt a little overwhelming,” says Sullivan. “That’s when we took a step back and asked ourselves, ‘What’s most important right now?’ Collectively, we decided that it was most important that our viewers simply heard from our talent. They are so used to seeing and hearing from them every day; then, all of a sudden, it got stripped away from them. We wanted to let fans hear from our talent again and let them know that, yes, we’re here for them and that we are all in this together.”
Using Zoom allows YES Network to continue to create content while keeping its staff and guests safe in their homes as the nation waits out the coronavirus pandemic. Following a Zoom interview, the archived video file can easily be imported into either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (YES editors can edit on their platform of choice) to add a layer of graphical branding before the final project is exported and shared across the RSN’s various social channels.
Sullivan notes that, while these are undoubtedly unique circumstances, the YES Network team is actually well-seasoned and equipped to be working remotely this way. It’s something they are accustomed to doing.
“We’ve always been able to do our jobs from just about anywhere,” he says, noting that this campaign is far from an effort exclusive to the digital team but that its project that production and operations talent from across the network are contributing to. “Struggling to remain relevant or to maintain our engagement level hasn’t been much of an issue because we’re already accustomed to having the resources available to execute regardless of our locale.”
Sullivan points out, for example, that, while Spring Training was going on prior to the eventual MLB shutdown, members of the YES Network digital team were already executing on a workflow that had them shuttling between Tampa, FL, and YES Network’s main offices in Stamford, CT. He adds that, like many, he and his team are conducting more-frequent video-conferenced meetings to keep connected while everyone works from home.
YES Network is also continuing to churn out some of its most popular recurring pieces of social-media content, including game simulations on MLB The Show 20 (a videogame for the Playstation platform), unboxing and opening packs of baseball cards, and launching a bracket-style game in which fans can vote on the best Yankee nickname of all time.
The network’s popular CenterStage interview series is also getting a boost, being reintroduced as a podcast. The network is releasing one episode per week and has, so far, released episodes featuring interviews with former Yankees manager Joe Torre and former player Dave Winfield. The podcasts feature additional content that didn’t originally make air in the broadcast version of the show.
“The hope,” says Sullivan, “is that our loyal YES viewers can come to our digital platforms and find something that can help them smile during this difficult time.”