YES Network Takes ‘Yankees Classics’ Broadcasts to Next Level with Commentary

YES Network broadcasts of “Yankee Classics” have become a mainstay for Yankee fans. So, with the 2020 MLB season currently on hold the challenge from YES Network President of Production and Programming John “Flip” Filippelli to the team was to challenge itself to create new content and the viewing experience of the Classic games was front and center.

YES Network announces Paul O’Neill (top) and David Cone discussed Derek Jeter’s 1996 MLB Debut during a Yankee Classic broadcast.

Jared Boshnack, YES Network coordinating producer, says the goal was to create a “ride along” experience so that viewers could hear YES Network talent, including ex-players like David Cone and Paul O’Neill, offer insights into games they were actually part of.

“Flip powers us with guidance and [YES Network President] John Litner pushed us,” adds Boshnack.

What began as live tweets has grown thanks to multiphase ambitions that involved new workflows, new technologies, and new ideas.

“Phase one was figuring out how to interact with the content right away via a secondary device and social media,” says Boshnack. The first game was the July 1, 2014 Yankee victory over the Boston Red Sox and announcers John Flaherty (who had the game winning hit), Michael Kay, and O’Neill offered live comments via tweet. Six additional games followed during the first week of April, helping drive viewers back to the linear channel.

The production team wanted to do more, and the decision was made to take two of the Classic games that were accessible on the network’s video servers and then, separately, record conversations between O’Neill and sports reporter Jack Curry.

“They used Zoom to talk about the game and we gave them the context for the game situation we wanted them to discuss, cut off sound bites, and then rolled those in during the commercial breaks,” says Boshnack. “It was the best way to integrate them.”

Those two phases lead us to phase three which took place this past Sunday evening: O’Neill and Cone’s commentary being integrated into the broadcast of Yankee great Derek Jeter’s first game on Opening Day in Cleveland in 1996 (Cone was the starting pitcher and it also was the first game for manager Joe Torre and other coaches and Yankee greats (and also featured legendary broadcasters Phil Rizzuto and Bobby Murcer.

“We created a Zoom call with Cone and O’Neill and showed them over 20 clips which they then commented over,” says Boshnack. Producer Emily Colter shared her screen so that Cone and O’Neill could watch the game and do their commentary remotely and, with her recording of the Zoom call in hand, the Editor Frank Murphy then embedded the video of their conversation into the broadcast and Rick Deutschman, YES Network, senior director, creative design, created the overlay graphics. Adobe Premiere was used for the final edit before the file was uploaded to Boxx where the producers could do overlays of graphics and photos.

“Mike Webb, [YES Network, VP, Broadcast Operations] and his team gave us access so that we could extract the files we needed,” explains Boshnack. “Once on Boxx it went to master control and, depending on the project, took about seven to 10 working days.”

With the three-phase project deemed a success the YES Network is now adding a fourth phase courtesy of Yankee Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Rivera is recorded a first-person account of his final starting pitching appearance on July 4, 1995.

“Mariano was amazing as the week before we showed him what we did and he was in,” adds Boshnack.

The efforts are all part of a new normal in sports broadcasting: where creativity is embraced, and risks are encouraged.

“We’re all in it together and are trying things and hopefully they work,” says Boshnack. “The biggest thing we can do is use our creativity and push the boundaries of technology.”


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