Legends Behind the Lens: Andrea Berry
The trailblazer that redefined the impact a tech manager could have on a sports broadcast
The story of American sports television is engrained in the history of this nation, rising on the achievements of countless incredible men and women who never once appeared on our screens. During this pause in live sports, SVG is proud to present a celebration of this great industry. Legends Behind the Lens is a look at how we got here seen through the people who willed it to be. Each weekday, we will share with you the story of a person whose impact on the sports-television industry is indelible.
Legends Behind the Lens is presented in association with the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the SVG Sports Broadcasting Fund. In these trying times — with so many video-production professionals out of work — we hope that you will consider (if you are able) donating to the Sports Broadcasting Fund. Do so by visiting sportsbroadcastfund.org.
Trailblazer. Pioneer. Groundbreaker. Throughout Andrea Berry’s decades-long career in sports broadcasting, these descriptors have been attributed to her time and time again, each with excellent reason. Berry blazed a trail as one of the first female tech managers at CBS in the mid ’80s, pioneered field operations for Fox Sports in the ’90s and 2000s, and continually broke new ground as an African-American woman in a predominantly male industry. And through it all, she has remained one of the most humble, well-liked, and respected people in the business.
“She was steady, locked in, and she always understood that whatever we did was a collaboration,” says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Jerry Steinberg, who worked with Berry at CBS and Fox Sports. “She somehow knew how to put the right moving parts in the right place at the right time, and that’s what production’s all about. … It’s a testament to her strength and fortitude: she was always just Andrea. Besides her unique talents, she’s a pioneer. She’s a pioneer by how she does her job. She cracked the glass ceiling in the television business.”
Interestingly, Berry did not initially pursue a career in sports broadcasting but, rather, through a series of fortuitous circumstances, discovered her passion for live television. A native of Chicago, she attended middle and high school in her mother’s native Jamaica before returning the U.S. for her senior year, during which she wanted to be an architect and interior designer. After her father encouraged her to pursue engineering instead, Berry decided to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she found an outlet for her love of music and art at the college radio station. She also found a work-study position broadcasting night classes to local companies like Bell Labs and Motorola via satellite.
“We would be in a studio at school, and we would just pretty much follow the instructor,” Berry recalls. “Little did we know at that time that we were doing live TV, little did we know that we were doing microwave transmission, little did we know that we had to be perfect with the audio and the recording. I was just going for it to make the most money for work-study.”
But she was hooked. At a college fair during her freshman year, she interviewed for a summer-relief position with NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV Chicago and was offered the job. Over the next four years, she immersed herself in studio operations.
“I knew right there that I wanted to be in TV. I had gotten the bug, and there was no turning back,” she says. “The radio did it for me because I was doing live radio — radio really started the live experience and the high — and, to me, there’s nothing better than the high of being on live TV.”
“Whatever she said in the room, made its way on air. The things that she wanted innovated: the sights, the sounds of Fox Sports that put the viewer in the stadium. You knew if Andrea was in charge of that game, that was going to be a game that was on point.” – Director Tony McCuin
As she prepared to graduate, Berry accepted a job with CBS in New York to become a management trainee within its studio system. After completing the trainee program, she became manager of the graphics group supporting both studio and field operations and quickly realized that her calling lay in the latter. At 24, she embarked on a 10-year career in the field for CBS in New York, taking on such roles as NFL coordinator and MLB co-coordinator and even scoring a trip to the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.
“The cool thing about CBS is that I created a family,” says Berry. “I grew up there, and the people that I spent time with were masters in this business, and so I learned from the masters on the production side and on the technical side.”
After a decade in New York, she was asked to return to Illinois to become the director of technical operations for the CBS affiliate in Chicago. Soon, however, she was recruited to join the nascent Fox Sports and, in 1996, left Chicago for Los Angeles, becoming part of the team that launched Fox Sports Net (FSN).
“The work of broadcasting sports is [as much] a team endeavor as many of the competitions we cover. Leadership of those teams is something that very few have done with the [same] grace, competence, compassion, and enthusiasm as Andrea,” says Jerry Gepner, formerly of CBS Sports and Fox, who recruited her to the West Coast. “She inspires those who work for her to go beyond their own preconceived limits, which is the ultimate job of a leader. Her management style is based on walking the walk, not just talking the talk. People like Andrea are rare, and I count myself as very fortunate to know her and to have worked with her.”
Berry is perhaps best-known in the industry for her 20 years at Fox, during which time she served as VP of field operations, FSN, overseeing operations for NFL, NASCAR, MLB, boxing, NCAA, and much more; SVP of broadcast media services, Fox Networks Group, responsible for all broadcast operations and transmission supporting both the Fox broadcast network and the cable entities; and SVP of broadcast media services, Fox Networks Group, managing all aspects of digital-media management for Fox, the Fox Sports Media Group, and the Fox Networks Group.
“The great thing about Andrea is, she brings this essence of calm and confidence to any production,” says Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer David Hill. “There’s a line in Rudyard Kipling: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs, and blaming it on you.’ Andrea, despite whatever was going on, always kept her head. The ultimate professional, she understands the pressures on everyone. She gets the philosophy of what a production is, how it should be done; she’s unbelievably creative … she’s a perfectionist. And working with her was one of the great joys of my life.”
Despite retiring from Fox, Berry remains as busy as ever, focusing on her philanthropic work with African-American boys and girls in the Los Angeles area; her consulting firm, The G.A.P. Media Group; and her latest endeavor as a life coach and wealth-management professional. Most important, Berry cherishes the time spent with her family: husband D. Channsin Berry and sons Brandon (12) and Aaron (10).
And she looks to mentor the next generation of sports-broadcasting professionals, Berry currently works for PRG and serves as chair for the Alumni Board of Directors for her alma mater and as a member of its Board of Trustees and advocating for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, particularly with young women through her Middle School Girls Computer Discovery camp in Chicago.
After all, sports broadcasting and the rush of live TV will always be a part of her.
“I love live television because it’s instant gratification. You literally start out with an empty parking lot, you set up, you do your show, you tear down, and you go to the next one,” says Berry. “If it’s a great show, it gives you instant gratification. A bad show makes you say, OK, next week I can do better. There’s always a chance to do better.”
The video in this profile was originally produced in 2016. For more on the life and career of this industry legend, visit their profile at the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.