New York Giants Get Set for Upcoming Live-to-Tape Blue-White Scrimmage Specials on NBC 4 New York
With the cancellation of preseason games, Giants fans can still get their football fix
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away a lot from sports and live event production, but it hasn’t broken the unwavering loyalty, spirit, and passion of New York fans of the gridiron. Over the next two weekends, New York Giants fans will be treated to one-hour, live-to-tape presentations of Blue-White scrimmages on NBC 4 New York with the help of the franchise’s production departments.
“These will be make-ups for the preseason games we’ve lost,” says Don Sperling, VP/executive producer, New York Giants. “We’ll be producing these scrimmages in the stadium like we do for all of our game days with our seven-camera crew and three or four extraneous camera crews from Giants production.”
The Rundown: Inside the Details of the Broadcast
With the cancellation of the entire 2020 preseason slate, the New York Giants have been given extra days for practice at their training facility in East Rutherford, NJ. As teams remain distant from each other to curb the spread of the virus, intrasquad scrimmages have become a common occurrence. Although similar in nature to what MLB teams did during Summer Camp, the Giants will take this live-to-tape effort to the next level with manned cameras and an on-air team inside of the stadium.
On the talent side, Bob Papa and Carl Banks will call the action from the booth. Instead of the sideline, Shaun O’Hara will report from the first row of the stands. Albeit not directly next to the players, this vantage point will still allow O’Hara to give insight into what’s happening over the course of the game. NBC 4 New York Sports Anchor Bruce Beck will also appear as a special contributor.
Along with O’Hara’s knowledge on the field, a camera will be set up behind the Giants bench to provide additional sights and sounds from field level. Head Coach Joe Judge will wear a microphone, which will then be compiled into a segment that will run in the show on the following day.
Since the televised portion of the special will be live-to-tape, Sperling and his team devised a system that will allow the re-aired game to be edited while it’s still in progress.
“As the game is going on, we’ll have four lines sending back camera feeds, interviews, mic’ed up audio, and other elements to NBC,” he says. “This will allow the Giants Production staff back at the practice facility to composite the show as the scrimmage is still going on.”
Lastly, at halftime and during the postgame, fans will be able to hear from GM Dave Gettleman, Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit, as well as players that participated in the scrimmages. After completion of each airing, the game will be available for consumption on Giants.com, the Giants Mobile App, and the Giants YouTube channel.
Producing at Game Speed: In-Venue Experience Includes Replays, Crowd Noise, and More
For those who’ve played organized sports, practicing at game speed translates to positive results when the referee blows the whistle on gameday. The production crew will follow suit with a game-like atmosphere inside of the stadium to simulate an official contest at MetLife Stadium.
“We’re going to produce the game [in this way] because Coach Judge wants a game environment,” says Sperling. “We’re going to have crowd noise, music, and PA announcements.”
Hired over the offseason, Judge is still getting comfortable in New York and within this historic organization. This process includes gaining trust from those around him, and for Sperling and the rest of the production staff, they want to give a good impression right off the bat.
“We haven’t had a game with Coach Judge yet, so we’re trying to make a first impression on him as well,” he adds. “We’re also going to have replays and challenges, so we’re not just looking at [these games] as a practice to make sure we’re sharp.”
Despite bringing the noise that is customary for Giants games, the in-venue team will run with a truncated staff with less equipment.
“These scrimmages automatically reduce the need for the full-time crew that we normally have,” continues Sperling. “[This show] could probably go with two EVS servers instead of three, but we’re going to go with three. We’re going to go with one switcher instead of two, and normally, we have two TDs because we produce a B-show, but we’re not going to have a B-show.”
A Two-Pronged Strategy: Crew Divides Production Responsibilities
Since the team will be responsible for producing the on-air product and in-venue videoboard content, the Giants decided to ditch the regular playbook and split the leadership of their production team to handle both aspects of the show. Along with Sperling, Senior Director of Production and Events Christine Baluyot will be in charge as well.
“It’ll be interesting, but we’re going to split our team,” says Sperling. “While normally Christine line produces the game on the rundown and I executive produce, Christine’s going to focus more on the in-game and I’m going to focus more on the [televised] special. I’ll be talking to my producers in the booth and on the field when to go on the air, how long to speak, and when to throw down to Shaun or to Bruce Beck for interviews. Christine needs to make sure that our coach is happy with the game environment that we’re creating, and I need to make sure that the show is getting all the elements it needs for us to properly get it to NBC.”
As the production staff prepares for these broadcasts, the past week has been filled with rehearsals and run-throughs in order to get all members in-sync and on the same page.
“We did a set day on Thursday, where we went through the looks at all of our positions,” he says. “We looked at loading, running, and testing everything on the board that we need for the weekend.”
In this new wrinkle, Sperling will be tasked with a different role that he’s not used to performing. When the regular season comes around, Sperling will be able to return to his normal position in a different looking show.
“This [split strategy] will only happen during a [production] like this,” he continues. “During the regular season, we’ll go back to semi-normal. We won’t have as many people and not as much capability, so we won’t have as much fan and sponsor opportunities.”
Giving Necessary Exposure: Broadcasts Shine Light on Sponsors, Television Partners
2020 has altered the programming schedule for all networks around the country. Many local networks were planning on airing preseason fixtures for fans in their respective areas, but when they were nixed from the NFL calendar, an empty hole was in need of feeling. Rather than settle for something other than New York Giants football, the franchise believed that extra time in training camp allowed for these scrimmages to be televised.
“Our coach was going to run these in practices since a lot of teams play intrasquad scrimmages,” says Sperling. “We thought, ‘Why not take these intrasquads, offense vs. defense, and try to turn it into something that NBC could air?’”
Since stands will be empty and sponsorship messaging won’t be prevalent in MetLife Stadium, the Giants felt that it was an advantageous situation to give necessary exposure to their partners by adding material on these televised games.
“We figured that we can give some exposure and make-goods to our sponsors who lost inventory without preseason games,” he adds. “This is our way of taking care of our sponsors and taking care of NBC.”
Seizing an Opportunity: Scrimmages Provide Blueprint for Upcoming Season
Before the team’s first home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, September 14 at 7:10 p.m., a majority of production snafus and hiccups will be out of their system because of these scrimmages. In addition to the potential production hurdles that may lie ahead in this unique season without in-venue fans, it’ll also be the first Monday Night Football game on ESPN’s schedule.
“If we didn’t have these scrimmages, we would have gone into the season without doing anything and then open up on Monday Night Football,” he concludes. “It’s no small task, so it’s great to have a couple of practice runs underneath our belt.”
Giants Blue-White Scrimmage Special will be presented on NBC 4 New York on Saturday, August 29 at 6 p.m. ET and Friday, September 4 at 7 p.m. ET.