2021 Executive Reflections: Turner Sports’ Chris Brown on the Industry Breaking Broadcasting Norms to Bring Sports Back to TV
When the pandemic hit the U.S. full force in March 2020, sports production was forced to accelerate technology changes that were already in motion but not expected to happen for several years. Health and safety came to the forefront of production concerns at the same time as engineers were racing to enable talent and tech to work from their homes. As always, the production industry came together as a family to deliver sports television to a public that was hungry for live entertainment. This editorial by Chris Brown, VP, Sports Production Tech, Turner Sports, is the latest in a series of “2021 Reflections” from SVG’s 2021 Sports Production Yearbook in which sports-production leaders look back on a year unlike any other and offer projections for the year ahead.
The year 2020 began for Turner Sports with the death of an NBA legend, Commissioner David Stern, fol- lowed closely by the loss of another NBA great in a much more tragic and impactful way: Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and six others close to the Bryant family were killed in a helicopter crash. In many respects, those two incidents would mark what was to become a year to remember.
The 2019-20 NBA season came to an abrupt halt the Thursday before Selection Sunday for the NCAA Men’s D1 basketball tournament. That night, our production teams and technical crews were in place in L.A. and Milwaukee with hopes of producing our two featured NBA on TNT games for the evening. Shortly after that, the NCAA decided to call off the 2020 tournament.
Looking back, I think it is fair to say that, at that time, we had absolutely no idea what was in store for us. We had no idea that what would come next would be the beginning of a seismic shift in what would become the future of live sports production. It thrust health and safety into the spotlight, and that has become more important than ever.
When I look back on this past spring and summer, I am amazed at how the industry came together as a community, all with the same goal: to produce live sports content, breaking all of the “norms” of conventional broadcasting. From on-air talent and production and technical people managing their roles from home to splitting the broadcast compound between sports venue and broadcast studio. Given the willingness of each group, whether production or the operations and engineering team, to come together, make compromises, and pull everything together, it was great to be a part of such an important effort.
As I thanked all of those on our teams at Warner Media, I felt it important to remind everyone how important our role in society is as professional sports broadcasters. We each play an important role in bringing live sports to the public at large. That role is to entertain and inform, to provide our fans with moments where we can all forget about the pressures of the world around us and rally together as family, friends, or team adversaries. It is our job in sports to figure out how to tell the story as thoughtfully and as meaningfully as possible and then deliver that story into homes, showcasing the latest tools that technology has to offer — both seen and unseen. I am so happy to call this Warner Media team, this entire community, my “sports family.”
This piece was originally published as part of the “Reflections 2020” section in the 2021 SVG Sports Production Yearbook, which you can read in full HERE.