2021 Executive Reflections: CBS Sports’ Patty Power on Turning Big Challenges into Big Triumphs
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. Ahead of CBS’s Super Bowl LV broadcast this Sunday, here is an editorial by Patty Power, EVP, Operations and Engineering, CBS Sports, as part of our “2021 Reflections” series from SVG’s 2021 Sports Production Yearbook, which published earlier this year.
Our team had a great start to 2020, great NFL playoffs, and a fantastic start to the PGA TOUR and was pre- paring for another NCAA Men’s D1 Tournament and Masters. Then came March 12, and everything was turned upside down. We were days away from the NCAA tournament and in the middle of conference champi- onships, when everything was canceled and the Masters and PGA TOUR were postponed. We had to unwind all of our work in very short order and make decisions that would impact our crews immediately. On top of that, our Broadcast Center was closed due to COVID, and, although all live sports were suspended, we still had daily shows and weekend programming that we needed to return to air.
The team quickly devised a plan to deliver audio and video equipment to our teams so that they could operate from home in a virtual control room and our talent could broadcast from home. It was a massive undertaking in a short time, but nothing compared with what followed. Given the week of June 8 as the return for the PGA TOUR, with health and safety as the priority,we had a little over two months to reimagine how to produce live golf.We relied more on technology as we reduced on our onsite footprint with the majority of our staff working remotely from around the world. We changed the entire workflow, adding mobile units onsite and reconfiguring them to maximize social distancing. It was a major adjustment for all involved, but it worked, and we were proud to lead the industry back to producing multiple-day, weekly events with great success. We learned many lessons, which we have applied to our return to football and will continue to use as we move forward in all our production, operations, and engineering planning.
This was an amazing team effort. The teamwork, collaboration, and communications were key to our success. Without the leadership of CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and President David Berson, the partnership with EVP/SVP Harold Bryant and his production team, along with the innovation and ingenuity of my operations team — Mike Francis, Jason Cohen, Scott Davis, Greg Coppa, Marianne Fischer, Tom McShane, Ed Coleman, Mike Angeloni — we would not have been as successful as we were. Special thanks to Rodney North and his team, who led our health and safety initiative and helped establish our protocols. For many, it was the biggest challenge of our career, but, as we continue working together in this new landscape, we believe, in the end, it will be one of our biggest triumphs. Looking forward to the challenges of 2021!