Inside Wells Fargo Center With Philadelphia 76ers’ Digital Reporter Lauren Rosen
Digital content, team coverage continues in face of restrictions
In-venue production teams are experiencing unique challenges during the NBA season, but how are other critical in-venue elements operating in this fan-less environment? This past weekend, SVG was onsite at Wells Fargo Center with Philadelphia 76ers’ Digital Media Reporter Lauren Rosen as the team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After five consecutive seasons of “trusting the process,” the Philadelphia 76ers have become a perennial title contender over the past three seasons. With many playoff games played at the Wells Fargo Center (excluding last year’s NBA bubble in Orlando), the building is accustomed to hosting the city’s most ardent supporters. Without the crowds, the in-venue team has created a new atmosphere not only for the players but also for the folks covering the game digitally.
“When the Sixers win at home,” Rosen says, “you’re used to hearing a postgame playlist and fans cheering as they trickle out. Now, when you see one of our star players hit a game winner against the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s eerie how silent it is after the game.”
Before Tipoff: Pregame Plans Include Player Interviews, 76 Live Digital Show
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the clock for Rosen’s workday starts hours before anyone steps foot in the venue. Before heading to the venue, she is busy creating the written preview for the night’s matchup, editing the bulk of the player interview that she conducted over Zoom:
Ahead of @MatisseThybulle‘s second start of the season…
Here’s 2 minutes with Matisse – we cover zone D, stepping in as a starter, and @JoelEmbiid‘s EMVPIID campaign.
“Watching Joel do what Joel does – it’s pretty special… We’re just waiting for him to be named MVP.”
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) February 20, 2021
A lot of this pregame prep would normally happen inside the venue, but, with the custodial crew applying an extra coat of cleanliness to prevent spread of the virus, there are strict limits on when personnel are allowed into the arena. When Rosen is able to get into Wells Fargo Center, she’s putting the finishing touches on her game notes and other ancillary tasks needed for the production team.
“I’m usually tying up some loose ends, which includes trimming the footage from the player interview, exporting it, and sharing it with Senior Production Manager Ryan Koletty,” she says. “He’s up in the control room running our videoboard show, but we all try to do our part in terms of packaging everything so it’s easier for him.”
With some free time on her hands, she stops to observe the players warming up on the floor. This quiet time spent watching a guard who’s feeling it from beyond the perimeter, a duo having a little bit of fun during shoot-around, or a player who is on the mend but is showing signs of a potential return allows her to sharpen her coverage and get in tune with the team dynamic from a distance. Without access to practice throughout the season, this glimpse of the squad is one of the few times that she gets to see their training in person.
“I love watching warmups because the first couple of guys out there are usually the low-minute group, so we don’t get to see them as much on the court,” Rosen explains. “It’s nice to see how the team is interacting with each other.”
A casualty of the pandemic has been a lack of locker-room access. During the pregame and postgame, Rosen would have time with top-tier players and get a feel for how a player is performing in their own words. Instead of being in their physical presence, she participates in up to four virtual press conferences with players and coaches over Zoom. At 15 minutes after pregame media availability, the 76 Live pregame show hits social media and the website at 5:30 p.m. ET. Teaming up with Digital Content Manager Brian Seltzer, the 30-minute live stream covers the major storylines and topics of the game.
“He has so much institutional knowledge of this team and this city,” Rosen says. “He’s really good at zooming out and telling the story of the franchise but also breaking down the X’s and O’s.”
Throughout the Game: Safety Restrictions Limit Areas for Reporting, Interaction
When the game gets under way, her journalistic instincts kick in, and she reports on what she sees on the court. Armed with laptop and iPhone, Rosen is located at her designated table off the baseline and slightly behind the 10th row of seating. From her perch, she provides traditional reporting (injury updates, gameplay, defensive schemes, real-time lineup adjustments) through standard posts on Twitter and also showcases the unseen side of the game that fans can’t appreciate without being there in person:
Can someone please explain zippers to @MatisseThybulle
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) February 28, 2021
Danny Green always brings us joy and we are grateful
— Lauren Rosen (@LaurenMRosen) February 27, 2021
In previous seasons, Rosen would be able to walk to different areas of the building, but the stringent safety restrictions limit in-person communication with her internal team. Since she’s located in the yellow zone (or the lower bowl), she’s unable to interact in person with colleagues like Koletty in the control room and Director, Game Presentation, Derrick Hayes sitting courtside in the red zone.
“I’m usually at my table for the six hours that I’m here,” she says. “[Normally,] I would be able to catch up with co-workers, arena staff, and the players.”
Statewide and leaguewide regulations have changed a lot of aspects of the NBA season. Most notably, Wells Fargo Center is still not allowing fans in the seats. A lot of fake crowd noise and prompts are being played, but, during lulls in the action, communication on the floor can be heard pretty clearly from her vantage point. Although it’s interesting to hear in-game chatter, it hasn’t changed the way she covers the game.
“That’s actually something that I talked to [ESPN NBA analyst/reporter] Doris Burke about earlier in the season,” notes Rosen. “We would have never been able to hear the coaches and players on the other side of the court [with fans in the stands], but it doesn’t replace the intimate conversations with the team.”
Away From Wells Fargo Center: Digital Content Continues on Off Days, Team Road Trips
In a normal year, Rosen would be flying to different cities and hitting the road with the team. Instead, she facilitates her role within the walls of her home in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. Like her technical colleagues who embark on remote productions, she relies on a traditional screen like the one that fans watch at home.
“My responsibilities are pretty much the same, but I’m covering the game by watching it on TV,” she explains. “Pre-COVID, I was on the road for some of the games, and I think, this year, I would have been on the road a bit more. I’ll have the same game-day routine, but it all happens from my house.”
Aside from her reporting duties, Rosen maintains a high level of content created during team off days. A team also comprising Director, Content Strategy, Sean Spencer and producers/editors Maggie Zerbe and Nick McKain develops pieces that will be pushed out on the 76ers’ digital channels and also repurposed for spotlights on the in-venue videoboard.
“I try to help with storytelling however I can,” Rosen explains. “I’ll do an interview, and the video team will take those sound bites for a video feature. We’ve been rotating through different features in the arena, so we’ve shown a lot of content about Black History Month, and Maggie and I are working on things related to Women’s History Month.”
A Conduit for Content: In a Tough Year, Rosen Connects Fans With their Team
With the franchise since December 2018, Rosen has never had to adjust to working in a setting like this. She likens the beginning of the current season to working on a TV or movie set, but she has learned to embrace and thrive in the environment. Despite the idiosyncrasies, there are still familiar moments that come with working for an NBA organization.
“When we grab a big win or a player sets a career high,” she says, “I’m more likely to be working later in the night. When the team is on the West Coast and the game starts at 10 p.m. ET, the postgame Zooms are around 1:30 in the morning.”
The late nights and early mornings haven’t deterred her from attacking her job with vigor, and, while fans have been given good news about their potential return to Wells Fargo Center, Rosen is still connecting fans to their favorite team.
“Even in this weird year,” she says, “I find myself feeling fulfilled by what I do. The fact that we’re still finding ways to crank out content and be a conduit for the fans that aren’t here, I take that pretty seriously. If I can help bring a little bit of joy into someone’s really tough year, I’m more than happy to do that.”
Rosen and the 76ers will be back at Wells Fargo Center for a home matchup against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. ET.