MSG Networks Ops Team Juggles Multiple Balls — and Pucks — With All Four Local NBA, NHL Teams in Playoffs
Game Creek Video is in the compound for all of them — just like in the regular season
For the first time in 29 years, all four New York City–area NBA and NHL teams are in the playoffs, making for a busy spring for MSG Networks. To cover the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils playoff games, the New York RSN has ramped up operations to cover dozens of games.
“While I am relatively new to the MSG family,” says David Schafer, SVP, product, technology and operations, MSG Networks, “I am fortunate to inherit a best-in-class team that impresses me every day. Teamwork is in the DNA of MSG Networks, [allowing us] to continually deliver compelling coverage across 350+ games every season. While this resonates all season long, the team has turned it up a level during the playoffs.”
In 1994, all the New York City–area teams were in the playoffs, but games were produced by both MSG and SportsChannel New York. The two came under the same umbrella in 1995 when Cablevision and ITT Corp. acquired the Knicks, Rangers, and MSG Network. This year marks the first time MSG Networks has handled games for all four teams.
“We are lucky to have eight staff members that were here for the 1994 playoff run,” says Schafer. “Their experience has been invaluable during this exciting time.”
Producing simultaneous games with all teams is nothing new for MSG Networks — Schaeffer says it occurs five to eight times during the regular season — so the production and operations teams have plenty of experience to rely on in the short time they have to plan for playoff scenarios.
“With the four teams in the playoffs,” says Schafer, “we have only a week to prepare, with our production and operations teams working around-the-clock to deliver compelling coverage to our fans. This is just another example where their vast experience resonates.”
The key challenge MSG Networks faces with four teams in the playoffs comes down to securing crew.
“There is high demand across the national broadcasters, our respective visiting teams, and other New York sporting events, such as the Yankees, Mets, and Nets,” says Schafer. “Fortunately, our team maintains solid relationships all year long, and we were able to secure local crew with limited out-of-market resources.”
Game Creek Video is providing mobile units for all four teams’ broadcasts. MSG Networks’ longtime production-truck supplier worked closely with the broadcaster to ensure that its production teams are housed in the mobile units they have called home for the majority of the season, creating a comfort level with the facilities as well as with the engineers.
MSG Networks has also expanded its studio coverage during the playoffs, extending selected pregame coverage to one hour and pre/postgame shows for national exclusives in the first round.
Given that most playoff games are three-way productions (the home RSN, away RSN, national network), MSG Networks does not produce dual feeds and instead collaborates closely with national broadcasters ESPN and WBD Sports.
Since MSG Networks is home to both the Rangers and the Devils, who are facing off in the Eastern Conference First Round, the RSN is providing a separate mobile unit for each and leveraging the national complement as well as its own assortment of cameras, playback sources, and announcers.
“We are beyond thrilled to have all New York–area teams in the playoffs,” says Schafer. “The energy around the office is contagious.”