The following advice comes from an industry source who prefers to remain anonymous. Reap the wisdom from our generous benefactor!
With so many colleges and Minor League teams now moving to Web only productions like ESPN3, let’s look deeper into what the differences are and how to get your foot in the door.
Changes in how sports broadcasts are produced
Let’s first look at some differences of Web only productions. The old ESPN3 model has shifted over to ESPN+ for most conferences. What does that mean though?
For many viewers that means a small monthly fee to watch many of the same games that were included in their cable package. For others, it means being able to just pay the small fee and not being required to have a cable provider at all. This is important to note with the trend moving to an increase in cable cutting.
In terms of the schools and conferences it means big changes. If you search the Web hard enough, you will see press announcements with one common theme: Schools are now building out their own control rooms and producing games on campus versus hiring out local TV production companies to produce the games.
There are many full-scale content providers outside of ESPN
I define “full scale” as a live multi-camera video broadcast with dedicated broadcasters, graphics, and replay.
Along with ESPN & Fox, many tech companies now offer live full-scale streaming sports services. Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube are good examples. Many conferences in Division II have also decided to build their own channels on Roku. A few D-II schools are now moving to the E+ platform as well.
Long term ramifications of Web-only broadcasts
One common thing you see in the press releases is ESPN+ becoming a platform for not only football and basketball but all the major sports a school competes in. In most cases E+ is the exclusive home to a school or league’s coverage. It’s probably the most overlooked part of the contracts.
With more coverage comes an increase in demand for broadcasters. Now covering soccer, softball, volleyball, lacrosse, wrestling and other secondary or Olympic sports is more important than before. Schools may find more conflicts with multiple broadcasts happening on one day. This opens doors for more broadcasters.
How do I get in?
If you are looking to break in to the TV/video streaming world, first do some homework before reaching out to potential employers.
1. Think outside of your home base
Maybe you live near a city that has a major Power 5 NCAA program close by, but within a 90-minute drive there are 3-5 other programs that also air games live; Not to mention a number of Minor League and Independent league teams in that same radius.
2. Locate distribution details
Once you locate the teams, you next need to locate the distribution details. Review schedules to see which sports a school airs on which platform. Many of these details are publicly available with a quick Google search.
Look at some of the secondary sports. Chances are that football, basketball, and baseball are already covered by the a broadcaster that works year-round.
You then have a decent idea of how many sports a school covers and on which platform.
3. Look for local tournaments
Be sure to look at your area to see if they host any kind of tournaments. Florida, for example, hosts several college tournaments.
The organizers crewing those events often look for local broadcasters so they don’t have to pay travel expenses.
4. If you’re a college student, maximize the opportunity to gain reps and demo material
The interesting thing about broadcast trends is that student involvement is at an all-time high.
Many schools around the county use current or very recent students to fill out broadcast positions throughout the year. These positions often include sideline reporters, pre/post game reporters, or a play by play broadcaster for “Olympic Sports”.
Reach out and see if you can be in a broadcast assistant role like a spotter, stage manager, or stats person. These roles often have you sitting directly beside the broadcasters and you can learn a lot from just watching. Plus, you are now in the door and only one person getting sick or quitting away from being on air.
What should I include on TV/video streaming demo?
TV is different from radio in what to include on a demo.
Include an open
Shooting an open is a VERY important thing that producers look at when evaluating talent.
Demonstrate your ability to execute the details
Little things like getting in and out of breaks smoothly and ALWAYS having one eye on the program monitor are important.
Nothing is more frustrating than when a broadcaster is talking about something different than what is on the screen (which may be a graphic, featured player, or replay).
Edit the broadcast down
Include a number of short clips that show different aspects of the broadcast. Nobody has time to fumble through a link to a 3-hour broadcast.
How do I get TV/video demo material?
If you need to make a demo or even need some extra reps here are a couple suggestions:
Look a level down
Go to the high school level and see if a local high school does any video broadcasting. Many states have live broadcasts of football and basketball. Some just layer a radio call or may not use broadcasters at all.
Look to the D-II and D-III levels
Reach out and see if you can bring a camera, microphone, and tripod to do your own segments.
In a pinch, grab a special cable, mic, and tripod to record a standup using your smartphone. Even major broadcasters are using smartphones for productions!