Posted on 30th November 2020

Sports Broadcasting…Remotely

2020’s enforced lockdown and subsequent requirement to work remotely when possible has changed the way many people now carry out their job roles.

For sports broadcasters and their production teams, this has meant accelerating the ‘toe in the water’ approach that had been taken with remote working for live sport broadcast and editing.

‘Sports federations are understandably risk adverse’, explained Fergus Garber, Director of Production at BT Sport.

‘Changes to the way we work – small and large can only be done incrementally as so much is at stake with a live sports broadcast. Even though BT Sport’s Remote Production roadmap was at an advanced stage, there’s no doubt that this kind of rollout would have taken significantly longer to implement in normal times. Covid meant the rights holders worked quickly and collaboratively with the broadcasters in order to deliver the matches to a locked down audience.  Fortunately, we and other and other broadcasters were ready to deploy remote production because of the work already undertaken – the real challenge was the scale. All parties really stepped up to deliver”.

Sky Sports found themselves in a similar position, ‘typically, pre-covid for Sky’s Super Sunday show there would be between 120-150 people on site at each of the bigger games. Now it’s more like 50-60 onsite with the rest working from remote hubs’ said Emma Bayliss, Senior Production Manager for the Premier League. ‘Remote working wasn’t a totally new concept to us, we’d already been covering F1 in this way but we had to speed up the process to make sure we could safely cover Premier League game when they restarted’

Travel is always one of the largest parts of a production’s footprint so for the sports broadcast community the reduced numbers of people on site has meant a reduction in their overall carbon footprint. There have been other benefits too; crew have a better work/life balance as they don’t have to travel as far to games and overnight in hotels, although on the downside there is more reliance on using cars and less on public transport which is a practice Sky had been keen to push pre Covid.

For Fergus, another additional benefit has been the time spent thinking about content; ‘pre prep meetings have taken place when crew would otherwise have been on the road meaning more time can be spent on content for the shows, it’s a much more efficient use of the crew’s time’

During the summer months crew were also encouraged to bring their own food to avoid any potential contamination in the catering trucks although Emma questions whether this practice will remain throughout the winter. ‘If you’re working long hours on a wintry day, then one of the highlights is some warm food in the catering tent, a packed lunch isn’t quite the same!’

No doubt as and when the pandemic eases, some of these practices will revert but with BT Sport and Sky Sports both focussed on reducing their environmental impact, these changes will allow them to reassess how they can continue to provide the very best sports coverage without the same hefty carbon price tag.