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YES Network Celebrates 20 Years With the NBA's Nets

20/01/2022

YES Network Celebrates 20 Years With the NBA's Nets From New Jersey to Brooklyn, it has been an exhilarating ride for the broadcaster By Ken Kerschbaumer, Editorial Director

Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 12:41 pm

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In 2002, YES Network launched on March 19 with Yankees baseball, and then, on Oct. 30, it broadcast its first New Jersey Nets game. This NBA season marks the 20th that YES Network has been home to Nets basketball. Over two decades, the network has followed the team from the Meadowlands to Newark and then, 10 years ago, across the Hudson River to Brooklyn. For YES Network, it was a huge deal, providing a viewing proposition that didn't begin and end with Yankees baseball.

It has been such a wonderful transition and ride from New Jersey to Brooklyn, says Jared Boshnack, VP, production, YES Network. Seeing the community aspects of what is actually taking place in Brooklyn and the way we've been able to grow this product, it's really something else. And we feel that, toe-to-toe on a regional level, there is no better product. For us, it's just night in, night out bringing the enthusiasm, the energy. We have Mike Webb [VP, broadcast operations and engineering, YES Network] and his team on the operations side giving us all the tools we need, and producer Frank DiGraci on his side with the talent and the production core that surrounds him is just the best in the business.

Mike Webb oversees broadcast operations for YES Network.

Webb recalls the pivot from Yankee baseball to Nets basketball as well as the steep learning curve.

The hardest thing to get adjusted to was the fact that you were doing this every day, says Webb. The home games were fairly easy, but the road games were new to navigate because we had to learn the NBA Visiting Telecast Program and how you ordered things through the rate cards and so forth and so on. It was all about learning those pieces of the puzzle, but it was fun.

In year two, DiGraci joined the team as producer, having served as Nets producer for MSG Networks for four years.

I knew the players, I knew [announcer] Ian Eagle, so I just had to learn about everyone at YES, he recalls. And I remember two things about when we started. First, when the graphics came up for the Yankees game, we were like, This is real.' There were a lot of doubters in the marketplace, especially from the competition, but that graphic package popped, and we knew right away this is not going [away]. [Second,] I remember how every single person there was just so nice, as John Filippelli [president, production and programming, YES Network] did not hire any jerks. It was almost like that was his mantra: I'm gonna build this from scratch, and I'm gonna have good people.'

DiGraci particularly appreciated the amount of attention the Nets production team received from YES.

YES Network's Frank DiGraci in the truck at Barclays Center (Photo: E.H. Wallop/YES Network)

The Nets were, and are, extremely important to the network, he says. There was definitely a feeling of importance, whereas, to be honest, at MSG Network and SportsChannel, the Nets were just one of seven teams. At YES, the shows got more attention, more equipment, more facilities, a full-time studio presence, a full-time pregame, halftime, and postgame.

Only the Best Talent When Filippelli joined the YES Network, he brought an eye for talent, developed at national networks, and immediately helped YES Network both bring in and develop top-notch talent across the board.

We started with Ian Eagle, who came over from SportsChannel/Fox Sports New York, DiGraci recalls. And then we had Marv Albert for six years. Spero Dedes started with us, and he went national. Ryan Ruocco started with us and went national. Mark Jackson is another example: three months after finishing with us, he was doing the NBA Finals for ABC. Michelle Beadle started with us as a reporter. Now Michael Grady is one of the best in the country and getting his chance. And [current full-time analyst] Sarah Kustok has done some national reporting.

The key to developing a good broadcast team, DiGraci believes, is having a family atmosphere and finding people who are comfortable with the production team. Finding the right announcer often begins with finding people who are generous and caring, people who make a good teammate.

From the early days of YES Network, announce team Mark Jackson (left) and Marv Albert (Photo: E.H. Wallop/YES Network)

That translates to their being comfortable with each other and then comfortable on the air. Our goal is to have viewers feel as though the announcers are watching the game with them. With Sarah and Ian, it feels like you're just watching the game, and they give you the feeling you are all in it together.

This year's full broadcast team comprises Eagle and Ruocco on play-by-play; Kustok and former Net Richard Jefferson as analysts; courtside reporter Grady; studio hosts Bob Lorenz, Nancy Newman, and Chris Shearn; and studio analyst Frank Isola. Ian Eagle has won six straight play-by-play Emmys. Sarah has won two straight analyst Emmys. They are the first play-by-play and analyst covering the same team at the same network to win in the same year, and they've done it back-to-back.

DiGraci says Kustok does more homework than any analyst in the league when it comes to watching film, studying rosters, and talking to coaches.

Key to great success on-air? The relationships off-air, and establishing that begins with the interview process.

What kind of person are you? Are you generous, caring? Will you be a good teammate?, DiGraci explains, noting that, if the answers are yes, the chemistry happens and we can have fun on the bus, on the planes, telling stories and building it that way. And that trans
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2022/01/20/yes-network-celebrates-20-years...
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