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On the Gridiron: Indianapolis Colts Handle Remote Radio Broadcasts of Away Games From Lucas Oil Stadium

30/09/2020

On the Gridiron: Indianapolis Colts Handle Remote Radio Broadcasts of Away Games From Lucas Oil Stadium The effort involves collaboration with the league, broadcasters, The Switch By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 11:38 am

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Many professional sports have opted for a return to play inside a sanitized bubble. Not the NFL. Without skipping a beat, the league is soldiering on with regular-season games in all 30 stadiums across the country. Similar to our At the Ballpark series, On the Gridiron examines the new routines, habits, and production philosophies of in-venue personnel on any given Thursday, Sunday, or Monday.

In consecutive home games, the Indianapolis Colts rattled off convincing wins against the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. A limited number of fans are enjoying amenities that they're accustomed to on game day, but, when games aren't played at Lucas Oil Stadium, the in-venue staff assists with remote radio broadcasts for away contests.

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While the football team is on the road, the Colts remotely produce radio broadcasts with the help of the NFL, broadcast networks, and The Switch.

Our radio crew can't travel this year, so I think a lot of other teams in the league are following this model as well, says Mike Stevens, operations manager, video engineering, Indianapolis Colts. It has been an interesting experience to say the least - especially for our talent, who have embraced the fact that they're sitting in a control room hundreds of miles [from the action] but are still able to see what they need to see to efficiently call the game.

Through the Speaker: Radio Broadcasts Continue Remotely Even when the building isn't packed with fans, the in-house production team is hard at work while the football team is on the road. In a season that has presented a hefty number of logistical challenges, production teams are confined to their respective stadiums to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak. When the Colts began their 2020 campaign in Jacksonville, FL, Stevens and his team leveraged a handful of partners to produce accurate and precise radio calls.

We had our entire radio broadcast of play-by-play Matt Taylor, color commentator Rick Venturi, and sideline reporter Larra Overton inside the control room in Indianapolis, Stevens says. The NFL was very open to letting us take feeds from CBS, Fox, ESPN, or NBC and feeding it back to us via The Switch. We've also been working with local engineers at the stadiums to get the all-22 feed.

At the forefront of this effort, Colts Senior Broadcast Engineer Chris Buckley; NFL VP, Broadcast Planning, Mike North; and NFL Senior Director, Broadcasting, Blake Jones are creating a relationship with home stations of other teams as well. Those stations are sending feeds of crowd sounds and referee microphones to Emmis Communications, the Colts' media partner responsible for getting these radio broadcast to fans.

Indianapolis Colts' Matt Taylor (foreground) and company call the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Other leagues have adopted this production model in their return to the television screen. In Major League Baseball, television and radio teams assigned to the visiting team were prohibited from entering booths in the home venue and had to rely on game footage captured by local RSNs. NBA franchises did the same for local radio teams during the resumption of play in the Wide World of Sports bubble in Orlando.

For reference and guidance, Stevens recalled his time working with the Indiana Pacers during their run in the playoffs. The Pacers were getting a program feed from either Turner or ESPN, along with a few other feeds and were calling the games from their home arena. Every NBA team was doing it with the RSNs, so I had experienced [remote broadcasts] before discussing this with our radio department. I've used some of that knowledge to get our radio team prepared and also to ask the league for certain things that we knew we needed to do a game efficiently.

Full Steam Ahead: Limited Audience Still Gets a Videoboard Show As more and more fans are allowed in the building and local government enters the next phase of reopening, a Colts football game is becoming a destination. Even though attendance is not at the venue's full capacity, the production team is still moving forward with its normal videoboard show.

We're taking the same approach, whether we have 65,000 fans or five fans in the stands, says Stevens. For fans who have taken the initiative to come to the game, we're giving them the experience that they expect at a home game.

While selected fans are lucky enough to get through the turnstiles at Lucas Oil Stadium, fans at home are still able to access content being shown during the game.

We've integrated our in-house production system into our pregame [live] stream, says Stevens. While the guys are out there stretching and warming up, we'll go live on Facebook, our mobile app, and website with Overton and [Media Specialist] Jeffrey Gorman. They'll give you an idea of what to expect for the game, but it also brings [together] our fans who can't come to the stadium and gives an experience that they would have if they were there.

Audio Change: League Adjusts
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2020/09/30/on-the-gridiron-indianapolis-co...
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