Tupelo Raycom Shares Live Sports Production Advice To Sports Link

BY ALEX KARTMAN | Director | Ball State Sports Link

Ball State Sports Link welcomed members of the Tupelo Raycom staff to lead a live sports production discussion on campus Sept. 11.

John Servizzi (Executive Vice President, Engineering and Operations), Adam Coppinger (Vice Presidnt, Remote Productions), Andrea Crawford (Director, Remote Production) and Kyle Binder (Producer, SL Class of 2012) delivered insight to 43 students.

Tupelo Raycom, a Raycom Media company, is the product of the 2017 merger of Tupelo-Honey and WebStream Sports.

Founded in 2006, WebStream Sports grew from three-camera streaming coverage for the NCAA and Horizon League to national television productions on ESPN and CBS Sports Network.

Under the direction of John Servizzi and Greg Weitekamp, WebStream grew from five full-time staff to 35 and expanded to include offices in Indianapolis and Charlotte.

WebStream’s innovative production model includes the use of next generation production workflows and full-time staff in key positions, enabling consistently high quality output that meets client budgets and exceeds expectations.

Tupelo Raycom annually produces 1,000+ live events for various outlets including ESPN, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, NCAA and many more.

Despite the sheer number of events, Tupelo Raycom and its staff focuses on creating quality productions. Their events range from webcasts with thousands of viewers, to primetime football games with millions of viewers.

“Numbers should never dictate quality or define quality,” Servizzi said.  “The sport you are producing live is always the most important sport of the day to some audience.  Always keep your quality up.”

“If you are self critical, it doesn’t matter how many people are watching,” Coppinger added. “Most producers find five things that went right in a broadcast and 35 that went wrong.”

“There’s a difference in covering an event and producing an event,” Servizzi explained.  “Producing requires diving into developments and creating elements that tell the story of the game, not just putting up camera angles that show the game.”

Inside the Tueplo Raycom production truck with Adam Coppinger directing the Bahamas Bowl.

The story doesn’t just end with the producer though.

“Humanize not analyze,” Coppinger said, referencing Tupelo Raycom’s philosophy and an emphasis from ESPN on all its productions this year.

“Produce your position. Let everyone know what you know and what you don’t. Be an expert in your position.”

Crawford shared how she does this from a graphics position.

“Know how you want to tell your story,” Crawford said.  “Know the graphics shells and how graphics can be utilized within the game you are producing.  Do you have time for full-screen graphics? What are the key statistics?  Also know how the producer wants execute graphics in the story.”

Even from a replay side, each decision you make affects the overall story, according to Binder.

“It’s important to study the sport you are covering and know the best angles for replays,” Binder said.  “A replay operator can enhance — and should — the emotion of a game.  Be creative and different in creating packages and replays to tell the story.  Emphasize causation, don’t always focus on the end result.”

Teamwork in a live production truck will make every broadcast better. This is evident on the best, high-level productions, including those from Tupelo Raycom.

“The best shows happen when ideas flow from everyone in the truck,” Coppinger said.  “Every crew member should produce their position.  If that happens, it easy to see when watching.”

However, not every idea can make it into a show. It’s the producer’s job to decipher what gets used in a broadcast.

A producer should, according to Coppinger, be discerning in what they disseminate. Communication with a crew must be consistent, clear and concise.

This communication isn’t just during a broadcast. As a producer, Coppinger makes an effort to meet with every position.

“I spend one-on-one time and conversations with every position, “Coppinger said.  “This allows both to make sure they know what I expect from them and what they need from me.”

John Servizzi, Executive Vice President of Tupelo Raycom.

Servizzi elaborated communication doesn’t just have to be about your current role, reach out to learn from those around you.

“You will be amazed by how many people will talk to you for 15 minutes on a show,” Servizzi said. “Ask questions. You never know when these conversations will help you in the future. Most of the time, it’s not about talent, it’s about connections.”

To break into the industry and be successful, there is not just one path, but Coppinger did reveal what aspects can help.

“You have to be passionate, hard-working and, more importantly, intelligent. Never be satisfied. You’re only as good as your next show.”

Sports Link students will put the advice into action leading up to their first weekend of live ESPN3 productions Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 as Ball State women’s soccer hosts Ohio and Kent State, respectively, in NCAA Soccer action.

The broadcasts, produced by senior Nick Panozzo, mark the first of up to as many as 12 live ESPN3 productions this semester alone for the nation’s first digital sports production program.

Author: Alex Kartman

I am the Director of Digital Sports Production and Ball State Sports Link. I produce, direct, and film sports ranging from feature stories to live broadcasts. I freelance as a technical director for the Indiana Pacers, ESPN, Fox Sports and other regional TV. I also love film and attempted to be a critic in a past life.

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