Behind the Broadcast: CBS Sports Director Suzanne Smith

She wouldn’t call herself a “pioneer,” but CBS Sports Director Suzanne  Smith definitely knows who she is.  Whether directing an NFL game, US Open Tennis or NCAA Basketball, Suzanne is at the top of her game.  I am so proud to have seen her grow at CBS Sports from a production assistant to one of our business’ top professionals.  Suzanne is skilled and talented, and warm and generous.

suzanne smith and gs.jpegI dropped by her production truck at last weekend’s Patriots vs. Jets game at Met Life Stadium, where we caught up on recent events.  I found her in the “camera meeting” where she was talking with her camera crew, forecasting what the game could be like and the key players to cover. The broadcast was flawless, exciting and  even went to overtime. It’s easy to see why I’m such a big fan.

She recently gained some notoriety in this Sports Illustrated profile. Please check it out!

What’s new in home tech?

I try to stay current on the latest in home entertainment technology. This helps me and my team to understand how our audiences will view and discover their television content.  With that in mind, I visited the annual CEDIA conference — Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association.

These are the folks who design and install home theaters, media rooms, whole house audio and video and home automation.  This year’s expo floor was filled with plenty of big TV’s, digital projectors and screens, comfy theatre seats, home networking and connected devices, remote controls, amps, speakers and automation devices.

A wild TV set up with speakers at the CEDIA Expo.

A wild TV set up with speakers at the CEDIA Expo.

Everyone had an “app” for just about anything.  The biggest change from years past was in the amount of horizontal growth in devices like locks, automatic shades and curtains, energy monitors and lighting and climate tools.  More vendors offering more choices and each with their own operating system — app based — rather than vertically integrated systems like Crestron or Savant or Control 4 where you buy the whole ecosystem from them.

homeseer-e1380725554629-300x225As always I used this as a great opportunity to catch up with my friends from HomeSeer Technologies.  Rich, Mark, Rick and Jon were in full force. HomeSeer is a terrific home automation product  — it’s flexible, easy to use and highly expandable. I have used mine for over a decade — always growing, improving, and learning.  As I say, I don’t fish and I don’t play golf, so my leisure time pursuits are working with home automation and watching sports on TV.  HomeSeer continues to give me a lot to play with.





With the new TV season underway, now’s a good time to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned about the vast changes in viewer behavior and how people find out about what’s on.

TV viewing has evolved in three central ways:

1.  DISCOVERY has evolved. Viewers are embracing new TV discovery methods. People are very active in how they seek, schedule and sample content. Viewing behavior is shifting from simply “watching television” to actively “managing content.”

2.  The SAMPLING PERIOD has evolved. Viewers are increasingly taking a longer time to sample new series. They are wary of investing time because they worry new shows will be cancelled. Plus they have a backlog of existing TV shows they want to see and catch up on.

3.  PLATFORMS have evolved. People prefer to watch shows live on best available platform. Appointment TV is an established habit. Social media helps the live viewing experience … people want to be in “the know” and avoid “social spoilers.” But when they can’t see what they want live, viewers are ready, willing and able to watch in other ways.

The evolution of TV MARKETING  

As an industry we’re adapting to the new show discovery process, the extended sampling period, and evolved platforms that let people watch shows wherever, whenever, however.  It’s a marked change for those of us who were accustomed to measuring success by one simple metric – the overnight ratings.

Now we’ve got to have patience and let the full story – including the results from time shifted viewing – play out. Those results are not available for many days after broadcast.   For example, the series premiere of THE CRAZY ONES averaged 15.5 million Live+Same Day television viewers, but with Live +3-Day results (those who watch within 3 days of the original broadcast either live or on their DVRs), its audience jumped to nearly 19 million. And when VOD and online streaming are added in, we estimate that figure will grow to over 24 million, which is a 55% increase overall.

What hasn’t changed? The fact that TV marketing is a game of contact and impact. You have to make contact with viewers and make impact with attention-getting ad creative. And to make effective ads, you first need great content. Great content is its own best selling point.

In this crazy world where people’s narrow interests are well fed by the Internet, the role of network TV is to find the larger, universal themes, characters and stories that connect us all. For us, the bigger the better. Big = good … and when it comes to promotion, enough is never enough! There is no such thing as too much marketing. Just when you are sick of hearing the same message repeated over and over, it’s JUST starting to break through to the audience.

A BIG Premiere Week

And we’re off! The race is long and the miles of road stretch out ahead but after our first week of new programming we’re thrilled to have TV’s number one new show in THE CRAZY ONES along with new highs for returning hits NCIS and THE BIG BANG THEORY. CBS won premiere week in viewers for the fifth consecutive year – its ninth overall in the past 11 years.


Here are some of the premiere week highlights:

• TV’s #1 DRAMA: The 11th season premiere of NCIS drew more than 20 million viewers, clinching its spot as TV’s #1 drama.

TV’s #1 COMEDY: THE BIG BANG THEORY hit a new viewer record with 20.44 million viewers. It also clocked in with its best-ever Live +3-Day lift of more than 4 million viewers.

TV’s #1 NEW SHOW: THE CRAZY ONES, featuring the return of Robin Williams to network television, premiered to 15.61 million viewers. With Live +3-Day results, its audience jumped to nearly 19 million.

For the full ratings press release click here and as always stay tuned!

Time Out!

Me with Jimmy Hadder, CBS Field Manager and TV Timeout Coordinator.

Me with Jimmy Hadder, CBS Field Manager and TV Timeout Coordinator.

Did you ever wonder how the football referees know when the commercial breaks are ending and they can get back to the game?  Meet Jimmy Hadder, CBS’s number one “Red Hat.”  He’s the link between our CBS game producer and the lead official.  When we are in a commercial, Jimmy steps on to the field and relays to the ref how much time is left.  They meet before the game to coordinate the signals and the format so good communication is key.

So what’s with the term “Red Hat”?    Years ago, when this started, the CBS person on the sideline wore a red cap, so the ref could easily spot them.  After a few years, there were too many people with red hats on the sideline, so they graduated to wearing huge orange/Day-Glo mittens. They were almost like giant hand warmers … more easily spotted and very unlikely that anyone else on the side would have them.  When they crossed their arms on their chest, that signaled the break.  Now you know.

Jimmy with the ref.

Jimmy with the ref.

Communication is key.

Communication is key.