Behind the Scenes: In-Game Promos

tonightoncbsEver wonder what a drop in is? Then drop everything and watch this new video from NFL Filmsspecifically the portion that starts at the 3:14 mark.

It’s a must-see for anyone who wants to know more about the proud tradition of On Air Promotion within CBS Sports broadcasts.

The video highlights the genius of the late Pat Summerall, whose on air announcements during NFL Football on CBS “resonated almost as much as the football history unfolding on the field.”

Today, in-game promos continue to deliver invaluable impressions thanks to their unique proximity to live sports action. And the sportscasters who “drop in” these 10-second messages take them as seriously as the marketing directors who craft them.

Here I am in the booth with Jim Nantz at the Patriots/Steelers game on November 3, 2013 reviewing the blue cards containing the all-important copy football fans would be anticipating throughout the game to come. “These are the most important things you’ll read today!” I remind him.

Here I am in the booth with Jim Nantz at the Patriots/Steelers game on November 3, 2013 reviewing the blue cards containing the all-important copy football fans would be anticipating throughout the game to come. “These are the most important things you’ll read today!” I remind him.

In-game promos remain as important as ever to the success of our primetime shows. As we look forward to those we will hear this coming Sunday, take an enlightening look back at how they evolved and hear some interesting insights from those who remember them best.

Click here and skip to 3:14

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!

A look at some amazing entertainment technology


In the category of “one day people, will ask, ‘How did you ever exist with just an iPhone?’,” I recently visited the Old Town Music Hall, a little movie theater built in 1921 in El Segundo, Calif., which is near Los Angeles, and marveled at the technology and talent that went into playing live music for silent films.

That technology was the mighty Wurlitzer. That’s right, before talking pictures, audiences were entertained by silent films that used title cards and, in many theaters, live music accompaniment. The Wurlitzer is a brand of organ, but also much more. The instrument is a beauty. It has four keyboards and 1,600 pipes as well as some key-operated instruments (cymbals, castanets, drums) in order to provide the right type of sounds for playing background for a silent movie.


It also can play sound effects like car horns, bells, and whistles. It relies on the talent of the player to master such a device. In this case, the player was Bill Field. Along with a partner, Field, who has made his living as an organist for various entertainment spaces, purchased and rehabbed an old Wurlitzer organ to bring the experience to life for contemporary audiences.

Before the show, he played a short concert. The pipes and instruments are outlined with fluorescent paint. Thanks to a black light in the darkened theater, the audience can tell which pipes and instruments are working at various times. They are all controlled via keys and pedals on the organ.

That day, they showed a Tom Mix cowboy adventure. Mix did all his own stunts. The piece was filmed at the Grand Canyon — the real Grand Canyon, with sweeping vistas minus any CGI or green screen. No stunt men, miniatures, or computer effects; Tom and his horse did all the tricks. The live Wurlitzer that accompanied the silent film was perfectly in time with the film, and I felt totally transported to that dusty canyon and enjoyed Tom Mix and the musical ride!

First screen first!

As we round out the first part of 2012 on the heels of three big television events–Super Bowl, Grammys, and Oscars–a lot has been said and written about the power of social media as an extension of the TV experience.

It’s easy to see why: triple and quadruple digit increases in user adoption.

According to some accounts, social media comments for the Oscar awards this year were up more than 250 percent over 2011 levels. Meanwhile, social comments about the 2012 Grammys were up an astounding 2,300 percent and those for the Super Bowl were up 580 percent. And viewership ratings were huge.

People have always talked about television at work, at school, and at home. The difference now is that thanks to an abundance of “second screen” devices and platforms, word of mouth is not just visible…it’s also accessible down the hall, down the block, and around the world.


TV marketers welcome this trend–we love anything that enhances the television experience for our viewers, especially when it encourages them to spend more time watching and talking about our shows!

The important thing to remember is that before people can have a second-screen experience in this multiscreen, multiplatform world, they have to have a first-screen experience. It’s big event TV, primetime shows, and premium news and sports programming that spark and drive all the conversation on the second screen.

TV is the core of the media solar system around which all the other platforms and conversations rotate. Without its powerful content as a daily catalyst, all other screens and platforms are floating aimlessly in space!

The CBS Golf pros at work

The control room in action. (Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

The control room in action.
(Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

Led by coordinating producer, Lance Barrow and commentators Jim Nantz and Sir Nick Faldo, the CBS Golf team is a tight-knit family. They travel the PGA Tour together for weeks just as the players do, hopscotching from course to course across America. Recently I caught up with them at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera in Pacific Palisades, north of Los Angeles. Production Manager Bob Thiele, another all-star in our business, gave me an update on how the team works, as well as the latest in tech innovations.

Among the most interesting recent advances is the use of fiber cable and wireless cameras. Before fiber, crews had to pull 100-feet long reels of heavy 5-inch coaxial cable. Now the signals from four or five cameras can be sent on one thin mini fiber. Amazing!

To cover a typical event, the team uses four hard wired cameras at the 15th through 18th greens, one Jib crane camera, eight wireless cameras, and one overhead camera in the blimp. They also have a separate unit just for all the audio inputs–including the microphones on the announcers and all over the course. If you heard some of those amazing conversations between pros and their caddies–you know why. The arsenal is rounded out with 10 video-replay devices and graphics generators. All this tech magic is housed and hauled in six mobile trailer units.

Lance Barrow decides what we see, and when. He’s our master storyteller. Director Steve Milton directs the cameras, playback, and graphics inputs. They’re assisted by a team of more than 100 professionals. Even the caterer joins the convoy. He’s been at it for more than 30 years. (By the way, the grilled salmon lunch was fabulous.)

From tee to green, CBS Golf is a well-orchestrated symphony. The CBS Golf brand represents excellence in every aspect of the sport: the best announcers, the best coverage and the best events. But perhaps most of all, CBS Golf stands for tradition. This resonates with its fiercely loyal group of viewers, who embrace the sport in growing numbers. On to the next! Check out what’s up next on the CBS Golf schedule. Fore!

Rick Blane (Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

Rick Blane
(Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

From ‘Captain Kangaroo’ to the 18th Tower
That’s a provocative headline. And it summarizes the amazing career of CBS cameraman Gavin Blane. I first met Rick (as we call him) in the early ’70s at CBS where he was a radio news technician. It was easy to see that with his sharp mind and winning personality that he’d go far. Wasn’t long until Rick moved into TV as a cameraman. And our paths crossed again when we both worked on the popular children’s show “Captain Kangaroo” (Look it up people under 40!).

Rick studied and perfected his craft, and became a top cameraman for CBS Sports. He covered all the big events–NFL, U.S. Open Tennis and, his love, golf. Rick became the lead camera–our man on the 18th tower. That’s his “office.”

View from Rick's camera on the 18th tower. (Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

View from Rick’s camera on the 18th tower.
(Credit: Kyle Carbray, CBS Sports)

That’s where he captures every final shot, every championship putt and where he also leads and teaches many in a crew of camera operators, tech support, and others who make up our all-star CBS Sports golf crew. Big salute to Rick, part of what makes our CBS family so wonderful.