Sports broadcasting is the number one most profitable part of the broadcast industry today, and it shows no sign of diminishing. At least, that’s what Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League seemed to suggest this summer at the “GameChangers” confab at the Paley Center for Media.
Don Piper agrees. As professor of sports broadcasting for the School of Communications, he is a proponent of the new major: Sports Broadcasting. It is a unique program in that it covers so many areas of the industry, and a big part of that is learning to think on your feet.
“From writing stories, reporting, working as camera operators, directors and producers, the goal is to expose students to all the elements—all the aspects of the sports industry from the broadcast side,” said Piper. “Our students are getting real, hands-on work experience, and it’s live! And for those students who have no experience, who have never been in front or behind a camera, they’re learning by doing.”
Having worked in the sports broadcasting industry for 30 years, Piper knew exactly what he wanted for PBA as he worked on creating this new major. He looked at many collegiate sports broadcasting programs across the country. Many schools, he observed, had sports journalism programs, where students learn to write and report sports. Others had a production and broadcast programs, where they do the broadcast part. But few schools combined both of them.
“I felt like we could create both here,” said Piper. “My students have writing assignments in every class they take. Even if it is a production class, they have to do some type of writing and reporting.” What Piper and his students have produced is a well-oiled machine. Working seamlessly with the PBA Athletics department has been a bonus.
Technology has redefined the broadcasting industry. Even though they’re not casting over the traditional broadcast waves, all their sports coverage is streamed in real time, so they’re getting that live experience.
“I find that students today are not intimated by that [live streaming],” said Piper. “They’re so used to YouTube, Facebook Live and Skype that they’re not faced by the fact that they’re live. Now, when you put them in front of a camera, they get a little bit nervous, but they adapt quite well. They’re used to that environment.”
The crew uses a streaming partner that’s part of the Sunshine State Conference. Students upload the signal to them via the Internet and then it’s distributed online. It’s a free service so people don’t need to subscribe to it. They can go to the Sailfish Athletic site and click on the “Watch Now” icon and view the live event.
Anybody in the world can watch this. Parents, students, family and friends, and even people from Europe and South America interested in playing soccer in the States. This is not just useful for students, but also for international employers looking at social media and at different networks as they search for the next big new talent in the world of sports.
Next on Piper’s calling list… developing more relationships with the local professional teams such as the Miami Heat, as well as production houses and network stations, including ESPN Sports.
Three sports broadcasting majors will be graduating in May. Allison Rohn from Cedar Lake, Indiana; Kelsey Kash from Mokena, Illinois; and Caroline Kiser from Terrell, North Carolina. They started as journalism majors, then changed to sports broadcasting. Kash did an internship with NBC Universal Chicago in the summer, and Kiser is planning to complete an internship with a professional American style football team in Europe next summer.
“It’s hard work. The hours are long, but if you love sports and being in front or behind the camera, it’s a great place to be,” said Piper.