PITTSBURGH—Word today that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be moved to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest in a long list of announced sporting event, season and tournament cancellations or postponements due to the disease.
Shutting down these events not only leaves fans high and dry, but also impacts the broadcast and cable networks that telecast events and the mobile facilities companies they rely on for remote production.
One with worldwide reach is NEP. Last week, I conducted a Q&A with Scott Rothenberg, senior vice president of Technology & Asset Management at NEP, about the impact coronavirus is having on the company.
TVTechnology: Tell me about the affect the coronavirus outbreak has had on NEP.
Scott Rothenberg: Obviously, this is an unprecedented time, and our clients are making some very difficult decisions. The whole industry is upended.
NEP is focused on the well-being of our employees, freelancers and everyone. That is our top priority.
Priority No. 2 is supporting our clients with whatever it is they need—whether that’s been in thinking about different ways to do production or looking towards the future when we get through all of this.
We are confident we will all get through this. We are going to be there. We also are all doing our part to keep NEP financially healthy. That’s where we are.
TVT: What about the crews and freelancers?
SR: It’s definitely difficult on the freelance community. For the most part in the U.S., NEP doesn’t hire freelancers. Our clients are going through that. We have our staff, and we are doing everything we can to work through that. But certainly in other parts of the world, things are handled differently.
TVT: Have you heard any rumblings about when there may be a return to live sports production?
SR: It’s too soon to know, and that is the challenge of it—the uncertainty. We really don’t have any idea.
TVT: What was it like when the leagues and conferences started pulling the plug? It must have been a shock.
SR: It was definitely difficult on everybody. It is all wrapped up together because obviously there is a business impact, but you also have the health and safety concerns. It was definitely a significant time and something none of us have ever experienced before.
We are focused on keeping our employees as healthy as best we can and following all of the local guidelines and federal CDC guidelines.
TVT: Since the trucks are off the road, are you using this opportunity to do maintenance?
SR: We are still in the evaluation stage, [deciding] what’s going to make sense. There is some maintenance we are going to do.
We will be looking at the guidelines as far as the number of people together in close quarters. A TV truck doesn’t necessarily lend itself to that [social distancing].
We are also using the time to look at training and skill development for our staff, but we are still working through a lot of that.
Phil Kurz is contributing editor to TV Technology
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