Superstorm Sandy Drives Sports-Production Community Into Scramble Mode

One of the most ferocious storms ever to hit the Northeast threw the sports-production industry for a loop this week, forcing several broadcasters and networks to scramble. Although Superstorm Sandy has yet to force any major game cancellations, it is still quite possible that NBA games could be postponed.

Barclays May Have To Wait for Big Debut
Although tonight’s openers in Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Miami will be played, the lingering effects of the storm have cast doubt on whether the Brooklyn Nets will debut at their new state-of-the-art Barclays Center against crosstown rival New York Knicks on Thursday. The game is scheduled to be televised on TNT.

According to the New York Times’ Howard Beck, NBA SVP of Communications Tim Frank said in an e-mail, “Tonight’s games will be played. We are still assessing the situation with regards to the rest of the week.”

The new-look, new-city Nets are scheduled to host the Knicks at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, but transportation to the billion-dollar Barclays Center could be tricky for fans. The MTA has closed down all subway lines in New York, and “the duration of the service suspension is still unknown, and there is no timetable for restoration,” according to the MTA Website. The Long Island Rail Road, which also runs into the Atlantic Yards transportation hub near the 18,000-seat Brooklyn arena was also shut down by the storm.

TNT is set to televise the game, and Turner Sports had rolled out Turner Studios’ TS1 A and B units to the Barclays Center. As of publishing deadline, the network was still waiting on word from the league on whether the game will be played as scheduled.

Other NBA games along the East Coast this week could be postponed: the Philadelphia 76ers matchup with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, as well as Miami Heat-Knicks (which ESPN is scheduled to televise) and Boston Celtics-Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. Weekend games could also be affected, depending on the severity of the storm’s affects.

Sandy Pushes Back NFL Deals but Not Games
Sandy descended on the Northeast just after the NFL’s Sunday games concluded in the area, allowing rightsholders Fox and CBS Sports to avoid potential issues in their coverage of the Atlanta Falcons at the Philadelphia Eagles or Miami Dolphins-New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

The NFL was, however, forced to extend the trading deadline from Tuesday to Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, because the league’s midtown-Manhattan office was closed Monday and Tuesday.

Bristol Stays Up and Running
For its part, ESPN juggled its operations and programming schedule at its Bristol, CT., headquarters during the storm.

In a Monday-afternoon e-mail to employees, the company provided an update: “ESPN offices in Bristol and New York remain open. However, only employees who need to be at work to perform key business operations should be on-site. All other employees are asked to work from home for the remainder of today and on Tuesday, October 30.”

On Sunday night, Craig Bengtson, VP, SportsCenter, ESPN, informed staff that Monday’s and Tuesday’s 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter would originate from the network’s Los Angeles facility. “The safety of our Bristol-based employees is paramount,” he said. “It just makes sense to take advantage of our team in Los Angeles. It’s one of the reasons why ESPN has a facility there.”

In addition, NASCAR analyst Ricky Craven usually travels to Bristol for weekly Sunday-Tuesday programming from ESPN’s headquarters. This week, he may have to stay in Bristol a few extra days if airlines are still not flying. And ESPN2’s daily NASCAR Now will likely being doing more phone interviews, especially if downlink capabilities have been impaired by the storm.

“We might have to run some features and do phone interviews if we have trouble getting guests [on satellite],” says NASCAR Now Coordinating Producer Jim Bowdon. “We have plenty of content from Sunday’s ESPN race at Martinsville.”

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