2021 Executive Reflections: Fox Sports’ Mike Davies on Escalating Sports Production at a Breakneck Speed

When the pandemic hit the U.S. full force in March 2020, sports production was forced to accelerate technology changes that were already in motion but not expected to happen for several years. Health and safety came to the forefront of production concerns at the same time as engineers were racing to enable talent and tech to work from their homes. As always, the production industry came together as a family to deliver sports television to a public that was hungry for live entertainment. This editorial by Mike Davies SVP, Technical and Field Operations, Fox Sports & SVG Advisory Board Chairman, is the first in a series of “2021 Reflections” from SVG’s 2021 Sports Production Yearbook in which sports-production leaders look back on a year unlike any other and offer projections for the year ahead.

Mike Davies SVP, Technical and Field Operations, Fox Sports & SVG Advisory Board Chairman

Operational Tempo (Optempo) is a military term that compares the speed and intensity of actions relative to that of the operational environment. To say the least, this industry is working at high Optempo, sometimes to an extreme.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, if we can think back to “years” ago — March and April 2020, specifically — there wasn’t much going on at all. It was a scary, uncertain time when the wheels of sports production ground to a halt and left us all wondering how this was going to unfold.

In those heady days, we worked to unwind what we were doing and attempt to figure out how we were going to accomplish what was next, whenever that was.

Since then, it has been a time of at first gradual and then breakneck production escalation as we move back into oddly scheduled seasons; scheduled, then rescheduled productions; bubbles and quasi-bubbles; and a variety of new safety protocols that have changed the very nature of how we get things done.

One thing has not changed, though, and that is the resilience and ingenuity of our teams in the field and in our studios, not to mention the manufacturers who worked hard to churn it all out. The necessity of producing shows in a far more distant and distributed manner has announced a new era in accelerated technological advances, as these new workflows get ready for their collective close-up.

The state of the industry is strong, even as it reinvents itself in real time.

What this has done is add to the Optempo of those working the events, sometimes squeezing what would normally be months of events into a matter of weeks. Because every event takes 10 times the usual amount of time to coordinate in advance and twice the amount of time to execute onsite, a weary yet dedicated industry follows its course, responding to the slings and arrows that have been thrown at it.

This piece was originally published as part of the “Reflections 2020” section in the 2021 SVG Sports Production Yearbook, which you can read in full HERE.

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