Sports broadcasting: How it is affected by COVID-19

Think back to the beginning of this year … it’s January 2020. Nobody expected the world to be in the state it’s in now roughly three months later. Yes, sometimes in life, we have to expect the unexpected, but not like this. The world has come to a standstill. Schools have been closed, businesses have shut down, and with everything closing – then came sports. The NBA led in the sports world shutdown. On March 11th, NBA commissioner Adam Silver decided to suspend the NBA season after two players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Next came the NCAA, MLB, and NHL. On March 12th, Seton Hall was expected to play in the Big East tournament vs. Marquette, but all of those games were unfortunately canceled. MLB has also decided to postpone opening day, which was expected to be on March 26th. The NHL also agreed on March 12th that they were suspending their season. Though professional sports were hit the most, high school sports and even the little leagues had to suffer. Sports players of all ages had to see their season come to an end because of COVID-19. Needless to say, without sports, there are limited things that sports networks have been able to show because usually around this time, they’d be airing games. That’s why this has affected them the most.

Having taken a look at ESPN especially and the days following the shut down of all professional sports seasons – the only thing that was being discussed was the virus itself and how it was indeed affecting the sports world and its athletes. Assuming that they got tired of talking about the same things or either they just wanted to move on from it, they finally started focusing on another sport that hasn’t been primarily affected by the virus, which is the NFL. The timing must have been right for this to be going on because although there weren’t any other sports to broadcast that week, NFL free agency fell right into it. What I saw was that on the first day of Free Agency they bought up some of the most exciting moves that fans want to know about such as Deandre Hopkins of the Houston Texans joining the Arizona Cardinals, Dak Prescott being franchise-tagged, and then recently just last week SportsCenter dedicated almost an entire show to Tom Brady’s interview on joining the Buccaneers. With that being said, ESPN has shown to be effective in the following of the NFL and keeping us fans in tune.

     However, one place where sports television such as CBS and NBC is lacking is in showing repeats of old games. I mean, without any popular sports to televise, I guess it works given the circumstances. However, most people aren’t interested in past games, they much rather watch them live. If they must continue to air old games, it should be good or interesting ones to keep people on that channel. Also, some of those networks air documentaries, and if they’re going to do things like that, it’s better to show the ones that have better ratings because those are the ones that will keep viewers’ attention. Besides repeating games, some sports networks also tend to repeat the same topics. Last week after watching a portion of First Take speak about Tokyo Olympics being postponed until next year, SportsCenter also opened up with the same thing, and those two shows air one after the other.

Despite some of the confrontation with deciding what to air or discuss on sports television, sports broadcasters are doing the best they can to keep their network going. This isn’t an easy thing to combat, and most of the sports world hasn’t had to completely shut down like this since World War II. Even September 11th did not shut down just about every sport there is, but they did shut down a reasonable amount, and sports networks had to figure out what they’d show since the MLB and NFL canceled their games. In September, many sports networks are broadcasting the NFL, and back in 2001, they had to face that challenge of what to do in place of that, but they figured out how to come out on top. The same will happen this year, I believe these sports networks will learn to suffice until we get sports back. And on a positive note – the NFL Draft will still be televised on NFL Network as follows from April 23– 25 despite being closed to the public.