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Seven ways this Belmont Stakes broadcast will be different
By Andrew Marchand June 17, 2020
The 152nd Belmont Stakes will be like none before it. This includes on television.
NBC Sports will not only broadcast a fan-less and shorter race, but it will do so with about a quarter of its own cameras compared to last year. It will also have a fourth of the usual staff working the event.
But its lead horse racing producer, Rob Hyland, vows the production will look and sound as good as always thanks to teamwork with the New York Racing Association and innovation.
The Belmont is batting leadoff instead of third among the Triple Crown races because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Essentially, this is the biggest event in sports in four months,” NBC host Mike Tirico said.
Tirico and analyst Randy Moss will be at the network’s Stamford, Conn., studio as part of a production that will be different in scope, but one which NBC says will look the same.
Fewer cameras, same look
Hyland would normally have 25 of NBC’s own cameras for the event, but instead will have seven. The network will use 24 NYRA on-site cameras to fill in some of the blanks. Plus, it will use a helicopter for an overhead view.
“The actual coverage of the sporting event should look no different,” Hyland said.
NBC is planning on putting microphones on three jockeys on race day.
The NYRA outrider will wear a microphone and a high-powered radio that will have the broadcast. That will allow the broadcasters to speak with the winning jockey immediately following the race.
Without 90,000 screaming fans, Hyland believes the race sounds will really enhance the broadcast.
Social distance interviews
Reporters Britney Eurton and Kenny Rice will be on hand. They will do interviews using a 6-foot boom mic, which will respect social distancing and still be able to transmit the audio.
There will also be six microphones around the venue, including in the paddock, where NBC will be able to do interviews.
The pageantry of racing is in the event, and so NBC has partnered with the Breeders Cup and America’s Best Racing to create virtual watch parties around the country. They will be integrated into the show. The network will have access to the primary owners of the horses, too.
Larry Collmus will be on his 10th call. Will he be impacted by the lack of fans?
“I was thinking about that earlier, I don’t think so,” Collmus said. “The main difference is the lead-up to the race when you hear the crowd.”
Collmus will call the race from a closer view. Instead of from the press box level, he will be closer on the third floor in the stands.
“That will be kind of neat,” Collmus said.
Track announcer John Imbriale will still do his call as well, but NBC and NYRA are working to make sure that without a crowd Imbriale doesn’t muffle Collmus.
The race will be 1 ¹/₈ miles as opposed to 1 ½ miles. Handicapper Eddie Olczyk will be located in his basement in Chicago.
Less is more
NBC said it will have 50 people in total working on the Belmont Stakes as compared to 200 last year. This could be one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic on sports TV production as there will likely be fewer people, especially on site, moving forward.