Mayanti Langer Binny talks sports broadcast post COVID-19

When live sport begins, the guidelines for broadcasters are something that we will have to discuss. You may not be able to have so many people in the stadiums.

How will sports broadcasting adapt to this new normal? Mayanti Langer Binny tries to make sense of the challenges that lie before the media in a post-COVID world.   -  Instagram/Mayanti Langer Binny

The world as we knew it has changed in the last couple of months. The coronavirus pandemic has not only affected our lives, but has also had an impact on sporting activities. Of course, women’s sports are no exception.

When we just started broadcasting women’s cricket, there was an interest from advertisers. And, as we know, broadcasting goes hand in hand with a lot of things — the advertisers, sponsors, stadiums filled with fans — so, one of the major challenges will be to get them back.

Now, with sports not being broadcast live, there is no clarity on what will be the new rules for broadcasters once things ease out. One thing for sure, you may not be able to have such a huge crew. Losing that momentum and that sort of viewership will be very, very difficult.

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But then, the biggest worry at the moment is: when will sport resume?

It is, after all, a livelihood and every sportsperson is losing valuable time.

For broadcasters, life post the pandemic will be more challenging. Travelling from one venue to another and shooting from stadiums, like we normally do, doesn’t seem possible at the moment. Even if sports resume in empty stadiums, you would still be concerned with the safety of your personnel and probably want to do everything behind closed doors. Even if you operate from the studios, you will have limited personnel.

In terms of opportunities for as many people that were employed, you may not need so many people and that sort of filtration will be there. At this point, that seems to be the challenge for women’s sports broadcasting.
 

 

But the good thing is, since there is no live sport at the moment, most of the networks are focusing on online platforms and, of course, people are working from home. So, they have found a way around it.

When live sport begins, the guidelines for broadcasters are something that we will discuss because you may not be able to have so many people in the stadiums.

A broadcast crew is huge as there are lot of people, and there are regional broadcasters as well. Accommodating so many people in the stadiums may not be possible any more. Who needs to be there needs to be prioritised.

But then, it is absolutely possible to go ahead with a smaller team. In fact, it could be the future. It’s just that there have to be small adjustments.

How do you conduct studio shows and also maintain social distancing if there are people sitting right next to you? Well, we need to ensure small things such as keeping the mikes clean and not sharing them with anyone else.

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Before the pandemic struck, we saw the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup final, where more than 80,000 fans attended the fixture at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. While it was a fascinating moment for the game, it also created a bit of panic among the fans and the television crew as one of the fans who attended the game tested COVID-19 positive.

So, taking lessons from that, health and safety have to be the priority. That’s something players themselves will also understand. If we are looking to stream the matches on various platforms, there will be a boom in the digital and streaming devices.

Whatever momentum women’s cricket had gained, there are other ways of generating it further. For men’s and women’s teams, playing in front of empty stadiums will be difficult because the fans are the biggest investors of the game. That will pose a challenge, but I am sure the women cricketers will be able to attract viewership in terms of broadcast and live streaming. Till things become normal, the people who have shown keenness in sports all this while will not step back. They will continue to support the players.

Mayanti Langer Binny is one of India’s leading sports broadcasters.

As told to Shayan Acharya