Behind-the-scenes with FOX Sports: Celebrating 30 years of NFL broadcasts

This year, FOX Sports is celebrating 30 years of broadcasting NFL Games.

In that time, the technology, people and the elements of a broadcast have changed.

FOX Sports gave FOX 5 DC a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the massive team effort that goes into their operation Sunday.            

Ninety minutes before kickoff, sideline reporter Shannon Spake was hustling. There’s a chat here, a check-in there and then she’s honing in for kickoff.

“If I have some last minute questions, things that came up in our productions on Saturday, I’ll talk to the guys that I want to talk to,” Spake told FOX 5’s David Kaplan.

Lead play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert was focused. His famous big sheet was filled in. Spake says he still has every one of them from 30 years of broadcasting for NFL on FOX.

And in the production truck, producer Fran Morison and director Brian Lilly are gearing up.

It all looks seamless but kickoff isn’t just the beginning of the game — it’s the beginning of the end of a long week with tons of preparation.

“I always joke that on Sunday, when the game kicks off at 1:02, it’s like an open-book test. You have all this information that you’ve studied throughout the week,” commentator Kenny Albert said. 

This FOX Sports crew of about 10 lives across the country. When a game ends, they go home, and then the real work for next week begins.

“With football, it starts on a Monday morning, watching both teams’ previous games. [I] start to do a lot of reading, get my hands on every article from both cities. Prepare my charts and spotting boards, pour through statistics and other information,” Albert said. 

Then on Wednesday, there’s a big Zoom call to talk about the game, the storylines and the plan for what the broadcast should look like.  

Albert is a 30-year NFL on FOX play-by-play man – the quarterback of the on-air product. Producer Fran Morison is the behind-the-scenes signal caller.

“We’re constantly gathering as much information as possible, so we’re all as prepared as we can be when Sunday gets there,” Morison said. 

With the plan in place, the crew typically flies in Friday, meets with both teams, and does all they can to get ready for Sunday.

There’s an old saying that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” With live TV, an NFL broadcast, these crews, Albert, Morison and color commentator Jonathan Vilma all prepare so they can go where the game takes them.

“I probably only use 5 to 10 percent of the information that I’ve accumulated, but you have to be ready for every player and every situation,” Albert said. 

“That’s part of the preparation, that’s what’s exciting about it, you just never know how it’s going to play out,” said Vilma.

 A production truck is an orchestra and Morison is its conductor. He and longtime director Bryan Lilly anticipate the next piece of video, the next bit of sound during a three-hour game.

Whether in the broadcast booth or broadcast truck, there’s a constant flow of communication, verbal and non-verbal – something these crews continue to perfect.        

 “There’s a number of people who hear every single word I say, so the men and women who do replays, they hear every word I say. The people who do graphics. The people in the truck, our associate director, Cayden, our broadcast associate, they hear every word I say. They have to,” Morison said. 

Fans show up for games hoping their team plays well, cohesively, in all facets. For 30 years, NFL on FOX crews like these have worked to do the same.  

“You really do have to live it. You have to love it. There’s a lot of work and travel that goes into it, but I never feel like I’m going to work. It’s so much fun,” said Albert.

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