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Q&A; with Brad Como, Vice President of News Sportsnet New York

An Inside Look at Being a Sports TV Executive

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When you work in live television, the fear of making a mistake is ever present. “Whether you are editing a highlight, screening a game or producing a half-hour show, you really have to be on top of everything” recalls Brad Como, Vice President of News for Sportsnet New York. “I still shudder when I think about the time I confused Danny Darwin of the White Sox with another pitcher on the same team, Doug Drabek. My mistake made it onto the air. There was an enormous pit in my stomach, one that I still remember.”

The mistakes often linger longer than the successes, but in his 16 years of industry experience Como has more than made up for that error.

When did you decide to pursue a career in Sports TV?

I took a broadcast journalism class as a senior in high school and was drawn to the television side. My teacher, Gordon Brosdal, really pushed us to watch and read things from a different perspective. At the same time, I was always interested in local news…how and why they covered certain stories, stacking of the rundown, the different looks among the local stations, etc. My love for television definitely started around the age of 16.

Brad Como’s Sports TV “Stats”

Education: Syracuse University, Newhouse School of Comunication

sny brad como news director sports tvProduction Jobs held: Video Editor, Associate Producer, Producer, Coordinating Producer, Executive Producer and Vice President of Sports News

Stations: CNN/Sports Illustrated (Atlanta, GA), ESPN (Bristol, CT), Fox Sports Net, MSNBC (New York, NY), SNY (New York, NY)

Most memorable moment working in Sports TV: Being at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic park during the bombing at the 1996 Olympics.

Best piece of advice: Work an internship and really make the most of it. It will help you establish valuable contacts, which is vitally important. Television is actually a pretty small business, so the more people you meet, the better off you’ll be.

What was it about a career in Sports TV that originally lured you?

Initially, I think it was the lure of being in front of the camera. In a way, it was my version of being a performer. However, when I went to Syracuse University and studied at the Newhouse school, I suddenly realized that I really liked being behind the scenes. Writing, producing and directing were all ways for me to be involved the process while holding some element of power over what made it “on the air”. Clearly, I liked that.

You went to the prestigious Newhouse School of Comminication at Syracuse University, how much did that help you in your Sports TV career?

The Newhouse School at Syracuse really prepared me for every aspect of the television business. We had a modern newsroom with a Basys operating system, an actual studio with lights and cameras, and professors who were top-notch. I remember walking into my first job and not feeling intimidated in the slightest.

Where did you land your first job in Sports TV?

I had several internships throughout college, so I had made a few connections in the business, but my first actual job came from the help of a family friend. One of my neighbors was friends with a producer at NBC Sports, Jim Bell, who is now the Executive Producer of the “Today” show. Great guy.

We had lunch in New York City and he set me up with an interview for a PA job at the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta. After working on Bob Costas’ Prime Time show for a couple of months, my Olympics gig ended. It was an unbelievable experience, and I really learned a lot.

A few months later, I received an offer from CNN/Sports Illustrated, which was a start-up sports network also based in Atlanta (I had dropped off a resume while working for NBC). I moved down south in October of 1996.

sports tv cameraman studio productionAfter your first few months did you know you made the right career choice, or were there concerns?

I knew I had made the right career choice within a few days of starting at CNN/Sports Illustrated. Not once did I have a concern. I was around a bunch of people my age who loved sports and working in television. We were all recent college graduates, most of us new to Atlanta, and we were all going through this crazy process together. It was a lot of work in the beginning, but also a lot of fun.

Would you do anything differently if you could go back to the early stages of your career?

Nothing. I have always tried to be aggressive with my opportunities since the time I was in middle school, and I think that has helped me along the way.sports tv cameraman at baseball game

What is the most difficult thing about working in Television?

Unfortunately, working in television can be fairly cutthroat. I’ve witnessed a lot of gossip and backstabbing, especially on the news side. It’s an ultra-competitive business, especially with the way the economy is going. There could be hundreds, often times thousands, of applicants for the same position, and people will do almost anything to get it.

Has working in television exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?

I’d say my expectations have been met. When you are graduating from college, you don’t really know what to expect, so the fact that my career is still continuing and hasn’t gone completely off the rails is rewarding in itself.

How has your career developed in titles, responsibilities and locations?

Working in sports TV had me feeling like a traveling salesman for a while. I’ve worked in Georgia, D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey and now, New York. It’s been quite a whirlwind considering I’m only 36.

Thankfully, I have a very understanding wife. In all of these situations, when leaving for a new position, my responsibilities and titles have risen. I started as a Production Assistant with CNN/SI, left after five years for a Producer job with ESPN, became a Coordinating Producer for FOX Sports, was an Executive Producer with MSNBC, and am now a Vice President of News for SNY in Manhattan.

on air live sports tvI guess you need to move around a bit to eventually get what you are looking for.

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in Sports TV?

Work an internship and really make the most of it. It will help you establish valuable contacts, which is vitally important. Gather e-mail addresses or phone numbers and keep in touch with those you like and respect. Television is actually a pretty small business, so the more people you meet, the better off you’ll be.

Do you have a memorable story – whether funny, sad or just interesting – that you’d like to share?

I’ll never forget walking through Centennial Park during the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta and hearing a bomb go off. I remember a bunch of people running in different directions, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. I headed back towards the Georgia World Congress Center (where NBC Sports was situated), but there were police everywhere and my route was cut off. So, I headed back to the hotel and was glued to the TV like everyone else. It was a surreal experience.

Favorite Sports memory?

This has absolutely nothing to do with working in television, but I remember watching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994 with just my dad and brother. We were so nervous that the Rangers, my favorite team growing up, would blow the lead. They hadn’t won since 1940, so there were valid reasons for anxiety. I think we held hands, screaming at the TV, for the final five minutes of the game. Thankfully, the Rangers held on. I guess this story reveals a little bit about why I love working in sports television.

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