Entertainment & Tech Summit

NBA’s Sara Zuckert, MLB’s Chris Marinak & More: The Future of the Connected Sports Fan

Pete Giorgio, principal and U.S. sports practice leader at Deloitte Consulting, led a panel of sports executives for the Variety Entertainment and Marketing Summit in October 2020, presented by City National Bank.

NHL CMO Heidi Browning, MLB COO and chief strategy officer Chris Marinak, NBA head of next gen telecast Sara Zuckert, FOX Sports EVP of digital David Katz, and Univision TUDN SVP of marketing and business development Marco Liceaga all participated in the “Future of the Connected Sports Fan” discussion, which covered how COVID-19 and new technology have redefined sports entertainment in 2020.

The primary goal for any live sports operation in the midst of the global pandemic is maintaining safety for the athletes, crew and fans alike, making advanced technology more essential than ever.

“More than half of our cameras now are robotic,” Zuckert said. “I think that a key learning for us is that these new technologies can really open up new perspectives, bringing our fans closer to the game, which I think will carry forward as well.”

Browning brought up how the overall sports ecosystem can still keep fans invested in what’s going on, even when live events are postponed or cancelled, explaining how the NHL rose to the challenge during COVID’s initial onset.

“That three and a half, four months when we didn’t have any games on, we had to get super clever about production, meaning we had to create edit bays in everyone’s home,” she said. “We turned into master DJs of remixing classic games with the cutting-room floor edited material to anything that we could come up with to create new stories out of new existing material.”

“Our athletes got creative,” she continued. “I don’t know if you saw [Alex] Killorn’s Dock Talks. He took from the Tampa Bay, the Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, [he] took his jet ski out and would ride the jet ski to different docks and interview different athletes and celebrities, socially distanced, of course, and created a whole series around that.”