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 sporting event 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 that NBC says will look the same.
Let’s take a peak at what you’ll see and how NBC will do it.
Fewer cameras, same look
Hyland would normally have 25 of NBC’s own cameras for the event, but instead would 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 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 audio.
There will also be six microphones around the venue, including in the paddock, where NBC will be able to do interviews.
The racing pageantry 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 didn’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’ll be closer to the third floor in the stands.
“That would be kind of neat,” Collmus said.
Track announcer John Imbriale will still make his call as well, but NBC and NYRA are working to make sure that without the Imbriale crowd getting 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 would have 50 people in total working on the Belmont Stakes as compared to 200 last year. This could be one of the most lasting effects of the pandemic on sports television production as there will likely be fewer people, especially on the site, moving forward.