As the sole owner of broadcasting rights in the United States, NBC has been exclusively responsible for bringing the Olympic Games to American fans since 2000. Last night, three Yale graduates, now executives at NBC, participated in a panel discussion regarding the effort that goes into coordinating such massive broadcasting events.
The discussion, which included John Litner ’85, Ron Vaccaro ’04 and Peter Diamond ’74, focused on both the men’s individual experiences at Yale and their subsequent contributions to NBC. Hosted by the Mory’s Speaker series and held at the Sterling Memorial Library, the event was moderated by Jack Ford ’72, a former Yale football player and current journalist, documentary producer, teacher, began by discussing the profound influence their time at Yale — especially their involvement with Yale athletics — had on their later careers. Litner, head of NBC Sports Regional Networks and the Golf Channel and a former two-sport varsity athlete, discussed how Yale provided opportunities for academic and athletic pursuits. Vaccaro, a researcher for NBC Sports and NBCSN, also described how working as a broadcaster for WYBC exposed him to a wide variety of athletics and helped to develop his skills as a sports reporter.
“For a kid coming out of high school, to be able to match what I knew were fantastic academics with the ability to compete at the highest level, [it] was really an exciting time for me,” Litner said.
The men also noted the vast changes that have impacted the sports industry in recent years. Diamond, the head of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games and a 14-time Emmy winner, recalled that coverage for the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria totaled 43 and a half hours, while the most recent Winter Olympics in Sochi generated 1,539 hours across seven networks. Thomas Ketchum ’72, the head of the Mory’s Speaker series, added that more than 215 million viewers watched NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Olympics in London.
In preparation for Sochi, NBC sent over 1,000 workers and a team of 25 sports researchers to Russia, according to Diamond, who also noted that the network now employs a group of full-time workers responsible for coverage of the Games. This stands in stark contrast to coverage during the 1970s, when the network team consisted of little more than a few reporters and a single researcher, Diamond said.
The expansion in the sheer volume of coverage of the Games and other sporting events is in part related to the development of social media as a platform for sports reporting, Vaccaro said. He added that these platforms not only enable networks like NBC to provide more content to viewers, but they also allow spectators to provide their own input.
“Social media and Twitter have given a lot more information for us to evaluate,” Vaccaro said.
He went on to note that Twitter offers an opportunity for the creation of a sort of global corps of reporters, but added that the information they need to provide often must be verified before it can be used in an official broadcast.
Bryan Herbert ’18 said that he attended the discussion to learn about NBC and its Olympic coverage.
“This was a great opportunity to learn about the Olympics … and see how they took their Yale education and extended that into their careers,” Herbert said.
Before the conclusion of the event, the panelists once again referred to the “enormous institutional value” of athletics at Yale and expressed their hopes for the upcoming Harvard-Yale game.