Cloud production helps NFL Media tackle content demands

NFL Media leans on cloud production

Cloud productions: NFL Digital Media x Tagboard

The Goal

To offset increasing content demands, the NFL Media digital team aimed to find a solution that would improve their production efficiencies so they could create more content with their existing resources.

What We Did

The NFL Media digital team expanded their usage of Tagboard beyond social integrations in linear & digital productions and replaced the cloud graphics engine they were using previously with Tagboard’s cloud graphics engine.

The Result

Year-over-year the NFL Media digital team produced 3x the digital content (from 8 hours to 24 per week) all while the team size stayed the same. The intuitive user experience of Tagboard allowed for team members to be trained quickly, and hybrid positions to be created. Previously the building of graphics and stacking a show could take up to four people, and now it was all being done by one person.

“Our resources are not multiplying the same way as our content needs to be produced,” said Zach Saile, Director of Technical Production, NFL Media. “But by using Tagboard {cloud production} and getting everyone trained up on it, it definitely helps us create more content better, faster.”

Creating more content, better and faster, is a common theme across the media landscape in 2022. Content teams around the country need to keep pace with the more than 20 billion hours of video consumed every month in the United States. For the digital team at NFL Media that meant tripling their year-over-year output from 8 to 24 hours of live content per week. With a big increase in output coming as a result of taking things that were audio-only podcasts and adding a video component to them.

Things that we’re producing are every bit as good as using a big control room with a very robust staff, and we’re doing it with a fraction of the people at a fraction of the cost.

Catherine Chan-Smith, Senior Director of Social Integration

“Even as I’m trying to plan it all out of my head, I’m just like, how are we actually going to do this,” said Jason Klienman, Director of Live Digital Production, NFL Media. “But thanks to Tagboard, we’re going to have the ability to knock it out and do it efficiently and well.”

In 2017, a partnership between NFL Media and Tagboard developed in order to enhance production workflows. It started as a solution to bring social to screen in seconds, and while that remains an important factor, the digital team is now leveraging Tagboard’s cloud graphics system.

“Every linear show has Tagboard social. Each digital production has Tagboard social and Tagboard cloud graphics. Every bit of it is touched by Tagboard,” said Catherine Chan-Smith, Senior Director of Social Integration, NFL Media. “It’s the way that we produce content, and I can’t imagine producing digital content without it.”

Cloud production offers intuitive onboarding

A cloud production graphics solution isn’t new for the NFL Media digital team, but a cloud graphics system that can keep up with content demand while accounting for seasonal turnover has been a big difference maker.

”We were using a cloud graphics system, but it was very difficult to work with. It took a lot more engineering and science to get things to work correctly. It was very buggy,” said Saile. “So there was a big overhaul for people to have to learn and then use it, and it didn’t always work perfectly.”

Once they made the switch to Tagboard cloud graphics the team says they noticed improved processes and quick ramp times thanks to the intuitive user experience on the platform. As the Manager of Digital Productions Christie Stapleton notes, “We just hired two members in the last two weeks for my team and we already have somebody operating Tagboard during our live productions. Within a week of someone using Tagboard, they’re already getting super familiar with it.”

This proved critical in 2020 when the pandemic presented linear and digital teams with a problem they’d never experienced before. How do we produce live content when we can’t all be on-premise in our control rooms? For NFL Media, cloud graphics was the answer.

“We were actually the first group out of the NFL to start doing live productions with graphics. Thanks to Tagboard,” said Saile.

For their innovation the NFL Media team an Emmy nomination for ‘Outstanding Digital Innovation’. Innovation that established workflows that are still around even after social distancing protocols have been removed.

Less hardware. More storytelling.

Quick implementation helps NFL Media spend less time training and more time creating, but another factor in their ability to keep up with content demands has been leveraging the work ethic and many talents of a lean team. As Zach Saile mentioned off the top, the harsh reality of the media world in 2022 is that while content demands remain high, the budgets aren’t growing at the same rate. This is forcing teams to get creative and stack a few more hats on top of the many they already wear.

“The way other companies build {shows}, it takes three people to create a show,” said Amanda Carey, Segment Producer, NFL Media. “For us, it’s one person {running Tagboard}. We do it all and we’re doing the job of technically four people because we add social into the mix as well.

I think if Tagboard continues to go in this direction they have a really good chance at cornering the cloud-based market for graphics

Zach Saile, Director of Technical Production

Associate Producer Jordan Anderson adds that, “being able to have one person do graphics and everything, all in one area for the show has been really vital for what we do. It’s given us an opportunity to turn out more content, but also not sacrifice in quality while doing so.”

This resulted in more stories told, and as Catherine Chan-Smith mentions, a trickle down effect that opens the door to more creative opportunities.

“What’s beautiful about it is you can shift your budget to do other things. Maybe there was a story that we wanted to follow or produce and we previously didn’t have the budget for it. Because we had a cost savings in producing some of the other shows, we could take some chances and create other content and generate more opportunities in general, along with the overall life and work balance.”

Cloud production allows for one broadcast team

As is the case with any industry that’s been around for a while, there are always going to be legacy mindsets that are hard to overcome. With media, we sometimes see a disconnect between linear and digital operations. Budgets and resources are oftentimes not equal, and this forces digital operations to get more creative to maximize both. That’s not the case with the team at NFL Media who discovered the power of a cohesive cross-channel strategy executed by one united broadcast team.

“Last season content the digital team was producing was going to network, that was never the case before. The trickle down effect was always network and then, oh, we’re also going to post it to our owned and operated channels on digital or social,” said Chan-Smith. “Now it’s a symbiotic relationship where we’re able to share content. Things that we’re producing are every bit as good as using a big control room with a very robust staff, and we’re doing it with a fraction of the people at a fraction of the cost.”

The NFL Media team calls Tagboard a game changer when it comes to allowing their team to build on their creativity and quickly execute on ideas.

“The speed at which Tagboard is developing from a graphics standpoint is putting them on par with leaders in hardware graphics,” said Saile. “I think if they continue to go in this direction they have a really good chance at cornering the cloud-based market for graphics. Visually we’re doing side-by-side comparisons and you can’t tell the difference.”

The all out blitz on content production isn’t slowing down, but the digital team at NFL Media has developed a production playbook that allows them to stay ahead of the chains and not sack their production quality or creativity in the process.

Interested in integrating cloud graphics into your production?