The Power of Combining Linear Broadcast and Social Media with NFL Network’s Catherine Chan-Smith

“I am a Senior Director of Social Integration at the ‎National Football League (NFL) and it encompasses a few different areas, said Catherine Chan-Smith. “Primarily we started this department a few years ago to merge social content with linear content, which was two completely separate platforms at the time and run by two totally different groups. The hope and the goal were to be a bridge between the two. 

Live from the #Storyteller Experience stage, Chan-Smith talks about how the NFL has successfully combined linear and social content, using more cloud-based solutions and what’s that has meant for sports and shows us what it was like to build the NFL Network from the ground up.

About Building the NFL Network

I was one of the first to help launch the network, which was a really exciting time and one of my proudest professional achievements. I think back to those days where we were just a really small production. My colleagues said, hopefully, one day we are going to be a network that’s respected.

I think we have achieved that and it’s a credit to all of the hardworking men and women who have continued what we started and continue to have that passion.

About Bringing Linear and Social Together

While I was producing some shows my executive producer said, “Why don’t we try to figure out a solution to merge these two (linear broadcast and social media) platforms?  It wasn’t intentional at first, but I fell in love with it. It brought me to Tagboard, introduced me to a lot of other people in the industry. 

It’s been a wild ride, but a fun one. Certainly, one that keeps me on my toes, because again, I didn’t know that much about social initially and it’s ever-changing. It’s nice to have to continue to learn, continue to be a student, and infuse things that I’ve learned with my work.

Becoming Cloud-Based Due to COVID-19

Fortunately for us, we have really talented engineers and producers who had been thinking about figuring out ways to produce on a more lightweight scale. 

You know, if it wasn’t a pandemic, it might’ve been something that was going to be needed some time down the road. People were already figuring out cloud-based solutions, so I credit the people that I work with. We all put our heads together and we figured out what can we do for graphics? What can we do with cameras? How can we go live? I think it’s a credit to the media group to pull together and figure out solutions. 

Tagboard was something that we leaned in with as well. Especially from a graphics perspective, because we’ve always used (Tagboard’s) social integration components. But we were able to grow that relationship too and leverage different tools to make production seamless. The platform is so user-friendly and it’s not too complex and it just has allowed us once we got comfortable with it to really just stretch it as far as we can. I think we were still able to produce high-quality content that was entertaining and informational to the people at home.

Telling Inclusive Stories With Graphics And Video 

We tell stories with words. We tell written stories and verbal stories, but there’s also a way to illustrate stories with graphics, images, and videos. We really took the approach of if you’re producing something for someone who can’t hear, we need to make sure that we have graphics so that they can read it and understand. 

In normal non-COVID times, if you’re at a sports bar, you’re relying on the graphics to really tell you what we’re talking about, what the storyline is because you might be in an area that you can’t hear, and you don’t have the benefit of the audio. 

Other times you have to have great audio because you’re producing for someone who’s blind and they’re leaning in for your verbal abilities to communicate. We’re looking at every facet and how we can make sure that we are checking all of those boxes.