Behind the TV: A week in the life of Cadle & Co.
Britball ventures behind the scenes with the crew of Sky Sports basketball to find out the secrets that lurk behind Daniel Routledge's microphone...
Lights, camera, tip off. If you're a regular view of Sky Sports' British basketball coverage, you probably appreciate just how slick the two hour show hosted by Kevin Cadle actually looks. Funky titles, cute graphics, cameras from every angle and a bit of chat thrown in. Easy right ? Take a look behind the two kilometres worth of cable, nine cameras, over 40 people and enough trucks for a Leyland DAF convention and you only begin to scratch the top of the cathode ray tube of an average Saturday evening broadcast.
On the day we took our peek around the show, things hadn't yet gone to plan. The usual director was taken ill at the last minute, nothing to do with the staff party the night before so we're assured. A late replacement is being flown in to take over. The sort of thing directors thrive on according to Production Assistant Gideon Bard.
"Some people like the buzz of live television, some don't. Directors love it. It can get stressful especially with a sport like basketball, where there isn't much time to get replays ready. You need to move fast before the game moves on. It's a quick deep breath and get on with it."
Like any successful process, preparation is key for the team headed by Executive Producer Sue Ashworth. The build up to a live broadcast commences long before 7.00 on game night. Tuesday morning: the ideas start flowing. What's the game of the week ? Who are the personalities ? Where are the stories behind the teams ? Just how do you get to the Arena ? From that point on the compass, the scripts, the features strike out. By Friday, the editing wheels are in motion for those high speed inserts in the show. The following morning, the trucks carrying a mass of broadcast electronics will already have put down their anchor at the venue of choice, joined by the crew after a spot of lunch. Then the countdown to air time really ticks down.
Hanging out with the Sky posse, you really get a feel for the team effort required to make the programme a success. Between camera operators, production staff, director, vision mixer, sound mixers, video tape operators and floor managers, there needs to be a seamless line through the front of house personnel to reach you, the viewer.
"It can get stressful if problems happen like the trucks blowing up but generally things run smoothly," explains Ashworth, a producer of many years' experience on a variety of sports. "There's not a lot of difference between the large and smaller arenas except of course for Wembley. However when we started, there were only five places we could do matches from whereas now only Derby, Chester, Thames Valley, Worthing and Milton Keynes remain unavailable which is a positive sign."
Out in the car park, the fleet of lorries contain the ultra-sophisticated equipment for tasks like editing, replays and captions. Suzanne Dando walks by. (And yes, she is just as attractive in real life). I sit quietly as she does a voice over for the pre-game team profiles in front of a bank of video tape and television monitors. By contrast with the potential here to re-do a fluffed word, at the show's end, the former gymnast has just a few moments to digest the final result and devise the questions to put to the successful team. Something to give your average punter nightmares but she carries it off with aplomb.
5.30 pm: MC Cadle is putting his feet up, having a chat about old times with his former assistant-in-chief Andre Alleyne, the guest for the evening's show. Since taking a complete hiatus from being Britain's most successful coach, Cadle has managed to bring an insider's view to the show, able to spot the nuances and argue the points raised. How is he coping with life off the bench?
"I'm really enjoying it and I certainly don't miss the coaching, still being involved in basketball but not emotionally. Doing games where I don't have to go home and worry because someone missed a shot. I needed a mental and physical break away from the game.
"The one thing is trying to sit up there and trying to remember what question I asked last week or five weeks ago, so I don't repeat myself. I think where I'm having the problem adjusting is trying to get coaches to tell the truth, to call it like it is. A lot of them are afraid to say what the real deal is. For me, I've always enjoyed talking about basketball so there's not much of an adjustment.
Adds Cadle: "I could definitely see myself as a presenter rather than as a coach and at this point in my career, I need to look at the possibility of going with that Plan B."
Some have criticised Sky for dominating the sport and I put it to Ashworth that there was disappointment in some quarters within the game that a "terrestrial" broadcaster did not pick up the rights for Budweiser League when they were up for renewal last summer. The Producer presents the case for the defense.
"I think you have to ask if any other channel would divert two hours of peak time to show basketball and I think the answer would be no. I believe the sport is pretty fortunate in that it's one of only a few sports which get air time on Sky, BBC and ITV.
"I don't think we have any particular influence over the game. We don't decide the teams, the times, the results. All we do is move a tip off time from 7 o'clock to five past. I genuinely believe we help to promote basketball and we enjoy being a part of its success. It looks good televisually and I think the sport still appreciates us so we get a lot of help to put it together."
Ashworth does however express a wish for more seamless co-operation between media and sport: "We could still use more information from the clubs, real stories rather than the habitual news of someone being unlikely to play at the weekend who you know very well will be OK. I believe that we need to create stars in this game, both guys who are liked and disliked."
It's 6.58, the previous show has finished and Cadle is doing a brief trailer for the evening's basketball. Two minutes later, we're on air for 117 minutes (minus ad breaks) of hoop-casting. Around the court, the crew seem calm. It's as smooth as a Jordan lay up throughout and by the time Cadle utters those now slightly cheesy words about style in basketball, everyone seems to agree that the night has been a success. I'd find it hard to disagree. It's a wrap.
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