Greg Calvin believed his job as an audio technicians could survive most economic downturns because people will keep watching sports while the networks that air the games still receive advertising revenue.
But that was before the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down all sports and put Calvin and his fellow technicians out of work and on unemployment.
“I don’t see a time in the near future where they are going to put 45,000 fans in a stadium,” said Calvin, who has been an audio technician in New York since 1989.
The new coronavirus has caused a global pandemic that has sickened at least 1.68 million and killed over 101,000 worldwide, halted sports and forced restrictions on the movement of millions of people in an effort to stop the virus from spreading further and overwhelming health care systems.
The rapid postponement or cancellation of most sports meant those who were booked for events through the spring and summer now have an open calendar. Besides audio technicians, those affected include camera operators, stage managers and producers.
Some networks have paid crews for cancelled games. CBS and Turner paid staffers for lost NCAA Tournament games while NBC paid for all canceled events. ESPN and Fox Sports are paying most of their technical people through the middle of April.
While most technicians at national networks feel like they can weather short-term cancellations, those who work for local or regional networks are feeling the biggest pinch.
AT&T SportsNet, Yes Network and SNY are paying crews for missed baseball home games, but that doesn’t cover those who work on broadcasts for visiting teams.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, the nation’s largest holder of regional sports networks, has only paid crew members through March 15. April is traditionally the biggest month for regional networks with the baseball season getting underway and overlapping with the end of the NHL and NBA regular seasons.
Those regional networks hold the local rights to 42 professional teams — 16 NBA, 14 MLB and 12 NHL. Sinclair has also partnered with the Chicago Cubs for the Marquee Sports Network, which launched in February.
Their policy has drawn heavy criticism, especially from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The union represents those who work in stage, motion picture and television production, including sports.