BY ANNA JENSEN
After 27 years airing The Drake Relays, the Drake Broadcasting System (DBS), a completely student-run organization, will no longer be the sole provider of media coverage.
For the 2017 Drake Relays, RunnerSpace — a live stream track and field service — will be spearheading the coverage of the track and field events. The broadcast will no longer air live on Drake’s college cable channel and professionals will be announcing the events, a job that used to be done by DBS students.
In the past, hundreds of students have spent hours researching track events and athletes, prepping cameras for recording, making edits for packages and holding the microphone at the right height to capture the voice of the 100-meter-dash champion.
NBC Sports Network is paying for broadcast TV rights for the Drake Relays, specifically for two hours on Saturday, and RunnerSpace is paying to be the exclusive streaming provider, said David Wright, the associate professor of electronic media, who oversees the Relays production.
“RunnerSpace will bring expertise and visual data to this year’s Relays,” Wright added.
Runnerspace covers track and field and cross-country year-round, making their announcers more experienced than students.
“The biggest loss is for our announcing students because it will be harder for them to get exposure because RunnerSpace is paying talent to come in and do it,” Wright said.
One of last year’s announcers, sophomore Digital Media Production Olivia Decelles, agrees that future broadcast students will miss out on being involved in an exciting, large-scale production.
“This experience gave me the opportunity to live-broadcast on TV, which is something I had never done before,” Decelles said. “I was also able to gain real-life experience for being talent on a live production team and see firsthand all the different components that need come together in order to create a live sports coverage.”
RunnerSpaces’ involvement isn’t entirely a negative for DBS, according to its president Grace Rogers. Now that DBS is no longer exclusively in control of broadcasting the Relays events, they have time to focus their time on other journalistic tasks, such as creating video and audio packages.
“This opportunity pushes us to get creative,” Rogers said. “We’re not going to be doing the ‘traditional broadcast’ going forward. We will probably share a lot more of our content online, and (DBS has been) going back and forth deciding if we want to pre-record anything and put it up on our streaming service where students can watch it as if it were live, or if we try to go live.”
The group is planning content for Relays, but is being careful not to duplicate the angles RunnerSpace will be hitting. RunnerSpace will mainly be mainly covering the routine races themselves and post-event interviews, leaving plenty of freedom for student reporters. The plan for DBS is three live shows that will air throughout the week on social media and their website.
“April 21 will be our first streamed show,” said DBS Executive Producer Gerald Tetzlaff. “Next will be April 27 and we will be doing a show that takes place right before the distance carnival events, which will include packages created by DBS members that say ‘This is what to be looking for at the races.’ The last live show will be April 28, highlighting what has happened in the Relays so far. We’ll talk over all the events DBS went out to cover, but weren’t able to live stream.”
Another major change was the decision to get rid of the college channel. The channel aired in the Des Moines area, but did not reach an audience beyond that, which has limited DBS’ options.
“It’s not an efficient use of our resources any longer,” Rogers said. “Everything is moving away from cable TV and towards live stream.”
Wright echoed those statements, saying the college channel was hardly watched anyways.
The DBS team negotiated with RunnerSpace in the hopes of doing over some of the live stream since their previous platform, the cable channel, is no longer viable.
“The students are going to do a co-produced event for the stream that goes internationally on RunnerSpace,” Wright said. “The students will be doing all the track coverage cameras, and they will be directing it. All the coverage will be on the scoreboard and on RunnerSpace internationally … We’re working hand-in-hand with them. They are just providing the announcers.”
RunnerSpace will also be airing a DBS-created 30-second commercial on a 90-minute rotation on their live stream.
“We’re cramming as much about the journalism school as we can in 30 seconds into that video,” Tetzlaff said. “It’s international exposure.”
Although fans will have to pay to watch RunnerSpace’s live stream, Wright thinks this platform will help spread Relays events to more track and field fans across the US.
“This Relays will set the tone for the ones to come,” Rogers said. “These collaborations will send us in the right direction.”