Many have seen the advantages of remote working after the COVID-19 pandemic, but when it comes to sports broadcasting, having play-by-play announcers and color analysts call games from a studio made game broadcasts susceptible to cost-cutting measures from their networks.
Per a report from Neil Best in Newsday, the New York Islanders have made an "organizational decision" that will result in play-by-play man Chris King and analyst Greg Picker only traveling to local road games against the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, and Philadelphia Flyers. For all other games, starting Saturday in Buffalo, they'll be calling the game remotely.
“Just from an emotional and energy standpoint as a broadcaster, I do hockey and baseball, and the crowd is a big part of [the game],” said King in Barret Sports Media back in 2021. “The difficulty of calling the game off of a monitor [is that] you are limited to what the [television] director shows you, as opposed to being at the event. In hockey, things happen away from the puck all the time, and I need to look there to see what plays are being set up, especially late in close games.”
According to Newsday, the Islanders radio team has historically not flown on the team charter, which adds costs to their travel itinerary. The MSG Networks TV broadcast with Brendan Burke, Butch Goring, and Shannon Hogan will remain largely unaffected, but having them broadcast games from MSG studios on Western Conference trips has happened in recent seasons.
While talented play-by-play announcers can make it hard for the viewer or listener at home to notice that they aren't calling the game from the arena, there is value in being around the team during morning skates and after games that are missed when broadcasting remotely.
That means the broadcasters will have to rely on their research and game notes for preparation, which is fine but can't take the place of nuggets that are learned when mingling with the opposing team's broadcasters and reporters before a game.
Some will undoubtedly look at this as a minor league move by the franchise, but the Islanders aren't the first and won't be the last to use this growing trend as a way to keep operating expenses in check, but it's unfortunate that it comes at the expense of the game experience for the broadcast team.