The Electrical Worker online
January 2015

CBS Techs Crew Sports Classic
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From Major League Baseball to the PGA golf championship and more, IBEW broadcasting professionals help bring line drives, Hail Marys and holes-in-one into millions of sports fans' living rooms year round.

This pro football season, they've gone even further into the game.

New York Local 1212 members now help produce "Inside the NFL," the longest running TV series in cable history. Airing Tuesday nights on CBS-owned Showtime, the hour-long show hosted by sportscasters and NFL greats breaks down each week's games in detail — serving up video replays, analysis and debate about the league to viewers each week.

"The cooperation between the IBEW and CBS, and our history of a positive relationship, has helped make this possible," said Local 1212 Business Manager Ralph Avigliano. "Our collaboration helps ensure work like this, as well as continuous work moving into the future."

A crew of more than a dozen technicians — who perform camera work, audio, mixing, graphics and more — start production on the show Tuesday mornings in CBS' sprawling midtown Manhattan headquarters, which employs nearly 500 IBEW members. Depending on the rhythm of each program and the staff's technical needs, shooting typically takes about four hours. The video is then edited, mixed and prepped for air by Local 1212 members.

"It's been a great season so far," said Local 1212 member Allen Brown, who is one of the program's five camera operators. "The best part about my job is the ability to be creative." The second-generation IBEW broadcasting member has worked for the network since 1974. "Sometimes you do something that a director didn't expect you to do and it makes for great television. It's a rewarding process."

"Inside the NFL" premiered on HBO in 1977, where it ran for more than three decades. Showtime picked up the program in 2008. Now in its seventh season on the cable channel, sportscaster Greg Gumbel hosts alongside veteran safety Ed Reed, named 2004 NFL defensive player of the year, and Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Rounding out the talent is famed quarterback and 1988 NFL Most Valuable Player Boomer Esiason and former New York Giants quarterback and celebrated commentator Phil Simms. This season hit the airwaves last fall and runs weekly through February's Super Bowl.

While the hosts and analysts prep for a lively conversation, the IBEW members bring the technical know-how that makes the magic happen onscreen, said Avigliano. "The setup in and of itself is a production. Our members test and prep the equipment to ensure everything is in top form, then they make sure the talent is ready to rock."

Previously filmed in Mount Laurel, N.J., last year the show moved to New York and into Local 1212's jurisdiction. It has been a boon to the program, said CBS' Richard Hart, who is the network's vice president for entertainment production and technical operation. "CBS and the IBEW — it's a collaborative relationship. Obviously, we can sometimes have different opinions on things. But when you work here, you're selling the company, and this team does an outstanding job.

"I walk around and tell everyone we're partners," Hart said. "It's not my success, it's not your success — it's our success."

Local 1212 Senior Business Representative Vinny Butler agrees. "All the feedback that we hear is that CBS is thrilled to have 'Inside The NFL' in their building, and that they are very proud of the technical staff. Our members' professionalism is a shining star in this industry."

The roots of this success go deep, IBEW leaders say. Local 1212 members at CBS' Manhattan office work on a diverse array of shows, including "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," "The Late Show with David Letterman," and sports and network news programs.

And with IBEW staff technicians and freelancers nationwide covering sports for the network, most of the popular game replays shown on "Inside The NFL" are from games produced by union members. "Our people do it all," said Brown, who has served as a shop steward for four years and was part of the contract negotiation committee in 2008. Brown also shoots for the daytime Emmy-Award-winning "CBS News Sunday Morning."

The popular show is a hit with many IBEW members who enjoy weekly gridiron action. "It's a great program," said David Mullen, director of the Safety and Health Department at the IBEW's International Office in Washington, D.C. "Not only do you see athletes at their best, but with IBEW members now producing this season of 'Inside the NFL,' it really goes to show you how talented and invested our members are in turning out a quality product. It's fun to watch, it's smart and the commentary is great."

Given the fast-paced, always-on-deadline nature of most of the broadcasting industry, IBEW leaders and CBS managers acknowledge that on the set, conflicts can arise. The key is constant communication and mutual respect, said Local 1212 member George Rothweiler, who does camera work in the field and is a member of the union's negotiating committee.

"Unlike other unions and their management, where things can be adversarial in the workplace, we don't have that," Rothweiler said. "CBS management listens to us — they come to us seeking common ground. And we know that we have to listen to them, to talk to them and not at them. We have to protect our work and our jurisdiction, and we have good, intelligent people on our side. Fortunately, CBS management does too."

With football season hitting fever pitch before the Super Bowl, both the IBEW and the company agree that the union-produced "Inside The NFL" has hit its stride.

"When it first started, it was a little funky — we all had to get used to each other and reach our comfort zone," Brown said. "Now we've got it down to a science. It's a good group of people, a good time and the talent is great."

Brown said he hopes the IBEW team can help build on this success by getting even more work into the broadcast center. "We want to see the production business thrive. We're hoping for some new clients this year, and we approach it with the same goal — good work for the membership and good business for CBS."

Hart said he has faith that the IBEW workforce can continue to meet the challenges ahead. "The industry is changing so fast, and we're always trying to produce the best product. It's competitive — there's no second place. But I feel like our relationship with the members, plus with Ralph Avigliano and Vinny Butler, means we're going to keep that competitive edge."

IBEW International Representative Neil Ambrosio said the partnership between the IBEW and CBS is a win-win. "When two parties respect each other, it allows you to do things that some may have not thought possible. There has been labor peace in this agreement for almost 30 years, which in today's climate is not that common. The relationship allows us to disagree in a manner that doesn't become too escalated, and in the end, we compromise to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

"Every time we tour a CBS facility, we see members who are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the work they do," Ambrosio said.

Watch "Inside The NFL" at 9 p.m. EST Tuesdays on Showtime, or at 9 p.m. EST Wednesdays as a rebroadcast on the NFL Network. The show runs through Feb. 4.


More than a dozen New York Local 1212 broadcasting professionals now help produce Showtime's 'Inside the NFL' — which first premiered on HBO in the late 1970s.

Photo courtesy of CBS


IBEW electricians helped build the new San Francisco 49ers' stadium.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Matthew Roth.


IBEW broadcasting crews help bring NFL action to viewers watching CBS.

The NFL: Brought to You by America's Unions

The National Football League is more than just an American tradition — it's a union affair. Not only are the pros who hit the field union members, but the army of referees, vendors, broadcasting professionals and others who help make the game happen pay their dues, too, while enjoying good wages and collective bargaining rights on the job.

Here are a few examples:

Pro football players:

• NFL Players Association


• NFL Referees Association

Concessions workers
(in dozens of stadiums):


Announcers, camera operators, technicians, and other broadcasting and field employees:

• Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists

• National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA


• Laborers' International Union of North America

Learn more: