College Sports Summit: SVG Chairman Tom Sahara On How Universities Can Better Prepare Future Production Pros

One of the growing concerns in the professional sports video industry is finding and grooming the next-generation of production and engineering talent. So when the Sports Video Group officially named Tom Sahara, Vice President, Operations and Technology at Turner Sports as the organization’s newest chairman it should be little surprise when he quickly staked education as one of his primary initiatives.

Tom Sahara, Vice President, Operations and Technology at Turner Sports (left) speaks with Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Co-Executive Director, Editorial on the future of the production industry at the SVG College Sports Summit.

Tom Sahara, Vice President, Operations and Technology at Turner Sports (left) speaks with Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Co-Executive Director, Editorial on the future of the production industry at the SVG College Sports Summit.

At the SVG College Sports Summit earlier this month, Sahara joined Ken Kerschbaumer, SVG Co-Executive Director, Editorial, for a special Chairman’s Conversation to discuss the wealth of opportunities in production and engineering and how aspiring professionals can get their career rolling.

“There is a growing demand for the next generation of production staff, from the creative to the technical,” said Sahara. “We need that new, fresh viewpoint of what engages new viewers. Most of us that have been in our positions have been here for a while. Behind each of those creative types, there’s an army of support people and we are really looking at how we can get that next wave of people that support our producers and directors.”

While many aspire to be on-air talent or even producers and directors, Sahara stressed how critical paying one’s dues is in the sports production industry. There may be a limited number of seats on the front bench of a control room or production truck, but companies are hiring large staffs to handle everything from logging, to routing, to editing in postproduction environments.

“There are a lot of opportunities on the production side away from the camera,” he said. “They are not glamorous, true, but they still are a lot of fun.”

Sahara also shared some advice for content creators at the university level who are tackling the challenges of staying on top of the latest gear.

“When we look at technology we think how does that help us extend our reach in our business?” he said. “We really look at how does technology contribute to our mission as a business. What is the end product? What’s the end goal? How does that improve our business and the experience for our sponsors and viewers.”

He also stressed the need to be versatile in a rapidly developing industry.

“Technologies advance so quickly that I don’t think you can really build a career on understanding a single piece of technology, he said. “It’s really a mindset. Again, it advances so quickly that you can’t even write manuals for a lot of it now and much of the equipment now is software-based. So it’s really hard to become proficient on a piece just by reading a manual. You really have to roll up your sleeves and get into it. That’s the way technology is now. There’s 500 million users on Facebook, and there’s no manual.”

In one’s career pursuit, Sahara advised those in the audience to set goals and stay true to them. Being honest with oneself and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes one’s way to pursue that goal.

“When someone asks me how they can get into the business, my first question is always ‘what is it that makes you happy?’ he said. “Because if it makes you happy and you want to do it, do it. Find out what that is. Than from there, just continue to look for opportunities to do that. Get a mentor; find someone to guide you. You really need someone to help keep you on the path because there are thousands of distractions trying to take your focus away from what makes you happy. Being true to yourself will really help you further your career.”