Winston Salem-- IMG College thrives on March Madness.
The Winston-Salem company is providing assistance to 54 radio broadcast clients during the two conference tournament weeks, including 200 hours just on Friday.
Because IMG College has clients in nine conferences — including the Big East, Pack 12, SEC, ACC, Big 10 and Big 12 — local producers were on the air from 9:30 a.m. Thursday to 2 a.m. Friday
Given that several clients, including Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, are offering "wall-to-wall" coverage of all games in their tournaments, it's a physical and technological marathon not for the faint of heart — or stamina.
The producers, among things, update scores, make sure signals are working and put together highlights packages.
"It's a tightly scripted, all-hands-on-deck effort that puts IMG College on par with any broadcast operation in the world," said Andrew Giangola, vice president of strategic communications for IMG College.
Each game's play-by-play is piped to the local operations, where producers mix the sound with music, highlights from other games and commercial spots. The call is then beamed up to a satellite and downloaded to more than 2,200 radio stations across the country.
Yet, there's a calm, ordered side to the hoops frenzy at IMG College's operations on Trade Street.
Two studios filled with 43 individual broadcast booths enable IMG College producers to speak clearly with their three colleagues — a play-by-play announcer and a color announcer and an onsite producer — at the tournament site.
It's a coast-to-coast smorgasbord, which means a producer handling Duke's coverage could be next to a producer assisting Michigan's broadcast who is next to the producer on the Nevada-Las Vegas game.
For example, producer Andrew Africk was responsible this week for handling games involving South Florida, Syracuse, UCLA and Washington.
Although having so many games to juggle at one time can be challenging, it also can be a blessing when broadcasters need help filling time when the game preceding theirs goes into multiple overtimes.
And March Madness isn't even busiest time of the year for IMG College.
November is, because of the overlap of football and basketball broadcasts on Saturdays. For example, said Chad Cleveland, who is in charge of IMG College's local audio operations, the audio team produced 185 broadcasts during the week of Nov. 14 — 92 basketball and 43 football games and 50 shows — that totaled nearly 800 hours.
Altogether, the local IMG College unit produces more than 30,000 hours of radio for its partners each year.
The chance to become a familiar voice to fans, particularly on football broadcasts that can last up to 4½ hours with pre- and post-game segments, is part of the appeal of an working as a producer, Africk said.
Cleveland said several local producers have worked their way to play-by-play duties in college and professional sports.
"Those opportunities help us continue to replenish our talent when those here who have the chops for play-by-play get their chance," Cleveland said.
Chris Kroeger, who handles Pac-12 broadcasts, says he takes pride in creating audio that focuses on the individual characteristics of what makes a school's athletics and culture unique.
"We don't turn out carbon-copy broadcasts," Kroeger said. "The Washington Huskies broadcast sounds nothing like the Washington State Cougars broadcast."
Cleveland said IMG College is trying to build a local pool of producers through a yearlong broadcast technology program at Forsyth Technical Community College. At least three Forsyth Tech students have gone to work in the local studio.
"We're doing what we can to help keep IMG College based here," Cleveland said.
Despite the marathon days, Cleveland said the effort is worth it.
"Put it this way: We get paid to watch college sports, and we have a blast doing what we love," he said.