Vice President of Broadcast Operations, Major League Baseball
By Stuart Miller -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/4/2012 12:01:00 AM
“I picked St. John’s for college because of its internship program,” says the Westchester County, N.Y., native, saying her plan also included being in New York, home to all the sports leagues and TV networks. “I wanted to work in sports, hopefully for a team or a league office.”
In spring 1984, McDonald landed an internship in Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn’s media relations department. Kuhn was soon gone, but McDonald settled in.
In 1989, MLB signed its first cable television deal with ESPN. “If there was a possible door open to becoming a team general manager I might have taken a baseball operations path, but broadcast operations offered the best opportunities,” McDonald recalls.
She seized those opportunities and now oversees scheduling and production decisions with all of MLB’s partners—a much more complex job now that baseball plays nationally on ESPN, TBS, Fox and MLB Network.
Beyond constantly juggling the schedules as teams or players become more desirable (like this year’s Washington Nationals), McDonald also devotes time to her credo, “bringing fans closer to the game.”
She is especially proud of overcoming teams’ hesitation to allow managers to be interviewed between innings. “We are bringing viewers into the sanctity of the dugout and getting them insights,” she says. For teams or managers uncomfortable with it, the networks settle for a coach or a player.
Sometimes it’s about managing technology: When networks wanted to expand from 6 to 10 cameras to add new angles, it was “not an easy sell,” McDonald says, negotiating with teams who had to sacrifice seats or kiosks, but they were eventually won over.
Lately, she has been studying the cable-cam conundrum. Unlike other sports, baseball has to worry about a camera above the field being a distraction, or even hit by the ball. “We started it in the 2010 postseason, and the camera had to be off the field before the pitch,” says McDonald, who is figuring out how low cable-cams can go. “It’s an expensive enhancement, but it has great value and we must figure out its future in baseball.”
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