Careers: Sports EP/director Matt Doyle
Issue: April 1, 2017

Careers: Sports EP/director Matt Doyle

Matt Doyle
Executive Producer/Director 
Big Brick Productions
GYK Antler

Matt Doyle began his career as a production assistant at ESPN and rose through the ranks to cover multiple Super Bowls, NBA Finals, and major golf championships. He worked as a feature producer on SportsCenter, College GameDay, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Outside the Lines while also serving as series producer/co-creator for the award-winning Training Days: Rolling with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports franchises. Awards and accolades have included 2013 USA Today Sports Viral Video of the Year, multiple Telly Awards, the 2012 Cynopsis Media Award, 2012 Webby Award, and multiple National Sports Emmys. Here, Doyle looks back at his career.

What sparked your interest in production? 

“I took a ‘television’ class in high school because I wanted to do play-by-play for our basketball team. It basically started as a goof so I could use all the funny catchphrases we heard on SportsCenter on our little WHS-TV15 cable access channel. Little did I know that the fun times I had in that class writing, directing, editing crazy videos with my buddies would lead to a career in the field of broadcast production.”

Are you self-taught or did you study an aspect of production in school? If so, did you know that you were interested in sports production, or was it a passion that was developed during your career?

“As I mentioned, my first introduction to actual ‘production’ was in high school. We had a truly ahead-of-its-time program set up by an amazing teacher, Jude Daley. She handed us camcorders and set us out to create. I still remember pounding away at the one Panasonic A750 machine we had, trying not to blow out audio edits on my latest sports feature. After high school I continued learning the ways of production at Boston University’s College of Communication. COM was (and is) one of the best broadcast journalism schools in the country, and the professors and courses I was exposed to during my four years poured flames on the spark of creativity that began in high school.

Directing Marcus Spears for an ESPN/Johnsonville Sausage commercial

“I was always interested in sports journalism as an athlete and avid sports fan myself. If I wasn’t playing the games, I wanted to be covering them. Very early on at BU I decided to focus my efforts on sports journalism, and thankfully Boston is a great town to make a dream like that into a reality. Whether it was interning at NESN (New England Sports Network) for the Bruins and Red Sox, or covering our NCAA Championship hockey team at BU, there was no shortage of opportunities for a budding sports TV producer to learn the craft while in school.”

What brought you to ESPN and what kept you there for 13 years?

“ESPN is the absolute dream gig for any kid coming out of college with hopes of working in the field of sports journalism. While at BU, another one of my mentors, the legendary Jim Thistle, would often tell us that we’d have to work for 15 to 20 years covering high school field hockey in Bangor, ME, before we could even hope to get a job at ESPN. As luck would have it, professor Thistle was really just testing all of us. At the end of our senior year, Thistle pulled myself and three other classmates aside and asked if we wanted a job interview with ESPN. After initially feeling like I was being pranked, I obviously said yes, and wound up having an interview with ESPN’s ‘Kingmaker’ Al Jaffe. In what was still the only real job interview I’ve ever had, Jaffe peppered me with questions like, ‘What do you think of the Seattle Mariners bullpen this year?’ and ‘Who do you think is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season?’ As both an avid sports fan and highly trained B.S. artist, I managed to do a good enough job to be offered the role of ‘temporary production assistant’ at ESPN. This role, which hundreds of my peers from Bristol will attest, was basically a six-month audition to test your willingness, drive, desire and talent to work in the demanding world of sports television production. If you complained about working every weekend from 6pm to 4am over the summer, then your stint at ESPN was likely going to be short-lived.

“Thankfully I made it through the first six months and was offered a full-time gig at the end of my run. As mentioned above, it wasn’t the most glamorous gig in the world — but honestly, getting paid to watch sports for a living was pretty great. I forged life-long friendships and had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in sports television. The excitement of working my way up the ladder from production assistant to producer and eventually a feature producer was what kept me there for 13 years. Constantly working on the biggest events in sports, having the reach and ability to tell stories that might not otherwise get told, being a part of a company that was shaping the sports media landscape in revolutionary ways on a daily basis. These all seemed like pretty good reasons to stick around Bristol, CT, for 13 years. We also got free Disney tickets, which was nice!”

What was your biggest challenge in producing Kenny Mayne's Wider World of Sports? What was it like to produce a show while traveling the world? 

“Wider World of Sports was an amazing project for so many different reasons. What started as (one of many) half-baked ideas between myself and Kenny Mayne, eventually got greenlit by ESPN’s president, the great John Skipper, after a half hour lunch meeting in his office. I remember being skeptical of our chances of getting signoff, but to his credit, Kenny’s optimism never wavered. I still remember Mr. Skipper saying, ‘I love this. Absolutely love it. If you guys can get me some kind of sizzle reel to show at the Up Fronts, then we can make this thing happen.’ Sounds great until you realize that the Up Fronts were taking place in 10 days and we’d yet to actually plan any potential shoots for the show. So that was a pretty decent challenge to tackle out of the gate. We ended up planning a trip to England and Ireland in about two days because they were far-off countries where English was the primary language and we wouldn’t need to spend time finding a translator for our stories. We bounced around Great Britain for about five days shooting everything from a cricket match in Surrey to traditional Irish Road Bowling in Cork, before returning home and delivering the sizzle reel for the Up Fronts after about 48 straight hours of editing. Mr Skipper showed our wildly put-together feature at the Up Fronts, the show got sponsored, and we were off and running for three years of international sports mayhem.

On location in Nicaragua with Kenny Mayne for ESPN WWOS

“Producing Wider World was absolutely the most rewarding and simultaneously demanding part of my career to date. Our entire show staff consisted of myself, Kenny, two great camera guys, and a primary editor back home. We’d bring along the occasional translator/fixer when we needed them, but that core group spent the better part of three years on the road in locales like Nicaragua, Bosnia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Brazil, and so many other amazing countries around the world, experiencing some of the greatest sporting traditions and events our planet has to offer. Our pre-production typically consisted of me doing some Google searches for ‘amazing’ or ‘unbelievable’ sports and then discussing them with Kenny. It was that simple. Whether it was volcano ‘surfing’ in Nicaragua or bridge diving in Bosnia, we made sure the stories and the events themselves would be something that a majority of ESPN’s viewers had never seen or heard about before. We wanted to tell the stories that you used to see on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, but in the lighter, more irreverent style and tone that Kenny had become famous for. We learned so much about producing that show from one season to the next. From refining the storytelling, to the importance of having an accomplished and dedicated fixer on the ground in each of the countries, to zeroing in on the finest hotels in each of the countries we were staying in (Kenny’s influence). By the time we were in the middle of Season 2, I felt confident that we had truly hit our stride and were producing some really great and unique content for the network. It was endlessly rewarding.”

Is there a project that you are proudest of? 

“I’ve been really proud of many of the projects I was lucky enough to be a part of in my career. From SportsCenter, to Sunday NFL Countdown, to helping start the Gruden’s QB Camp franchise and producing features with the Make-A-Wish Foundation on SportsCenter’s My Wish series, there have been so many great memories. But I’d still say that Wider World of Sports is the project I’m proudest of to date. We had such a small, close-knit team that worked so hard to create those shows. It was just such a unique project that we were somehow able to pull off year after year. I’ll always look back on Wider World with a smile on my face.

“As for the Emmys, they’re all rewarding in their own unique ways, but I’d have to say the win for Sunday NFL Countdown as ‘Best Studio Show: Weekly’ was one of the sweetest. As a producer on that show for five seasons, we worked tirelessly with an amazing cast and crew to tell the stories of the NFL in the most entertaining and engaging ways possible. Working alongside legends like Chris Berman, Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka each week was such an epic experience. To be rewarded for that work at the end of the season with an Emmy was just a cherry on top.”

What was it like to transition from a large media company to an in-house production shop that you started on your own? 

“The transition from ESPN to Big Brick was simultaneously the scariest and easiest decision I’ve ever had to make in my career. While I’d called ESPN home for nearly 13 years, I’d also felt that I’d reached a bit of a career plateau following some of the successes I’d had as a feature producer. The grind of ESPN was starting to catch up to me, so the unique opportunity I had to start Big Brick with longtime friend Travis York was a chance I couldn’t pass up. While the day-to-day of my job is certainly a lot different than it was while working at a corporate monster like ESPN, so much of the creative side remains the same. It’s still about coming up with amazing ideas and concepts for videos and features that will excite and engage the audience. The main difference now is that my audience is a lot more diverse than just your typical sports fans watching ESPN. Whether it’s musical content for Red Bull, digital spots for CPG clients like Bai and Timberland, or branded content for footwear companies like New Balance and York Athletics, the goal remains the same: make the coolest, most engaging and entertaining video content possible for our viewers. But don’t get me wrong — we’re still extremely psyched to work with ESPN on a large number of projects each year. We’ll always be sports geeks at heart, and our ESPN work helps give us our fix.”

How did you come up with the name Big Brick?

“Long, convoluted story that really doesn’t make much sense as the years have gone by. However I will say that in the end, Big Brick narrowly edged out the name ‘Thunder Loon Productions’ (after a local semi-pro basketball team) in a group vote. I think we’re all happy with the end result.”

Directing David Ortiz for Dunkin Donuts and Go90

Do you have a favorite project that you've done at Big Brick thus far? 

“Like picking a favorite child, but of course I look back fondly on certain projects we’ve worked on.  Certainly Season 3 of Wider World of Sports (which we produced here at Big Brick) was an awesome experience, but there have been other great projects as well. We shot a series of videos for Bauer hockey, creating a bunch of ‘secret agent’ training videos with some of the NHL’s biggest stars. We traveled across the US and Canada in addition to heading over to Sweden to shoot with some of Bauer’s athletes for the series. Our spot with Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks working on his stick-handling blew up the Internet and was awarded ‘Sports Viral Video of the Year’ by AdWeek and USA Today. Great project and a great time working with all those guys. It’s a true statement that hockey players are the coolest of all professional athletes.”

In 10 years, where do you see Big Brick? 

"Hopefully in the hands of some of our amazingly talented younger producers as I cheer them on from my beachfront villa. Ha! In reality, I’d love to continue the growth of our company and continue to build on the amazing momentum we’ve been able to create in the past four years. I’d love for Big Brick to continue to establish itself as a go-to squad for producing all kinds of content, from high-end broadcast work around the globe, to quick turn social videos produced in our 6,000 square-foot studio space, and everything in between. We have an audio-branding and integration team full of (actual) rock stars who’s work in the music space is something we are intent on growing in the near future. Add to that a team full of creatives that are currently concepting, developing, pitching our own shows to media distributors and networks alike and there’s no shortage of possibilities for us to focus on moving forward. But at the end of the day, I’d hope in 10 years we can mention Big Brick as one of the industry’s most highly sought-after groups of content creators.”