In sports broadcasting, a commentator gives a running commentary of a game or event in real time, usually during a live broadcast
Live television
Live television refers to a television production broadcast in real-time, as events happen, in the present. From the early days of television until about 1958, live television was used heavily, except for filmed shows such as I Love Lucy and Gunsmoke. Video tape did not exist until 1957...

. The comments are normally a voiceover
VoiceOver is a screen reader built into Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X, iOS and iPod operating systems. By using VoiceOver, the user can access their Macintosh or iOS device based on spoken descriptions and, in the case of the Mac, the keyboard. The feature is designed to increase accessibility for blind...

, with the sounds of the action and spectators also heard in the background. In the case of television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 commentary, the commentator is on screen rarely if at all. In North American English
North American English
North American English is the variety of the English language of North America, including that of the United States and Canada. Because of their shared histories and the similarities between the pronunciation, vocabulary and accent of American English and Canadian English, the two spoken languages...

, other general terms for a commentator are announcer
An announcer is a presenter who makes "announcements" in an audio medium or a physical location.-Television and other media:Some announcers work in television production , radio or filmmaking, usually providing narrations, news updates, station identification, or an introduction of a product in...

, presenter
A presenter, or host , is a person or organization responsible for running an event. A museum or university, for example, may be the presenter or host of an exhibit. Likewise, a master of ceremonies is a person that hosts or presents a show...

, or sportscaster. ("Sportscaster" may also refer to a newscaster covering sports news.) In British broadcasting, the presenter
A presenter, or host , is a person or organization responsible for running an event. A museum or university, for example, may be the presenter or host of an exhibit. Likewise, a master of ceremonies is a person that hosts or presents a show...

 of a sports broadcast is usually distinct from the commentator, and often based in a remote broadcast
Remote broadcast
In broadcast engineering, a remote broadcast is broadcasting done from a location away from a formal television studio and is considered an electronic field production . A remote pickup unit is usually used to transmit the audio and/or video back to the television station, where it joins the...

 television studio
Television studio
A television studio is an installation in which a video productions take place, either for the recording of live television to video tape, or for the acquisition of raw footage for post-production. The design of a studio is similar to, and derived from, movie studios, with a few amendments for the...

 away from the sports venue. Often, the main commentator (called a play-by-play in North America) is assisted by a color commentator
Color commentator
A color commentator is a sports commentator who assists the play-by-play announcer, often by filling in any time when play is not in progress. The color analyst and main commentator will often exchange comments freely throughout the broadcast, when the play-by-play announcer is not describing the...

, and sometimes a sideline reporter
Sideline reporter
A sideline reporter, also known as a field reporter, courtside reporter , clubhouse reporter or dugout reporter , rinkside reporter or inside-the-glass reporter , on-court reporter , hole reporter , or boundary rider , is a member of the...


Types of sports broadcasters

Play-by-play announcers are the primary speakers, valued for their articulateness and ability to describe the events of an often fast-moving contest. Color commentator
Color commentator
A color commentator is a sports commentator who assists the play-by-play announcer, often by filling in any time when play is not in progress. The color analyst and main commentator will often exchange comments freely throughout the broadcast, when the play-by-play announcer is not describing the...

s are valued for experience and insight into the game, and are often asked questions by the play-by-play announcer to give them a topic for analysis. The latter most often have gained their experience in the sport as a player and/or coach, while the former is more likely to be a professional broadcast journalist than a participant in the sport, although there are numerous exceptions to these general trends.

The most common format for a sports television broadcast is to have one of each type. An example is NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC Sunday Night Football is a weekly television broadcast of Sunday evening National Football League games on NBC that began airing on Sunday, August 6, 2006 with the pre-season opening Hall of Fame Game. Al Michaels serves as the play-by-play announcer, with Cris Collinsworth as the color...

, which is called by Cris Collinsworth
Cris Collinsworth
Anthony Cris Collinsworth is a former American college and professional football player who was a wide receiver in the National Football League for eight seasons in the 1980s. He played college football for the University of Florida, and thereafter, he played his entire professional career for...

, a former NFL receiver, (formerly by John Madden, a former head coach), and Al Michaels
Al Michaels
Alan Richard "Al" Michaels is an American television sportscaster. Now employed by NBC Sports after nearly three decades with ABC Sports, Michaels is one of the most prominent members of his profession...

, a professional announcer. In the United Kingdom however there is a much less distinct division between play-by-play and color commentary, although two-man commentary teams usually feature an enthusiast with formal journalistic training but little or no competitive experience leading the commentary, and an expert former (or current) competitor following up with analysis or summary. There are however exceptions to this - all of the United Kingdom's major cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 and snooker
Snooker is a cue sport that is played on a green baize-covered table with pockets in each of the four corners and in the middle of each of the long side cushions. A regular table is . It is played using a cue and snooker balls: one white , 15 worth one point each, and six balls of different :...

 commentators are former professionals in their sports, while the legendary Formula One
Formula One
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1 and referred to officially as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile . The "formula" designation in the name refers to a set of rules with which...

 racing commentator Murray Walker
Murray Walker
Graeme Murray Walker, OBE is a former Formula One motorsport commentator...

 had no formal journalistic training and only limited racing experience of his own.

Another difference between the two types is that color commentators will almost always announce only a sport in which they played or coached, while play-by-play announcers - such as Michaels, Mike Patrick
Mike Patrick
Mike Patrick is an American sportscaster.-Career:Patrick began his broadcasting career in the fall of 1966 at WVSC-Radio in Somerset, Pa. In 1970, he was named Sports Director at WJXT-TV in Jacksonville, Fla., where he provided play-by-play for Jacksonville Sharks' World Football League telecasts...

 and David Coleman
David Coleman
David Coleman, OBE is an English former sports commentator and TV presenter who worked for the BBC for almost fifty years. In 2000, he was awarded the Olympic Order, the highest honour of the Olympic movement....

 - may have careers in which they call several different sports at one time or another. However, Brad Daugherty, a former professional basketball
Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or "shooting" a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules...

 player, currently appears on coverage of NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

 auto racing on ESPN
Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming....


Although the combination of a play-by-play announcer and one or more color commentators is standard today, in the past it was much more common for a play-by-play announcer to work alone. Vin Scully
Vin Scully
Vincent Edward Scully is an American sportscaster, known primarily as the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team on Prime Ticket, KCAL-TV and KABC radio...

, longtime announcer for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a professional baseball team based in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers are members of Major League Baseball's National League West Division. Established in 1883, the team originated in Brooklyn, New York, where it was known by a number of nicknames before becoming...

 baseball team, is one of few examples of this practice still existing today. Others currently in this capacity include Rich Schvotkin, (psychiatrist and play-by-play/color analyst for Georgetown Hoyas basketball games), and Dave Johnson, radio broadcaster for the Washington Wizards.

United States

While there were sports broadcasts from 1912, the first sports commentary was broadcast in April 1921 by Florent Gibson of the Pittsburg Star newspaper covering the fight between Johnny Ray
Johnny Ray
John Cornelius Ray is a former second baseman in Major League Baseball who had a 10-year career from 1981 to 1990. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League and the California Angels of the American League...

 and Johnny "Hutch" Dundee at the Motor Square Garden
Motor Square Garden
Motor Square Garden, also known as East Liberty Market, is a building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places....

, Pittsburgh.

In the United States, nearly all professional sports teams, most collegiate teams—as well as a dwindling number of high schools have their own Sports commentators, who are usually recognized as the voice of the team on radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 broadcasts and are often identified as part of the team like the players or the coaches. In addition, television network
Television network
A television network is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, whereby a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay TV providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small...

s and cable channels
Cable television
Cable television is a system of providing television programs to consumers via radio frequency signals transmitted to televisions through coaxial cables or digital light pulses through fixed optical fibers located on the subscriber's property, much like the over-the-air method used in traditional...

 will have their own stable of play-by-play announcers that work with various teams.

See also

External links

  • Sportcaster Chronicles - Internet radio show in which John Lewis interviews leading American sports announcers.
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