Experience, clutch skills lead to Cohen’s 2nd Sports Emmy win

Call them defending champions.

In back-to-back years, IU Media School graduate Adam Cohen and his NFL on CBS production team won their 2nd consecutive Sports Emmy for Outstanding Playoff Coverage.

Their broadcast of the 2018 and 2019 AFC Championships beat out a field of iconic sporting events including the World Cup, both NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the NCAA College Football Playoff, and even the league’s marquee event, the Super Bowl.

Cohen, an associate producer, was just one key player in a crew of 30 professionals working for a common goal, like a true championship team. Their coverage of New England’s 37-31 overtime thriller victory against Kansas City on January 20 stood out as exemplary, and worthy of one of the profession’s highest honors.

“The most challenging part is being able to detach myself from the enormity of the game and emotions of the game when it’s happening,” Cohen said. “I’m well aware of the watch parties everywhere and amount of people watching, which is always impossible to conceptualize. Come January, everyone is watching the NFL Playoffs. And I know that I was always one of those people. I have to rely on my instincts and my preparation as the game is happening and treat it like any other game, as cliche as that is.”

Cliche or not, Cohen’s broadcast team subscribes to this mentality for the entire season.

The NFL’s 17-week regular season is already a marathon stretch for any production crew. The playoffs and Super Bowl add another five daunting weeks to the task.

And yet, Cohen and his team performed at the highest level when the situation demanded more.

“We learn how we can improve and we keep trying to put on the best production possible, and it allows us to be in our best form for the biggest games at the end of the year,” Cohen said. We’ve come through when it’s mattered most and produced high-quality, informative, and clean broadcasts.”

Cohen, who graduated from Indiana University in 2015, contributes visually to the Emmy-winning squad. He works to present the game’s most relevant statistics and storylines graphically, then execute them in real-time.

And yet, the game rolls on.

It’s a responsibility that somehow combines both careful attention and a wild imagination ⁠— something that can only be mastered with practice.

“Without a doubt in my mind, IU helped get me here because the experience I gained there was nothing short of tremendous,” Cohen said. “I can’t wait to see all that the Media School can become because I know what the opportunities there can lead to.”

Like many graduates, Cohen said he was initially terrified of his job prospects after college.

Now, he has two Emmy Awards in four years of work with one of the world’s leading media outlets ⁠— the byproduct of diligent work.

“When I was at Indiana University, I was covering many sports in the student media space. Most of the time, it was covering athletes and teams who I would have little knowledge of unless I prepared and did the research ahead of time. I knew it was the only way I could have done it well, and I was always trying to prove myself in college.

“That’s the attitude I still have today. I’m always trying to watch more broadcasts, whether it’s the previous productions that I was a part of, or another network’s coverage of the sport. I’m always looking for any way to gain more information.”

An ever-changing media landscape also brought Tony Romo, a charismatic Dallas Cowboys quarterback turned acclaimed color commentator, into Cohen’s realm.

Sports Emmys, which usually require a thrilling, high quality event to win, are ultimately out of the team’s control. Fortunately, Cohen and company had complete control over theirs broadcast performance, which, combined with Romo’s vital insight, proved successful at the highest stage.

“We let the scene of the stadium help us in the most critical moments,” Cohen said. “We didn’t try to jam in a bunch of big graphics or video elements that were prepared ahead of time. We let the game speak for itself, and then filled in the blanks with great replay sequences or great live shots and commentator discussions.

“Tony Romo was completely on top of his game in the booth. … Part of that was due to our familiarity with the Patriots. Covering so many of their games, Tony was able to pick up on their tendencies, and it helped him ‘predict’ many of their plays down the stretch of the game.”

And like any loyal student of sports media, Cohen’s attitude around hands-on experiences is unwavering. Even the more casual details, brought into his life through repetition and regional familiarity, played a role in his Emmy success.

“It was our third game in Kansas City of the year,” Cohen said. “We knew the area well, had some good food, including a crew barbecue dinner at Q39 on that Friday night. We were all in good spirits throughout the weekend, and we ended up with an unforgettable game that went to overtime.

“After the game, we all knew that we came through in a big way.”