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When NBC swings into high gear for the London Olympics in summer 2012, NEP Broadcasting CEO Debra Honkus will be supplying trucks from their London division, continuing a relationship that dates back to the 1988 Olympics.
Honkus and NEP play a crucial, though largely behind-the-scenes, role in TV sports production. As the top executive at the largest mobile production company in the U.S., Honkus and her team provide crews and trucks that are used by most of the major networks, including NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN and Turner, for everything from the Olympics and NFL football to PGA golf and NASCAR. “On any weekend, we could have 1000 [employees and freelancers] and 50 trucks in the field,” she notes.
Honkus, who quips that “it seems like I’ve always had trucks in my life,” got her operational experience at a construction company, managing a fleet of trucks that serviced power plants. She then moved into the sports business, managing Total Communications Services from 1978-87.
Back then, it was much harder for women to get into the game. “I met a lot of resistance at first,” she recalls.
After TCS merged with NEP, Honkus continued to prove herself as general manager of NEP, handling day-to-day operations under NEP’s president, legendary mobile sports executive Tom Shelburne.
Under their leadership, NEP rapidly expanded as the sports business exploded. In the mid-1990s, first NBC and then other networks began outsourcing their mobile productions, signing long-term contracts with NEP, which would purchase or build the necessary peroduction trucks.
Meanwhile, a number of new network and cable players expanded their sports productions, driving the kind of growth that has now propelled NEP to the top of the mobile production business with nearly 60 trucks, including three 3D vehicles, around the world.
Today, women in sports face less resistance than when she started, Honkus notes, especially given all the new programming, networks and digital platforms. “There is more opportunity,” she says.
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