“It’s a bittersweet feeling.”
That statement by Peter Larsson, President of Broadcast Sports InternationaI (BSI), about his upcoming retirement on May 9, 2023, is certainly shared by all those who have worked with him over the years as they watch the credits roll on the career of one of the industry’s great innovators.
Part of the NEP Worldwide Network, BSI employs more than 200 people globally and boasts a 50,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters outside of Baltimore and an international office near London. Its fleet of state-of-the-art production trailers are in action every weekend at major live events where BSI delivers innovative solutions for broadcast partners.
It all started more than 40 years ago, when a small group of intrepid broadcast engineers at Channel Seven in Australia set out to change the way we see sports by dropping the viewer right into the action. Larsson, along with John Porter and Dave Curtis, first developed wireless microwave camera systems to support the coverage of yacht races. Soon after, they applied the RF (radio frequency) system to auto-racing, and in 1979 they deployed the first-ever onboard RaceCam at the Bathurst 1000 in New South Wales where it captured an in-car perspective never seen before.
In 1980, a CBS executive on location in Australia saw Channel Seven’s broadcast of the Hardie-Ferodo 500, spotting the onboard camera system as a perfect tool for live NASCAR coverage. A year later, the trio found themselves deploying their onboard cameras at the 1981 Daytona 500 for live coverage by CBS Sports. The in-car camera continued to wow audiences, and viewers of the 1983 Daytona 500 were treated to a driver’s-seat perspective of Cale Yarborough’s winning race. Shortly thereafter, BSI relocated to the U.S., and Broadcast Sports International was born.
“The three of us did everything, from driving the truck to accounting. The technology was groundbreaking, and it changed the way car racing was covered. It was very fun to be part of the whole process,” says Larsson.
“The world and CBS made it clear there was a desire for presenting a new point of view live from inside race cars and Broadcast Sports was going to deliver,” says Clay Underwood, BSI’s Director of Technical Strategy.
The wireless camera and audio technology Larsson helped to create and continued to perfect over the past four decades has revolutionized the way the world views sports and major events. Other high-profile projects include wireless systems for PGA TOUR Golf, presidential inaugurations, the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, the X Games, marathons, Pope tours, and even imaging systems in the space suits of NASA astronauts.
Another area where Larsson oversaw growth for BSI is in providing pylon cameras to the NFL, which began, he recalls, as one of “Peter’s Pet Projects” that turned into a widely successful enterprise.
Called a “great technical innovator,” by veteran Fox Sports director Artie Kempner, Larsson is an eight-time Emmy Award winner and a 2018 inductee into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. The latter award is especially meaningful to him, as it was voted on by his peers, which “means more than anything,” says Larsson.
Underwood cites Larsson’s leadership, as well as his benevolence, in successfully navigating the company through four decades of emerging technologies, client wishes, industry demands and financial pressures.
“Peter’s helmsmanship has been instrumental in making BSI a continuing success. He has surrounded himself with a good team, focused on success and peppered it with a healthy dose of compassion.”
All of Larsson’s achievements are not as important to him as the many friends he has made along the way – at BSI as well as those he has worked with on countless shows and events – many of whom have become good friends.
“I’ll miss the people more than anything, and being part of something bigger, being part of the shows,” says Larsson. “It’s always bigger than your contribution; it’s always fun.”
His proudest achievement? Building cool equipment and occasionally getting a camera in the winning racecar has been a big thrill. But he is most proud of the fact that BSI is a growing company of more than 200 people, several of whom have been with the company for 30 years.
Peter is also pleased that BSI has been part of NEP Group since 2018, although the businesses have been “working hand-in-hand” since the early days. Larsson pushed hard for BSI to join NEP, after going through a series of owners, in order to provide stability and help keep BSI going for another 40 years. It’s definitely been a mutually beneficial relationship.
Dan Grainge, President of U.S. Specialty Capture, has worked with Larsson since 1990 when he began collaborating with BSI on auto racing when Grainge was with Fletcher – which is also now part of the NEP Worldwide Network. The relationship resulted in Grainge’s first Emmy Award for ESPN Speed World for a new and innovative product brought to market that was guided by Larsson’s expertise. BSI, with support from Fletcher, also developed in-net cameras for professional hockey, which is now a staple in every NHL game.
“For the last several years it’s been great to be part of the same team at NEP – to develop things with one single purpose in mind,” says Grainge. “You don’t often get to collaborate with people who are recognized in your industry as a Sports Hall of Fame member. He’s just driven innovation for the entire industry.”
On a personal level, Larsson has helped mentor and guide Grainge over the years as they became close collaborators. Although Larsson will leave a space that will be hard to fill, Grainge believes he has prepared his team well to continue to move forward.
“Peter is clearly a leader, and now that he’s leaving, you take on his march; you continue to grow and build on what he started.”
When Larsson is asked what he plans to do in retirement, the answer is simple: “Whatever my wife wants,” he says with a smile. After being married for 30 years and on the road for a total of about 15, he will be making up for some lost time with Debbie and their children. Since their three grown children now have houses of their own, Larsson expects he will be playing the role of “home handyman” for a while.
But before he walks out of the office on May 9, he will surely be spending some bittersweet moments with the BSI family.
“I would just like to thank all the people I’ve worked with,” Larsson says. “It’s such a big thing, no one person can do it. It’s a team of people.”
On behalf of BSI, Underwood also thanks Larsson for all he has done: “Thank you for the vision, the foundation, and the camaraderie. Your legacy is safe with us.”