By Sadie All
Mar 3, 2022
“That kind of changed my entire life, I guess you could say,” Seth Payne, ’15 says, reflecting on how he switched his career path at Indiana State.
Originally a computer engineering major, Payne realized it didn’t ignite any passion. He consulted with family and decided to pursue his initial interest: radio. He made connections with his communication instructors, who also helped pique his interest in media.
“I always had a love for sports, but I never really envisioned myself being a sports broadcaster because I didn’t know how feasible that was. I didn’t really know anything about it.”
Payne got involved with student media groups like Sycamore Video and Syc Creations, working with different video productions. He also worked behind and in front of the camera in live, student-run broadcasts.
“That’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today. It helped me build a deeper knowledge of video production.”
Today, Payne works as a broadcast producer/editor at the University of Alabama. He broadcasts live sporting events for SEC Network and SEC Network Plus as well as ESPN 2. Some of the shows he’s produced or directed have been used by ESPN.
“It’s still kind of a pipe dream to me because this is Alabama. They win the national championship football almost every single year. This is a really big step. I get the opportunity to pick the brains of people at ESPN and at the network, but also get to work on those shows.”
Payne attributes living out his “pipe dream” to the possibilities he had at Indiana State. After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication with a focus in Electronic Media, he hit a lull in his job search. His former media professors reached out to him about a grad assistantship at State that would allow him to work with Indiana State Sports Network. It was an opportunity that “fell into [his] lap.”
At that time, in 2015, the university had just signed a nine-year agreement with ESPN to broadcast live intercollegiate sporting events, giving more than 99 million homes access to the coverage.
“I decided to [come back to State] because of my love of sports. And it was totally different than anything we’ve ever done. I was familiar with Indiana State. I enjoyed the professors and the people that I could work with. It was too good to pass up,” Payne said.
Prior experience in student-run productions like “Almost Live” and “This Week at ISU” gave Payne some know-how. But directing a live sporting event was a whole new ball game. Payne worked under Chris Jones, an 18-year veteran with ESPN, who trusted him in the director’s chair and to help produce shows.
“You’re in different venues and you’ve got four cameras and you’ve got a TV and a score board and all these different graphics. It was learning on the fly and learning really quick.”
What Payne learned stuck. Just a year into his work with ESPN 3, he was asked to take over as interim Sports Video Manager. After a semester proving himself, putting in close to 70 hours a week, he was promoted to that official title.
“We were doing 70 or 80 shows a year and I was on every show.”
Payne was performing in multiple roles: director, assistant director, assistant producer.
Culminating his professional resume through his work at State, Payne applied for his current role with Crimson Tide Productions at Alabama. He says he didn’t expect to get the job and even visiting the campus was a little awestruck.
“When they brought me in for my third interview (first in-person) it was crazy seeing the facilities,” Payne remembers. “At Indiana State, we only had four cameras at most for show and here we’ll have eight manned cameras for certain shows and four or five Marshall cameras, depending on the show.”
Payne’s dedication to his career plan helped him to establish credentials that landed him at the University of Alabama. Today, he still he recognizes the promise that Indiana State offered in his field. His advice for students still navigating where they want to end up is that “you don’t have to have everything figured out at first.”
As far as where Payne wants to end up himself, his dreams are still big. He would love to become a sports broadcast director for ESPN, Fox Sports or CBS.
“I’ve always been the type that will work hard and see where it goes,” Payne said. “I’ve been blessed that the first two starts of my professional career, have been two great places that really did whatever they could to help me grow. Not only as a professional, but as a person.”