ShareThis Page
Local TV visionary receives lofty honor |

Local TV visionary receives lofty honor

| Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:00 a.m

Debbie Honkus once worked for Total Communication Systems of New Kensington, using one production truck to cover Penn State football on a Saturday afternoon.

Now, the Lower Burrell native is the CEO of NEP Broadcasting in Harmar, with 60 production trucks and a crew of 3,000 on any given sports weekend.

For her accomplishments in running the nation’s largest television production firm, Honkus became the first woman inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame last week in ceremonies at the New York Hilton.

“It’s been exciting,” Honkus said. “I had about 100 family and friends there. Jim Nantz was the MC.”

Aspinwall’s George Hoover, NEP’s chief technology officer, also was inducted.

Other members of the 13th induction class included NFL Films great Steve Sabol, NBC executive Dick Ebersol, NASCAR impresario Bill France Jr., IMG founder Mark McCormack and visionary audio mixer Ron Scalise of ESPN. Fabled St. Louis broadcaster Jack Buck was inducted posthumously.

NEP has 750 employees, with about 150 Alle-Kiski Valley residents working locally. Honkus has produced everything from weekly NFL games to the Olympics and Golf Channel coverage.

Honkus has taken advantage of several big breaks that have allowed her company to flourish. A 1984 lawsuit overturned the NCAA’s policy of restricting how many times a football team can appear on television. Now, the top collegiate programs have every game on some form of television.

“That was a big break, absolutely,” Honkus said. “There became a need for more production trucks.”

Another break came when TV networks such as NBC got rid of its production trucks, thus creating the need for independent producers such as NEP to supply production trucks.

NEP in its original form was WNEP-TV from Wilkes-Barre, whose trucks were spun off into North East productions.

“In 1995, the networks outsourced their trucks to get out from under the cost of technology,” Honkus said. “The same year, the Golf Channel was launched — that was another big turning point.”

NEP also has produced every Olympics since the Seoul Games of 1988.

“Deb is a brilliant strategist, and she knows exactly what our clients want,” said Hoover. “She has the pulse of the industry from a camera guy on “Monday Night Football” to the to network executives and leagues.”

What’s in the future for Honkus and NEP?

All the networks that carry NFL football have renewed their contracts for the next nine years, and the company plans to cover as many as 60 golf tournaments for Golf Channel to carry.

Honkus will continue looking for new hires from the Pittsburgh region.

“We work very closely with local technology schools,” Honkus said. “They’ve supplied some of our best new hires, We always need new, young, talented people to go through our company’s training program.”

The company’s headquarters will continue to be located in Harmarville, with its proximity to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Route 28 Expressway.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.