CSN Chicago goes web-first with baseball documentary

Comcast SportsNet Chicago officials want to emphasize “quality over quantity” in their new season-long web documentary on the Kane County Cougars, the Chicago Cubs’ Class-A farm team in Geneva.

Four-to-five minute, bi-weekly segments of The Foundation: The Story of the 2013 Kane County Cougars debut Tuesday, April 16, at www.CSNChicago.com, accessed through the home page.

The shows follow the Cougars players and staff on and off the field through the six-month season.

Selected webisodes, produced by a three-man CSN Chicago crew, also will air on cable, starting April 16 on the SportsNet Central newscast, and then regularly on Cubs Pre-Game Live.

CSN Chicago already has produced web-based documentaries on Simeon High School’s state championship basketball team, a slew of other high-school sports programs and Marquette basketball. But the Cougars series could be the most comprehensive, given the length of the season and the size of a baseball team roster.

“The beauty of the web is it enables us to do these long-form projects,” said CSN Chicago managing editor Joe Collins.

Going against grain of shorter is better

Classical thinking on readers’ on-line attention span would mitigate against five-minute videos. But the quality of storyline and production Collins and his staff expect would hold their attention for longer periods.

Jake Flannigan, CSN Chicago multi-media producer“Typically, that would be the mindset,” said CSN Chicago multi-media producer Jake Flannigan. “We know from our SportsTalk Live shows in the past, if the product is good enough people will stay and watch longer form content.”

Flannigan and with videographers Matt Zickus and Scott Changnon will shoot and edit The Foundation. Four to six hours of video can be shot from two HD cameras being employed for one webisode.

CSN Chicago anchor/host David Kaplan will provide segment opens and off-camera narration, while Cubs Talk contributor Tony Andracki will provide a written accompaniment to each on-line segment.

Cubs’ link to Cougars boosts interest

Interest in the Cougars, a generally popular draw in their 22 seasons in Geneva, has heightened with the switch to an affiliation with the Cubs. Instead of traveling to Peoria, the former Class-A affiliate, Chicago-area fans will have a short drive to watch the Cubs’ top prospects a year or two after they have been signed into the organization.

Major League Baseball rules restrict the amount of footage originating in its ballparks appearing on news web sites, along with the time the video can shown online. Despite being connected to MLB rights-holders, CSNChicago.com and other sites cannot archive their own baseball highlights.

No such restrictions apply to minor-league baseball, however. Previous Cougars series webisodes will be archived when new segments are posted.

Interesting additional “host family” segments

The CSN Chicago crew will likely be in and around Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva multiple times each month. But the off-the-field footage could be just as interesting.

The Cougars long have had a “host family” program in which Fox Valley residents are house players for the season. Collins and Flannigan told of video shoot of a “speed dating” kind of event, in which players briefly met prospective host families.

How the players interact with the residents could provide more interesting segments.

George Castle is a longtime Chicago sportswriter, author and radio-show host.