CSN, WGN-TV beef up sports production into October

The White Sox’s pair of local TV broadcast rights-holders are adding pre- and post-game programming, including long-form remotes from road cities, in the 2012 season’s final five weeks as the team battles for a playoff berth.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago in particular and WGN-TV are beefing up production starting during the Labor Day Weekend Sox showdown with the Tigers in Detroit. CSN Chicago also plans added programming during crucial series throughout September and into October, while WGN will likely add shows depending on the Sox’s standing in the American League Central or wild-card races.

Phil Bedella, Comcast SportsNet VP/GM“We are doing expanded coverage,” said Phil Bedella, CSN Chicago’s VP/general manager. “We go on (Friday, Aug. 30) right out of the Cubs game to Chicago Tribune Live, then the Sox pre-game show live from Comerica Park. The post-game show also will be from Comerica. Our original plan was for the post-game show from the studio.

“You’ll especially see more of this happening close to any (playoff) clinching game. When the Tigers come back to the Cell (Sept. 10-13), we have three of the four games. The demand for Sox (coverage) has picked up each month. The more coverage we provide, the more sales we have. It’s a two-pronged approach. We want to deliver this for the fans. But there’s an opportunity because of sales.”

Chuck Garfien, Bill Melton, and Frank Thomas on “White Sox Pre-Game Live” at U.S. Cellular FieldAnchor Chuck Garfien and analyst Bill Melton will report live from Detroit. By mid-September, Bedella expects all-time Sox slugger Frank Thomas to join the pair for analysis as the games get bigger.

Pre- and post-game show producers are Ryan McGuffey, Jeff Nelson, Dan Vega, Jared Storck and Jon Graff. Director is Terry Cortez. Technical directors are Scott Zuegner and Maurice Wallace. Audio is handled by Erika Anthos and Paul Bartowiak. Camera operators are Bridgette Gunn, Glynn Morgan and Bruce Thomas.

WGN jumps aboard the expansion cycle with a 5:30 p.m. Saturday half-hour pre-game show, hosted by Rich King, also live from Comerica.

Bob Vorwald,  WGN production director“We treat all our games as playoff games,” said Bob Vorwald, director of production at WGN.  The half-hour pre-game show is the only one planned so far. But for jumping aboard any Sox pennant express in weeks to come, “we will handle that much close to the end of September, Vorwald added.

WGN’s game telecast crew of director Jim Angio, producer Jon Walgren and associate producer Joe Grube will also handle the same roles for the half-hour pre-game program in Detroit. Angio also directs game telecasts for CSN Chicago.

Twenty of the final 31 Sox games will be aired on CSN Chicago, giving impetus to the expanded programming before and after. Typically, from six to eight cameras are employed in a game telecast. But Bedella suggested as the games count down, CSN Chicago could add a roving camera with a reporter in the stands.

If the Sox make it to the postseason, carried by national cable and over-the-air networks exclusively, CSN Chicago plans pre- and post-game shows for every game, Bedella said.

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