When a record number of Comcast SportsNet Chicago (CSC)regular-season hockey viewers (5.40 rating) watched the Blackhawks Tuesday, they also witnessed a new CSN Chicago production look synergistic with their NBC regional-network partners.
The network has “sort of merged the two entities into one production look,” said Jim Corno, Jr., CSN Chicago’s production director.
The Chicago-based operation is affiliated with NBC SportsNet cable sports operations in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C.
“You’ll see the NBC peacock represented in our games,” said Corno. “You’ll see some of the same graphic shells – the full screens with the head shots of the players. For me, it’s the best look we’ve ever had. It’s a terrific graphics package, a terrific animation package. My guys are thrilled to be using it.”
Consistency in the coverage look makes sense for CSN Chicago. Due to contractual clauses, the network ended up with 39 of the 48 Blackhawks games in the lockout-shortened season. NBC and NBC Sports Network got seven telecasts. WGN has just two games in April.
Adding to the NBC look is a roving camera that will pop up anywhere in the United Center.
“We like to show off the building as much as we can,” Corno said. “We add the bowl hand-held camera, which floats around the building and gets fans’ POV shots. It’s something we kind of keep in our back pocket for bigger nights, like Sunday’s opener (against the Detroit Red Wings). We’ll add that as much as we can.
“Every period the camera comes from somewhere else. When a goal is scored, you’ll see the director cut to that camera, and all of a sudden the viewer is in the upper deck.”
No cable camera for a regional-network game
One staple of big-time telecasts Corno declines is a camera traversing the air rights above the playing surface on a cable, commonly seen in football games.
“Hockey really doesn’t lend itself to those cable cameras,” Corno said. “You can’t hide this thing as tight as it is in the United Center. Those cameras will appear in all your other camera shots.
Furthermore, he continued, “We all have to be mindful and respectful of each other’s shows. In past NBA games, bigger networks brought in their cable camera. It was literally right above the court; our game camera is showing this cable camera floating up and down the court. The NBA said ‘No, we’re not doing that any more, get out of there.’ It’s more of a national television thing.”
During games, CSN Chicago also frequently aired a Hawks-produced spot thanking the fans for their patience throughout the lockout. The team is promoting giveaways of some 1,000 autographed jerseys and 250 pucks.
WGN was left in the lurch by the shortened season. The station quickly produced a 15-second promo touting the forthcoming season that aired Jan. 14, one day after the lockout ended. WGN also had to ashcan a package of spots for airing if the season had begun around a month late, in November.
George Castle is a longtime Chicago-based sportswriter, author and radio talk-show host.