CSN California Puts A’s in the Spotlight

By Carolyn Braff

After two decades of sharing the spotlight with the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland A’s have a network of their own, and Comcast SportsNet California is pulling out the stops to showcase the team in style. More A’s games will be televised this year than ever before (145 regular-season, two exhibition), and more games will be presented in HD (75, a 75% increase from last year). CSN California will also take advantage of sister channel CSN Bay Area’s brand-new production studio” and eventually, all pre- and post-game coverage will be shot from that studio.

“Because we have the two networks, there are less conflicts in general between the two teams, and, because we have two full-time HD channels, we do have more places to put HD,” explains David Koppett, executive producer of CSN Bay Area. “The substantial increase in HD production is also partly just a natural evolution, as we’ve been raising our numbers of HD games every year. You try to get there in terms of both facilities and budget, and we’re making progress.”

In past seasons, the Giants’ production team had received more support from the CSN home office because they produced twice as many games as the A’s crew. This year, with the number of game broadcasts much more comparable, the CSN Bay Area office” which produces the packages for both networks out of its new studio” will need to increase the support it gives to the A’s team, whose workload will double this season.

“We’ve brought in a second director to take on some of the work there,” Koppett explains, noting that the main A’s director also directs Golden State Warriors games, so 147 games would have been a huge amount of work to heap on his plate. “We’ve also made an internal change to our staff to add a live-events editor. He’s going to support both Giants and A’s productions and give them a little bit of the studio editing bells and whistles that you simply cannot do in a truck on a daily basis if you’re doing that many games.”

Those editing bells and whistles will include special teases, animated bumpers, and packages that have a higher production value than what can be created in the high-intensity, quick-turnaround environment of a production truck. With several games this season slated to start on the quarter-hour, instead of the top of the hour, both networks will need compelling content to keep viewers tuned in until the first pitch is thrown at 7:15, and the live-events editor will be in charge of creating that content.

“That will pep up our production on both sides,” Koppett says.

CSN California currently features the graphics package that all CSN regional networks across the country will debut this season, but a new pre- and post-game graphic look is scheduled to launch on April 6.

The other boon for the new network this season is the growth of the CSN Bay Area studio group.

“That’s really a two-way street,” Koppett says of the relationship between the stadium production crews and the studio group. “We will be providing a great deal of content to them from the site, but they will also be providing a great deal of support to us in terms of features they can do, interviews, and footage they can obtain. That relationship should help the production value on both sides.”

When the new facility is finished, the two full-time networks will have access to two studios and two control rooms, but Studio 2 is projected to be completed around June 1, so, for the next two months, one team’s pre- and post-game content will be produced from the stadium, “largely with whichever team’s the home team, because we have more resources to do that,” Koppett says.

In previous seasons, A’s games were often left without pre- and post-game programming. This year, not only will there be programming, but it will eventually be produced out of a brand-new fully HD studio on 3rd Street in San Francisco.

“When that second studio is up and running, we will be doing full pre- and post- from the studio every night for virtually every game,” Koppett explains. “We’re very excited about all of our new toys. Especially in these times, it’s a rare luxury for us to have all this exciting new technology. This should be a great season.”

Opening Day is less than a month away, and SVG is counting down to the first pitch with a look at the regional sports networks responsible for producing games for all 30 Major League Baseball teams. SVG will check in with each RSN to detail the news and expectations leading up to the 2009 baseball season one conference at a time. For the complete SVG 30 In 30 Index, click here.