Comcast SportsNet and My50 Return to the Broadcast Team in 2011

The announcement today that Comcast SportsNet and My50 will televise 24 of the Fire’s 34 games this season should be considered a good thing for Fire fans but it should also serve as a reminder that just getting the games slapped onto the airwaves isn’t enough. 

While Comcast and My50 soccer telecasts haven’t been terrible over the last few seasons, they haven’t exactly been a shining example of how to broadcast and promote the telecast either.  After several seasons of practice, it’s high time that Comcast put some real effort into promoting their investment locally.    

In the official press release team President Julian Posada had this to say regarding the announcement:

“Comcast SportsNet and WPWR My50 Chicago have been tremendous broadcast partners for the Fire and we are happy to return to their airwaves for another season. CSN and My50 provide extensive coverage to the Fire’s MLS schedule and are an integral part in the growth and promotion of our club throughout the Chicagoland area.”

If by extensive coverage he’s referring to CSN not even mentioning that the Fire played one of their final pre-season games yesterday during their daily Sports recap programs, then he would be right on the money.  If by extensive coverage he meant CSN actually failing to mention the result of a previous night’s game during their SportsRise program the next morning on several occasions last year, then he’s right again. 

That sort of nonsense should not occur in a “broadcast partnership” and CSN should realize it. 

Greg Bowman, Vice President of Programming for CSN shared these thoughts in the same release:

“We’re very pleased to bring back Chicago Fire soccer action to our viewers this season. With every game being presented in HD, along with numerous games being followed by a post-game show, Fire fans will have plenty to look forward to this MLS season starting March 19th.”

This is a bit of a departure from last season’s claim that a half hour post game show would follow each game broadcast.  The half hour post game show never really materialized and most broadcasts ended with Dan Kelly and Chris Doran briefly discussing the match from the booth before the “post game” show was unceremoniously ended after 10-15 minutes with little actual content.  An announcement that “numerous games” will be followed by some sort of post game show sets the bar even lower for CSN in 2011.  

The announcement also refers to additional content becoming available on CSN’s website: 

“In addition, Comcast SportsNet’s website, CSNChicago.com, will also have the Fire covered 24/7 this season featuring game video/highlights in the “Fire” section on the site.  Plus, fans can look forward to additional blogs/feature articles throughout the 2011 MLS season and a Chicago-Fire.com RSS feed.”

Posada’s comment that the team’s broadcast partners are an integral part of the growth and promotion of the club in the Chicago area is absolutely correct.  With this in mind, I see little reason why CSN should not treat one of their “partners” with the same quality, respect, and coverage that is afforded to the other professional clubs currently providing programming for their channel…..or at least an honest attempt to provide a reasonable facsimile of that coverage.  Of course, I realize that Fire broadcasts aren’t likely to provide the same ratings audience that Cubs, Sox, Bulls, or Hawks telecasts will generate for CSN. In reality, CSN can’t allocate the same resources to a Fire broadcast that they do for other teams since they won’t have a reciprocal return on the investment.  However, CSN can look to themselves when searching for a solution to that problem.  The issue can be partly attributed to the manner in which the package is presented. 

It’s not that CSN doesn’t know how to present an entertaining package surrounding local sporting events.  The telecasts for the aforementioned teams regularly feature 30 minute pre game shows, analysis, professional camera work and direction by technical staff that understand how to broadcast each particular sport, and an actual post game show.  There is a need to address every one of these aspects in relation to the quality of their soccer programming. 

It’s also incumbent upon the Fire to provide an entertaining product that viewers will tune in to watch.  Soccer fans that aren’t necessarily part of the Fire’s hardcore fan base aren’t going to tune in to watch bad soccer combined with a sub par broadcast.  The success of a professional sports franchise in a market like Chicago is based on several basic key factors.  Firstly and foremost, winning or presenting an entertaining event is the most important ingredient.  Secondly, presenting the program or franchise in a manner that makes the consumer/viewer think, “This is a big event!” or “Wow, that looks like a good time out there” is almost as important. “Big Eventism” has been successfully conveyed in both Bulls and Blackhawks telecasts on both CSN and WGN, even for rather meaningless regular season fare.  

That second part has always been missing from CSN’s Fire telecasts.  Think back to what the two ’09 Fire playoff home matches actually produced in terms of atmosphere and entertainment.  Now think of what televising those matches with the reverance and importance they deserved could have generated in terms of interest in the club.   

I’m sure some people are just happy that a television deal is in place, but that shouldn’t be enough anymore.  I for one would like to see some of the rhetoric and promises that usually accompany these announcements actually be followed by a sincere attempt to accomplish something. 

 

 

Here’s the local broadcast schedule:

2011 CHICAGO FIRE BROADCAST SCHEDULE

#

DATE

OPPONENT

H/A

TIME (CT)

LOCAL

NATIONAL

1

Saturday, Mar 19

Dallas

Away

7:30

CSN

2

Saturday, Mar 26

Kansas City

Home

3:00

MY50

TELEFUTURA

3

Saturday, Apr 9

Seattle

Away

3:00

CSN

4

Thursday, Apr 14

Portland

Away

10:00

ESPN2

5

Sunday, Apr 17

LA Galaxy

Home

3:00

TELEFUTURA

6

Saturday, Apr 23

Houston

Home

7:30

CSN

7

Saturday, Apr 30

Colorado

Away

8:00

MY50

8

Saturday, May 7

Vancouver

Home

7:30

CSN

9

Saturday, May 14

Toronto

Away

6:00

CSN

TSN2 (CANADA)

10

Saturday, May 21

Philadelphia

Away

7:00

GALAVISION

11

Saturday, May 28

San Jose

Home

7:30

CSN

12

Saturday, Jun 4

Seattle

Home

7:30

CSN

13

Thursday, Jun 9

Kansas City

Away

9:00

ESPN2

14

Sunday, Jun 12

Columbus

Away

3:00

MY50

15

Saturday, Jun 18

New England

Away

6:30

CSN

16

Wednesday, Jun 22

Real Salt Lake

Home

7:30

MY50

17

Sunday, Jun 26

New York

Home

1:00

ESPN

18

Saturday, Jul 2

Chivas

Away

9:00

GALAVISION

19

Saturday, Jul 9

LA Galaxy

Away

9:30

FSC

20

Saturday, Jul 16

Portland

Home

7:30

CSN

21

Wednesday, Aug 3

Philadelphia

Home

8:00

MY50

22

Sunday, Aug 7

Vancouver

Away

6:00

GALAVISION

23

Saturday, Aug 13

New York

Away

6:30

MY50

24

Thursday, Aug 18

DC

Home

8:00

ESPN2

25

Sunday, Aug 21

Toronto

Home

6:00

CSN

26

Saturday, Aug 27

Colorado

Home

7:30

MY50

27

Saturday, Sep 10

San Jose

Away

9:30

TBA

28

Saturday, Sep 17

Chivas

Home

3:00

TBA

TELEFUTURA

29

Sunday, Sep 25

New England

Home

3:00

MY50

30

Wednesday, Sep 28

Real Salt Lake

Away

8:00

TBA

31

Saturday, Oct 1

Houston

Away

3:00

TELEFUTURA

32

Wednesday, Oct 12

Dallas

Home

7:30

TBA

33

Saturday, Oct 15

DC

Away

6:30

TBA

34

Saturday, Oct 22

Columbus

Home

7:30

TBA

Comments

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  • TV is important, maybe this will be a good year for broadcasting...

  • I also want to point out that the Fire organization has done themselves a disservice by not initiating and promoting the type of coverage and access that allows CSN to provide the coverage that Fire fans are looking for.
    I'm sure CSN's coverage can improve if the Fire lift the silly shroud of secrecy and unnecessary obstacles placed in front of some outlets attempting to promote the team. The organization has to make all players and coaches available on game days to their broadcast partners in order to provide their audience with the best possible viewing experience. Before and after games.

  • In reply to cesba:

    Now, I am glad that Posada is speaking out on the lack of coverage and to mention the half effort postgame show. Down the road, I won't mind having a half an hour "Fire Weekly" show on CSN with coaches, players and front office staff. What so funny about Greg Bowman is that he finds airtime with Notre Dame Football Weekly and NIU football barely drawing viewers.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    Hopefully he realizes that CSN does not provide extensive coverage and the Fire is partly to blame for that.

  • In reply to cesba:

    moving from Chicago to Seattle, I was sad to see how nice Seattle packaged the game compared to Chicago, and also how good the announcer is, Arlo is class, knows the game and even being the lone person in the booth doesn't take anything away.. 3 cheaper people don't always make it better then 1 good person.

  • In reply to lijien:

    I thought the Fire's announcing team last season was pretty good. The team itself needs to recognize the problem and allow the local "partners" the type of access that will make a broadcast succesful.

  • In reply to cesba:

    I think its about more then being a broadcast team, its about being the voice of the team. Arlo, and I believe the same for Shepp and JP in other markets, also do radio talk shows, Arlo does TV interviews, Seattle does a preview show with their 3 main media guys every week where they do a 15 min talk about the game and preview of the next.. its all so professional..i feel like the fire's stuff is all abotu doing stuff and throwing it at a wall and seeing if it sticks..

  • In reply to lijien:

    You are absolutely correct. I'm sure Kelly or Doran would have been pretty good interviews on talk radio or tv.....but unfortunately that opportunity doesn't exist in Chicago. The fact that something like a one hour weekly program doesn't exist on radio here is confounding. I find it very hard to believe that sponsors couldn't be scrounged up for something like that, especially when looking at the dizzying amounts of dead programming currently on both local sports stations.

  • In reply to lijien:

    I would love to add a column that showed which games will be available on "Match Day Live" streaming. Has anyone found a source for that data?

  • In reply to cbrooks:

    Last season the ESPN, FSC and Telefutura games were not available on MatchDay Live. I haven't seen a schedule yet but I would assume that the national games won't be on there again.

  • In reply to cbrooks:

    I don't think you will ever see CSN cover the Fire as well as they do the Cubs, Sox, Hawks, etc... primarily because those latter teams own the station.

    Do you know, Guillermo, if the Fire is renting time from CSN or is the station actually paying the team for broadcast rights?

    If the Fire is paying, I wonder if it would make more sense to look for a cheaper alternative--like one of the digital substations on free tv (like DePaul basketball does with Ch. 26.2). They could spend more money on having a decent production perhaps?

  • In reply to cbrooks:

    I'm not sure what the financial arrangement is. If the Fire are paying then the lack of production and real coverage is even more inexcusable.

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