Mariners Go Full-Time HD on FSN Northwest

By Carolyn Braff

During the 2009 baseball season, FSN Northwest, cable home of the Seattle Mariners, will broadcast 159 Mariners games in high-definition, giving fans a crystal-clear view of Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to the team with which he started his career. This season marks the first year FSN moves from a part-time, event-based HD channel to around-the-clock HD.

In addition to Jr.’s return, the Mariners have plenty to celebrate this season: a new manager, Don Wakamatsu; new general manager, Jack Zduriencik; and the 10th anniversary of the Mariners’ stadium.

“For the 10th anniversary of Safeco Field and Jr.’s return to the Mariners, we’re going to do hour-long pregame shows for both the season opener and the first game at Safeco Field,” explains Bill Kaczaraba, FSN Northwest executive producer. “Those shows will include former Mariners players, historical highlights, the best moments from Safeco’s history, and coverage from the opening on the field itself.”

All 159 Mariners games broadcast by FSN Northwest will air in true HD on FSN HD, but the studio programming, including 30-minute pre- and post-game shows, 30-minute weekly magazine show, and the 30-minute

Mariners Nightly weeknight show, will be a 16:9 standard-definition upconversion.

FSN Northwest has experimented with Phizzle, an interactive Web-based mobile voice and text-messaging platform, to add interactivity to its broadcasts. “Depending on the game and when the event lends itself to this interactivity, we’re looking at doing more with Phizzle,” Kaczaraba says. “The technology allows fans to interact with the broadcast with their cellphones, and the results are shown on TV.”

FSN Northwest will continue to assist Japanese broadcaster NHK with its feeds, as NHK broadcasts Mariners games with a specific focus on Ichiro Suzuki. The two networks work side by side, NHK tapping into FSN’s feeds for additional camera angles.

As part of the Fox Sports family, FSN Northwest is required to maintain some consistency with the other RSNs. But in general, Kaczaraba explains, the network has the freedom to schedule its own programming and promote the return of Jr., the arrival of a new manager and GM, and the general excitement surrounding the team as it pleases.

“There are graphics that are provided by the network to keep some consistency between the Fox Sports Net regionals,” Kaczaraba explains, “but, in terms of how the games are presented, we’re all given a ton of freedom to create and do something innovative that suits our marketplace.”

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 is checking 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


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