CSN Chicago Preps Plenty of Content for Commercial-Free Spring-Training Telecasts

The commercial-less sports telecast, much like the mythical unicorn or hitting .400 in a season, has long been the unattainable dream of every sports fan. This weekend in Chicago, however, Cubs and White Sox fans will be treated to the feast of uninterrupted sport in a commercial-free game courtesy of CSN Chicago.

For the first time ever, the Chicago RSN will present a pair of spring-training games — a Sox game on Saturday (10 p.m. ET from Glendale, AZ) and a Cubs outing on Sunday (4 p.m. from Mesa, AZ) — entirely commercial-free. To fill time usually reserved for commercial breaks, CSN Chicago Executive Producer of Original Content Sarah Lauch and Senior Producer of Original Content Ryan McGuffey have spent the past three weeks in Arizona producing hours of original interviews and features with players and coaches.

“I can’t really recall a year like this one for Chicago baseball teams where both sides the town had so many new faces,” says McGuffey. “So it’s more of an introduction. People hear so much about these guys on the radio or TV, but they don’t know who they are. So we’re going to give people that opportunity as they are watching a Sox and Cubs game.

CSN Chicago has rolled out a pair of PlayOn! Sprinter HD production vans to Camelback Ranch in Glendale and Cubs Park in Mesa to produce its “15 Games in 16 Days” slate of White Sox and Cubs spring-training telecasts. This weekend, the game coverage will continue to be produced on-site, and the preproduced content will be played out from CSN Chicago’s control room back home.

“For us, it’s kind of going to be like a co-production in that the actual game production will be done down in Arizona and then our control room here in Chicago will be live as well,” says McGuffey. “When those commercial breaks are supposed to air, we will talk to our talent, and they will kind of tee up one of these features.”

In addition, CSN Chicago will conduct a series of live in-game interviews with players, coaches, and managers on-site in Arizona.

“Those will be controlled through the guys down there in Arizona, and we’re just always communicating,” says McGuffey. “I think communication is probably the key more than anything.”

On top of the preproduced video segments, Lauch and McGuffey also have provided the production team with about 30 20- to 40-second audio clips of players and coaches to play in-game during live action.

“When applicable, if [free-agent acquisition] Adam Eaton is stepping into the box and we haven’t had a chance to hear from Adam Eaton about being in Chicago, we may throw in a 20-second sound bite from him,” says McGuffey. “[Play-by-play announcer Steve Stone] would toss it to the sound bite, so, when he pitches, you are hearing Adam Eaton talking about why he’s excited to be in Chicago. That communication would come from me talking to the truck, saying this might be a good time to run that Eaton bite that we sent you.”

The preproduced pieces and live interviews will not be limited to the traditional 90-second span of a commercial break, however. CSN Chicago plans to allow each segment to play out in its entirety and will double-box its coverage with live action in one frame and the feature/interview in the other.

“Features aren’t necessarily cut for commercial break so, if the commercial break was a 90-second break, that doesn’t mean the feature is 90 seconds. If the feature is 2 minutes, we will roll the feature, and then, as a batter steps in the box, you will see a double box of the last 30 seconds of the feed, so you won’t miss any live action.”


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