NBC Sports Regional Networks Tap Into MLB Instant Replay, New Talent

With a foothold in some the country’s biggest media markets, NBC Sports’ regional networks serve varied but fervent fan bases in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and more. And this season, all will focus on serving those fans through linear and digital channels with a continued commitment to storytelling.

“We’re always trying to push further and further the scope of our coverage, not only on-air but online,” says Jon Slobotkin, VP/executive producer, live events, NBC Sports Regional Networks. “We have a huge number of productions, all of which are supported by a live pre- and post-game show, a digital companion product with enhanced statistics and social commentary, [and] the full support of 24/7 linear and digital news departments.

“Through all of that,” he continues, “one of the focuses we want to make this year is taking MLB’s enhanced and increased replay commitment and try to capture that the best we can and work with MLB the best we can while on-air.”

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball’s 30 clubs unanimously approved the expansion of instant replay, giving club managers the opportunity to challenge at least one call every game. According to Slobotkin, NBC’s RSNs will provide access to the camera angles required by MLB’s replay command center in New York City to judge contested calls.

From a content standpoint, the RSNs plan to get creative and have a little fun.

“We’re going to make sure that each of our telecasts allows the audience to participate,” says Slobotkin. “First, when the manager comes out to discuss or argue with the umpire — whatever call he may challenge — we want to make an opportunity for people watching to poll and determine whether or not the manager should challenge. Then, [if the manager] decides to challenge, we’re going to make it an opportunity for the folks who are watching to determine whether or not they think the challenge will be overturned. We’ll have graphics and social-media outlets and a place for the audience to go and make that a constant topic of discussion.”

NBC Sports Regional Networks will return Inertia Unlimited X-Mo to each of its telecasts. Elsewhere in the RSN family, SportsNet NY will debut a new mobile unit, and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia will introduce a new broadcast team featuring a few familiar faces. Former Phils Jamie Moyer and Matt Stairs — both part of the 2008 World Series Champion team — will call games alongside Tom McCarthy and Gregg Murphy, with legendary third baseman Mike Schmidt joining in on Sundays.

“There’s not anything that these guys can witness on a field that they’re not expert at talking about,” says Slobotkin. “We are so excited to have that opportunity.”

This season marks the second for NBC Sports Regional Networks’ newest addition, Comcast SportsNet Houston. Despite the Astros’ difficulties on the field, Slobotkin reflects positively on the efforts behind the scenes.

“From a production standpoint, they were a complete success,” says Slobotkin. “The network took what was a very challenging product on the field by the results of the team … and produced every telecast and put a tremendous effort forth with that. The new production team breathed new life into storylines.”

Taking a page from the Peacock’s playbook, NBC Sports Regional Networks continues to place great emphasis on storytelling. While the Astros were struggling, CSN Houston explored the franchise’s minor-league prospects, ran features on the ballparks they visited, and kept the audience informed on the ramifications of the team’s move to the American League. For those reasons, Slobotkin believes the production team went 162-0.

“We can’t control the outcome on the field, but what we can control is putting forth a very educational and entertaining broadcast,” he says. “We have to treat every game we do like it matters, and I think the scope of coverage [and] the depth of coverage is reflected in the Comcast SportsNet brand on a nightly basis.”

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