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CSN's Baltimore Coverage Is Growing

October 13, 2010

By Dave Hughes,

There have been some big changes at Comcast SportsNet recently.

The Baltimore Ravens moved their shows to CSN after their split with the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network in early August. CSN launched its Baltimore sports Web site, The regional sports network's "overflow" channel, CSN Plus, will go high-def this fall. And CSN has made some big lineup changes, along with a new HD studio.

Chick Hernandez and Julie Donaldson anchor the 10 and 11 p.m. editions of "SportsNet Central." (Comcast Sportsnet)

"SportsNet Central," CSN's daily news program, premiered Oct. 4. The new show replaced CSN's "SportsNite" and "SportsDay," which are being re-launched as the new entity. "SportsNet Central" airs daily at 6 p.m., 10 p.m., 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., as well as multiple times each morning.

Along with regular anchor teams delivering the latest news, the show features a number of interactive elements, including text and video messages as well as social media features enabling viewers "to take an active role in the broadcasts and provide an outlet for their views," according to CSN.

Russ Thaler anchors the 6 p.m. edition while Chick Hernandez and network newcomer Julie Donaldson handle the 10 and 11 p.m. editions. Late night and morning editions of "SportsNet Central" will be anchored by Michael Jenkins.

"Our innovative new delivery of sports news and information, combined with the addition of more team coverage, enables us to provide a high-quality lineup that reflects the growing excitement and passion that surrounds local teams," said Rebecca Schulte, Comcast SportsNet senior vice president and general manager. "Our network is entering a new era in which our news and entertainment shows will match the energy and significance of our live-game coverage to create an all-inclusive destination for fans before, during and after games."

The Oct. 4 changes also affected CSN's coverage of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards with the addition of the "Capitals Central" and "Wizards Central" pregame shows.

"Capitals Postgame Live" and "Wizards Postgame Live" continue to provide news and analysis following each game but now air from the network's state-of-the-art HD Bethesda studios for all broadcasts.

As part of that upgrade, CSN's suburban Washington, D.C., studio now features four Sony HD cameras paired with Fujinon HD lenses. Communications Engineering, a broadcast and multimedia systems integrator in Northern Virginia, handled the design and installation of the new equipment. CEI also upgraded the production control room and two master control rooms, plus the transmission system and edit suites.

"CEI has enabled us to deliver all of our news and entertainment shows in HD," said Steve Weber, director of engineering for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. "Our new Fujinon lenses are an important part of the upgraded look of our network. They deliver outstanding images of our studio programming."

Thaler and Al Koken alternate as hosts for "Capitals Central" and "Capitals Postgame Live." Koken handles duties for road games and Thaler serves in the position when the Capitals play at home.

Former Capital Alan May serves as analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati, color analyst Craig Laughlin and Capitals television reporter Jill Sorenson.

Reporter Chris Miller hosts "Wizards Central" and "Wizards Postgame Live" for road games, and veteran broadcaster Michael Reghi leads the shows when the team plays at the Verizon Center. Analyst Ron Thompson, along with play-by-play announcer Steve Buckhantz and color analyst Phil Chenier, contribute from the arena.

Another change was a new 30-minute format for the previously hour-long "Washington Post Live" program at 5 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. CSN said the Ivan Carter-hosted show shifted to "a more aggressive, fast-paced style while still providing the opinionated panel debates and commentary" from a "stable of athletes, coaches, reporters and insiders."

While Redskins programming airs at 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., CSN's new Ravens programming, including "One Winning Drive," "The John Harbaugh Show" and "Purple Passion," continue to air daily at 4:30 p.m. and 12 a.m. The Ravens shows joined CSN in early September.

CSN's expanded coverage of the Ravens and other Baltimore sports also includes the recent launch of the Web site, which is partnered with PressBox.

"Baltimore is an important market to us," CSN spokesman Brian Potter said. "Our audience there is rapidly growing."

Potter said saw an increase of 150 percent in its web traffic from August to September, following its late-July launch.

"We are definitely building awareness for the site," Potter said.

CSN's overflow sports channel, CSN Plus, will be going high-def this fall. On area Comcast systems, it will replace MASN2-HD on channel 844 for the fall and winter months. For example, if the Wizards are playing on CSN in HD, fans will still be able to see the Caps playing at the same time in HD on CSN Plus.

Potter added the new CSN Plus-HD channel is handled differently by different providers. It's slated to launch in early November.

CSN's Mid-Atlantic network delivers more than 500 live sporting events per year, including Atlantic Coast Conference and Colonial Athletic Association college basketball games, to more than 4.7 million homes throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Issue 154: October 2010