Let us today go about the business of elaborating on the function of one Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
This is the one of the gazillions of Comcast affiliates around the country that has amassed a fortune in the brand of building around local sports teams and their ancillary, highly-lucrative revenue streams.
In short, a mini ESPN empire with a vast Pacific Ocean-size pool of empty pockets replete with cash and ready to spend.
There's nothing onerous here to report other than the fact that unlike ESPN-- which although has a built-in financial connection with many of its clients like the NFL and NBA, at least tries to perform basic journalistic pursuits even if it involves the integrity or denigrates the brand. We need only look at the excesses of various Athlete getting in trouble, obscure or non-obscure coach behaving badly, team owners outside of the NBA seemingly bent on hiring mostly white-male, non-African-American coaches. ESPN isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination but they're good at faking it. And truth be told they're so big and Disney-infected you could argue that they have a legitimate reason why truth-telling and hard-nosed investigative sports journalism is not their biggest virtue.
Comcast and its sports tentacles, on the other hand, don't pretend to want to rock the boat. Don't mess with the franchises that butter your bread and bring food home to cook and place big cars and trucks in your garage. That part of their sports template has always been in the rear-view mirror. This isn't exactly groundbreaking material but it's worth noting because that element of the operation is never so readily apparent here in the Bay Area.
CSNBA blankets the professional sports apparatus; its clients include the SF Giants, Oakland A's and San Jose Sharks. It has highlight show and packages with both the SF 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Because its corporate owner, Comcast, owns NBC, it is allowed to have multiple tie-ins and show highlight packages involving the NFL. Conglomerate it is. And controversy is not a wanted element to their content.
With CSNBA, it's the programming, stupid! And that's just fine and dandy but you can't have it both ways. You can't profess to be utmost objective in the local sporting life, particularly when you own a sliver of the Giants as CSNBA does. You can't be serious in making the case for your highly-publicized "Insiders", who essentially act as public relations liaisons for their respective team and beat. Question: When's the last time any of CSNBA's insiders broke any story of relevance outside of some in-house, between the lines/chalkboard, trade minutiae? The answer is never. Again, nothing sinister there other than CSNBA would have you believe they look to lead the light and break new ground in their sports coverage. Bullshit.
When CSNBA debuted in April, 2009, they took the Bay Area sports scene by storm. They leased big studios in tony South-of-Market office buildings. Built a gigantic newsroom and threw a lot of dough for droves of HD's, computer banks, fiber-optic gear and of course, pricey talent. Greg Papa was their first big local hire and soon after they brought in other highly-paid anchors, reporters, writers, editors, even news directors and producers. Papa's salary alone was slightly north of the $250K range.
Beyond providing their bread and butter content--Giants/A's/Sharks/College Football/Basketball games, CSNBA didn't stop there. They built state-of-the-art studios to televise their version of SportsCenter, "Comcast SportsNet Central", a highlight-induced program with accent on the video and short on personality. That was their intent. They went further.
They developed and created a daily sports show: "Chronicle Live", now Yahoo Sports Talk Live: (Full Disclosure): I have guested on the show and make my own booking requests on behalf of my blog, 415 Media.
The problem with the show then and to this day is that its participants say little or offer nothing even remotely controversial. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. And there's ample evidence to indicate that anything slightly negative conveyed by a reporter, a radio guy, whoever, involving CSNBA's local sporting interests would be met with swift disapproval from, say, the Larry Baer company. Nothing overt, mind you, but just enough to make sure that it was in the best interest of CSNBA not to disrupt the positive PR flow, again, not to rock the boat--bad for business. I asked earlier, has any of the Insiders actually broke any significant stories--I now ask you when's the last time any Yahoo panelist said something, anything!, of substance that moved the needle? This is not meant to belittle, to humiliate, to begrudge, to be mean and petty, it is merely provided to suggest that CSNBA wants it both ways; it seeks to create something bold and invigorating yet it really is nothing more than beige visual wallpaper with a few loud talking-heads who say essentially nothing.
Proof positive was during the Damon Bruce moronic anti-women sports rant, frequent guest, Ann Killion, the sports writer from the Chronicle, curiously said nothing about the Bruce affair. (Other than a few innocuous tweets) Coincidentally, Killion, was also a frequent guest on Bruce's KNBR talk show. To its credit, CSNBA did shows on the Bruce brainfart but again, nothing of substance, nothing that gets picked up by other media affiliates appeared. Not surprising.
What CSNBA does, mainly, to be fair, it does well. Some of its analysts are fairly good and informed and offer interesting, if not enlightening, material. And to be fair, since most of these talking heads are ex-jocks, they have to be careful. For every Vida Blue there's Rich Aurilia, (yawn) and Shawn Estes, (double yawn); On football, Dennis Brown, an ex-49er is a delightful surprise. Bill Romanowski says quite a lot but some of it gets obliterated by his overly-verbal tenacity. (Figure it out).
CSNBA has no doubt, for the most part, become a welcome addition to the Bay Area Sports electronic/cable/Internet domain. It has top-tier production values; its telecasts are mostly first-rate with a great residue of professionalism and expertise procured by GM, Ted Griggs, a widely-respected broadcast head. We just wish they'd be a tad more apt in the real-world sports arena and provide at least a spoon-size spread of humility.
That's not asking too much, is it?
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