Earlier this month, we told you about Comcast SportsNet Chicago laying off staff as the regional sports network prepared to head in a new direction for its studio programming. And it has announced programs that will depend less on highlights, ramp up social media engagement and yes, include segments that discuss and debate the day’s hot topics. CSN Chicago announced the new studio programs will launch on Monday, December 5.

It’s all part of a shift within the Comcast SportsNet’s across the nation, led by the parent NBC Sports Group.

Gone will be the once-signature 30-minute to one-hour SportsNet Central highlight programs that either previewed or wrapped up the day’s events. In will be editions of what will be called “In the Loop” at 6:30 p.m., 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. CT as well as a new late night show “CSN Fast Break” that will air in a 15-minute format and will be aired live at midnight CT with multiple repeats throughout the morning.

Here’s what has been announced through Kevin Cross, CSN Chicago’s Senior Director of News & Original Content:

“The needs of today’s sports fan has changed,” said Cross. “We have learned that viewers want more than just highlights. They want to know what their favorite players are up to on social media. They want to be engaged in ways that they can directly be active participants in the content. Most importantly, they want to be entertained, they want to be informed, and they want to have fun. The movement away from the traditional sports news format and the introduction of our new shows on CSN Chicago will engage and involve our viewers like never before.”

So with that in mind, here’s what we know about the new shows. First “In the Loop” will be hosted by Luke Stuckmeyer and Leila Rahimi. The early edition we have several segments that will have various CSN personalities as well as “special guests from the sports and entertainment field” and here’s the kicker, “discussing & debating the day’s hottest sports topics.”

And here’s three featured segments which viewers will see on each show:

  • “No Huddle” – Opening segment (1-2 minutes) featuring a rapid-fire sports update of the day’s top headlines.
  • “Must See Media” – A social media congregation (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat) of the day’s top viral videos, messages, and more from Chicago’s pro athletic superstars, along with athletes and sports personalities from around the country.
  • “The List” – The definitive daily Top 5 list focusing on the day’s most-talked about sports event or moment, woven into historical context, in which fans can vote on their top choice.

And the later edition called “In the Loop Prime” will have similar segments:

  • “No Huddle” – Opening, expanded segment featuring a rapid-fire sports update of the evening’s top games, featuring highlights, players/coaches interviews, and more.
  • “The Play” – “In the Loop Prime” will provide a comprehensive, detailed breakdown of the single, most impactful play of any given game that took place that particular evening.
  • “Instant Trivia” – Fan voting trivia segment that focuses on one unique aspect of a particular game occurring that night.

So those looking for extended highlights will have to find them elsewhere. The thing is that this isn’t solely devoted to CSN Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is also looking to embracing debate to attract younger viewers.

CSN Chicago still has rights to the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox and also has a relationship with the Bears. Although the Cubs are looking to start their own RSN down the road, CSN Chicago will still be mostly dependent on airing live games as its bread-and-butter, but during the periods where it has to rely on studio programming, its sports news division will be taking on a different look.

Whether this will be the format that will hook viewers is what executives with NBC Sports Group will be studying in the upcoming months. And if the ratings respond, expect similar programming at the other CSN’s across the country.

[NBC Sports Group]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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