One of the components of the Philadelphia Union's new broadcast deal with Comcast SportsNet was the creation of a Union-focused weekly magazine show called "State of the Union" in the mold of the Flyers-centric Orange Line program. The first episode debuted last night, airing at 7:00 PM on The Comcast Network and 11:30 PM on Comcast SportsNet.
The program is hosted by Comcast SportsNet personality Amy Fadool and Union sideline/studio man Bob Rigby (who will appear for the first time on a Union broadcast tomorrow on 6abc), and, at least for this episode, was filmed on a studio that I hadn't seen before. Whether that's because it was a Comcast Network-specific studio or a new studio that Comcast SportsNet was debuting, I'm not sure — although I suppose it wouldn't be all that surprising if the latter were the case, considering Comcast built a brand new set for its Daily News Live program just a few months ago.
The program began with "The Union Express", where Fadool and Rigby recapped the Union's season-opening win in Houston. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two named goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon man of the match. Comcast had done some editing to some of the angles shown in terms of placing boxes around players in conjunction with the points Rigby was making. Like the Orange Line, State of the Union has its own graphics package, specific to the Union's colors. I know those are minor points, but I think it goes to show that Comcast thinks that the show warrants quality editing and production, which some are concerned about regarding all Comcast coverage of the Union.
In case viewers were new to the team or had not followed the offseason roster changes, State of the Union showed a rather lengthy feature about some of the new additions, complete with interviews from both new players and old. Much, if not all, of the video had been shown on last week's 6abc pre-game show, but that kind of stuff makes for effective content for both shows. As the show went to its first break, Fadool asked the "Know It?" question for the show about who won the Golden Boot last year. No, it wasn't a Union player (although Sebastien Le Toux's closeness was mentioned as part of the question), but it was the first of several signs that Comcast and the Union plan for the show to not only be focused on the Union, but really all of MLS.
More discussion about the remainder of the show after the break…
After coming back from break, Fadool narrated over video highlights of last week’s Whitecaps-Toronto FC match before going over scores and the big stories from last week’s MLS action and the standings in the Eastern Conference. It provided a perfect segue into Rigby talking about his experiences playing against the NASL Whitecaps, which was kind of cool. I’d expect we might hear a little more about that during this afternoon’s broadcast. The two also took the opportunity to discuss the amazing comeback and performance of Charlie Davies last week, and showed part of an interview Davies did with CSN Mid-Atlantic right after that match (hooray for inter-conglomerate synergies!).
Rigby took a few comments and questions that fans sent in about the club and about soccer in general, but perhaps the neatest part of the program was its "Youth Movement" feature, which focused this week on Montgomery United S.C. and interviewed the organization's management as well as some happy kids and happy parents, all focused on how beneficial the club's relationship with the Union has been. The relationship has gone both ways, with the Union sending players out to some of their practices and Montgomery United taking many of its players to Union matches.
The program finished up with a “training session” with Rigby, who went over some strategies and tips on goaltending stance, followed by a feature called “Doop It Up”, which included interviews with players regarding the city and its atmosphere, as well as the fans (Roger Torres likes the Museum of Art, by the way).
Overall, you couldn’t help but be impressed by the production value of the show. Rigby looked comfortable on camera and was certainly not lacking in knowledge, and Fadool, who some harp on at times for pronunciation issues, seemed very well prepared and had all of the names and terminology down pat. If there were concerns that Comcast wouldn’t give much attention to the Union beyond its telecast commitments, this show should blow those concerns away. Of course the Union won’t get all that much attention on Daily News Live, SportsNite, SportsRise, etc. (though that should be on the rise as the season ramps up), but if this is any indication, the Union are not going to be forgotten in Comcast’s lineup.
New State of the Union episodes are scheduled to air Friday nights throughout the Union’s season on both Comcast SportsNet and The Comcast Network, with replays being shown on both throughout the week. The Union will make their debut on the Comcast family of networks April 2nd when they take on the Galaxy in Carson City on The Comcast Network.