July 9, 2013 > Ted Griggs, President of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
Ted Griggs, President of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
By Kenny Jacoby, Photo Courtesy of Jay Dela Cruz
Any time the San Francisco Giants or San Jose Sharks play a game, fans throughout the Bay Area immediately change the TV channel to Comcast SportsNet (CSN). CSN has become the unquestioned icon of Bay Area sports telecasts, but few people actually know how the station became so powerful. Much of the credit for the network's rise and success can be attributed Ted Griggs, president of CSN Bay Area.
Griggs is a native of Hayward and a graduate of Moreau Catholic High School. He became general manager of CSN Bay Area in 2007, just months after Comcast Corporation acquired the station, known at the time as FOX Sports Net [FSN] Bay Area. In April of 2008, the network re-branded to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
FSN Bay Area had been in place since 1998, and saw its ratings begin to soar in 2001. Dominance of Barry Bonds and the Giants' 2002 National League championship team as well as the Oakland Athletics' 20-game winning streak in the same year, reestablished fan support for both teams and caused FSN to grow in popularity.
Prior to FSN, the station was known as SportsChannel Bay Area, launched as the exclusive cable home of the Giants and A's. The network consisted of just two full-time employees and represented roughly 385,000 basic cable households at the time of its launch April 4, 1990. By 1997, SportsChannel Bay Area was airing telecasts for the Giants, A's, Golden State Warriors, and San Jose Sharks, and saw its market area grow to include 2.6 million cable customers in Northern California and Northern Nevada.
Today, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and its sister network, CSN California, cover sports teams all over Northern California, such as the Giants, A's, Warriors, Sharks, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Earthquakes, San Jose SaberCats, and several others including local NCAA teams.
Griggs spent 17 years as a producer at Golden Gate Productions (GGP) before coming to CSN. For nine of those years, Griggs was the executive producer at GGP, which he described as the best job in the world for its freedom of creativity. Griggs also said that it was great preparation for his job as a manager.
In July of 2012, Griggs was promoted to president of CSN Bay Area. Although he misses the TV trucks from his producer job, he enjoys his work which involves critiquing and overseeing employees, setting goals, looking for patterns in viewership, and finding a delicate balance of control between him and producers. On a daily basis, Griggs examines budgets, sales, trends, and ratings, and solves general problems involving the shows and their formatting.
Griggs recalled the changes the station underwent when transitioning from FOX to Comcast. The network increased its staff from around 35 employees to roughly 145. The CSN Bay Area studios increased from an 8,000 square foot space to a 37,000 square foot building in downtown San Francisco. Comcast also added much more coverage to the channel's lineup such as pregame and postgame shows. The new shows were not an instant success but the network allowed time for them to become successful.
The network has focused on producing good work instead of simply selling ads. Griggs noted that the primary goal he had in mind when he came to CSN was to create a "quality product first."
Griggs spearheaded several major changes to the network such as introducing Yahoo! SportsTalk Live which features in-depth commentary and debate from experts and analysts in an open discussion format, as well as Yahoo!'s national reporters, fantasy sports products, and coverage of large-scale sporting events. He also added consistent TV talent to the network's programs.
Since the beginning of 2013, familiar faces have been regularly added to the programs' lineups, including Dave Feldman and Ahmed Fareed. During these programs, most studio footage is performed live for TV, with the director and producer in the control room constantly communicating with the anchors. After a production meeting prior to the show to discuss commentary, the anchors improvise much of their on-air dialogue, and often continue their conversation well beyond airtime.
CSN prides itself on accomplishments beyond covering games. The network has produced several documentaries including Legends: Oakland A's, The Forgotten Dynasty about the 1972-1974 team that won three straight World Series championships, The Town Game: Two Lives, Two Paths about two inner-city basketball players in Oakland, and Out; The Glenn Burke Story about the first openly gay Major League Baseball player. During Griggs' tenure, the network has won 72 Northern California Emmy Awards and three Beacon Awards.
The network also donates $20,000 to the school of the winner of the annual All-Star Teacher award, which was won in 2012 by Paul Ricks of Hopkins Junior High School in Fremont. Currently, CSN is in a partnership with You Can Play to produce a series of public service announcements for the anti-discrimination of the LGBTQ community. It is the first time that the big names of all the local sports teams collaborated to eradicate homophobia in sports. These names include Barry Zito, Coco Crisp, Vernon Davis, Joe Thornton, Klay Thompson, Marcel Reece, and Chris Wondolowski. Griggs says, "We don't just do games, but try to do great small things that impact the world."
Griggs consistently ranks among the top five on the San Jose Mercury News' Top 25 Most Powerful Sports People list, which he considers above all else a compliment to the network. He views the ranking more as a responsibility than as power, and said "as a caretaker of the product, the way people watch games and treat the subject matter is something I embrace."
Griggs lived in Hayward until he was 18 and attended Cal State East Bay before transferring to San Francisco State University. Despite his numerous responsibilities at CSN, he still helps out with the Boosters auction for Moreau Catholic High School's Crab Feed each year.