Monday, November 23, 2015

College Football Ratings On The Rise As Well

It appears that it's not only the NFL enjoying strong ratings this football season. Even college football is making a bigger impact on the TV ratings this season.

The Ohio State vs. Michigan State showdown this past Saturday (11/21) serves as another solid example even though it was played in the late afternoon time slot and not in prime time. ABC/ESPN came away with its highest rated late afternoon game since November 2006 (Ohio State vs. Michigan) and its highest rated college football game of this season to date.

Four of the top five best local ratings markets were, as you would expect, in Ohio, with the 42 rating for Columbus finishing ahead of Dayton, Cleveland, with Cincinnati finishing at #5 among local markets. The #4 ratings market was Detroit, the largest Michigan State market. Clearly the network benefitted from the game being tight all the way to the end. That this game had higher ratings than the Alabama - LSU game the previous week also speaks well for the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the rumblings have started about the NFL's Thursday Night Football package, since the CBS contract for the first half of the season is now completed. The two contracts for one year each which CBS had were both announced in January. The Hollywood Reporter says that Fox, NBC, and Turner Sports have already expressed interest in bidding, along with CBS.

No indication at all from the NFL yet as to whether they will seek still another one-year deal or go for the long term. More importantly, there is no indication yet as to whether or not CBS will have an exclusive bidding window and/or the right to match another offer based on having had the package for these past two seasons. We also don't know whether or not NFL Network will continue to simulcast these games.

On the regional level, the fighting continues between Comcast (cable provider) and YES Network and it appears this could go on for a while. Nearly 1,000,000 subscribers in New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and parts of Delaware have been without YES Network for about one month in a dispute over costs.

There is the possibility that Comcast is saving money by not paying YES Network to air the channel until March when spring training telecasts begin, even though YES also shows the New York Nets NBA games. At least this is not like the L.A. Dodgers situation, because subscribers have the option of switching carriers to continue to watch the YES Network at any time.

ESPN has worked with MLB to make the opening of the regular season into a special event more than ever starting with the 2016 season. The network revealed that it has moved two more opening games up to Sunday April 3rd and will, weather permitting, air a live triple header of opening games that day. In addition, ESPN continues its plan to air four live opening games on Monday April 4th.
The Sunday 4/3 games will be St. Louis at Pittsburgh at 1 PM ET, Toronto at Tampa at 4 PM ET (which will be played since it's from an indoor stadium), and then the Mets at Kansas City at 8:30 PM ET in the first-ever Opening Day rematch of World Series participants.

On the radio side, the ratings for the October-November 2015 period are being released this week. Although the Boston ratings were not released as of press time, there are a couple of interesting developments from the larger markets.

In Chicago, WMVP ESPN 1000 jumped to #18 overall, having risen .9 in just the past two months. As a result, it has clearly passed WSCR 670 The Score, which has held steady during that same period, finishing this ratings book at #22 overall. This jump comes during the first full ratings period with David Kaplan as an early afternoon host and with the Bulls NBA season underway in WMVP's final season as flagship station.

San Francisco's KNBR dropped by .9 since the previous ratings period, although it still finished in the top five stations. KGMZ-FM The Game increased by .6 during the same time to its best ever showing as a sports station.

In Dallas, KRLD-FM dropped in its rating from the previous month, but finished #9 overall in the market, well ahead of WTCK The Ticket (which dropped) and KESN-FM which held steady.

DETROIT: The Lions will be making a major off-season move, but this time it will be on the radio dial. WJR 760 has a new five year contract to become the flagship station once again beginning with the 2016 season. The Lions were heard on WJR from 1948 through 1988.

What makes this significant is that the Lions become the 2nd major Detroit franchise to break away from WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket within the past few months, as the Pistons have just moved over to WMGC-FM 105.1 The Game as well.

The Ticket continues to air the Tigers and Red Wings, but has also released Mike Valenti from his afternoon hosting duties. What makes the Valenti dumping interesting is that co-host Terry Foster announced his intention to remain with the 2 to 6 PM show at the same time. In fact, Foster is giving up his reporter position with the Detroit Free Press after nearly 27 years with the publication in order to remain with The Ticket.

There are some expressing the thought that the Lions left The Ticket (often the #1 station in the market) because of the increased amount of on air criticism of the team (which, as of this week is 3 - 7 for the season), and that it also led to the dumping of Valenti. Yet, if that was the case, the move would have been to let Valenti have his say about the team and give his audience even more reasons to tune in after Lions losses.

PITTSBURGH: No change in radio station status for the Steelers, as WDVE 102.5 and WBGG ESPN 970 have a new three-year extension to continue as the flagship station. As part of the new deal, the "Steelers Nation" HD Radio channel on WDVE HD2 will expand to eight hours per day of "original" content. WDVE has served as the flagship station since 1999.

PORTLAND: A four year contract is a rarity, especially in the world of sports talk radio, but The Game 750 and 102.9 has signed John Canzano to an extension to retain his Noon to 3 PM show, which is the longest running show on the station (since 2008). Canzano is expected to continue his reporting duties for KGW-TV, which is a separate deal.

Happy Turkey to all!!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More Teams Far From Technically Challenged

It's an interesting trend that while the technology that fans enjoy and the media utilizes in its sports coverage is also becoming more significant among leagues and teams at the same time.
Looks as though the leagues and teams are becoming concerned about even more than trying to control the content which the fans get to see well beyond the increased number of "team produced" features.
Within the past week, both Bloomberg and ESPN have reported about a new partnership between MLB and a company called Sport Integrity Monitor. The London based company now has its first U.S. based league as a partner. In this instance, the public is not a part of the partnership, as the purpose is to provide real time monitoring of betting lines to league officials.
Basically, this service will allow MLB officials, starting with the 2016 season, to have up-to-the-minute data from sportsbooks and what it terms "wagering outlets" from around the world. The reasoning behind that is that MLB officials could detect if there is a major discrepancy in the betting lines among sources within the betting lines, and be able to track when such changes were made.
This is designed to be an investigative tool to allow MLB to monitor in the event of leaks of inside information which could suddenly change one or very few of the betting lines but not all. This is done with the integrity of the game in mind.
Although nothing yet has been announced of a similar nature from any of the other U.S. pro leagues, this does bring to mind the N.Y. Times column from a few months back written personally by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The column included Silver making a reference to the need to have "mandatory monitoring" of unusual betting line movement.
With this action, and the recent news regarding the future of the major daily fantasy sites, it shows that technology is serving multiple purposes for the teams as well as the fans.
Along these lines, leagues and teams continue to announce technology advances in order to increase and enhance their presentations to the fans, occasionally overstepping media boundaries even though major media sources are paying them a combined billions of dollars.
Fans could also benefit from some of this, although media rights fees and restrictions are likely to add a middle level and probably additional challenges in order to do so. One of the most interesting of these is from a company called Thuuz, which is a take on the word "enthusiastic". The company is in the process of forming partnerships with TV providers and wireless carriers to distribute an app to sports fans.
For example, as a subscriber to a partnered cable/satellite service, your phone could receive instant alerts about scoring plays and key developments from games which are being shown on networks and local stations currently airing on that service. The app they have developed allows users to set up custom alerts for favorite teams and/or games. The "catch" for fans is that they will not be able to acquire the mobile app directly, as it will need to come through a marketing partner.
Several pro teams have already started or are in the final planning stages of enhanced technology within stadiums and arenas as a boost to the fans actually attending the games. Things have come a long way since the days of baseball and football fans bringing a portable radio to the games to listen to the radio call while they watch.
During the World Series, Snapchat, with assistance from STATS, began a feature allowing Geofilters users attending the games to add real-time scores to their photos and some video snaps. This is also available now in a couple of NBA arenas.

The NBA has a new media rights partnership which enables some live telecasts to be available on several international airlines, along with NBA news and related content. This service also includes the English Premiere League and Rugby World Cup. Along these lines, the Sacramento Kings have partnered with a company which allows virtual reality streaming of home games to various parts of the world, targeting fans who could not possibly come to the games.
The Brooklyn Nets are among NBA teams promoting free Wi-Fi in the Barclays Center, basing that on the theory that fans commenting about the game and the arena experience immediately on social media is helpful for ticket and merchandise sales.
At the Verizon Center in D.C., the Wizards and Capitals offer a virtual reality station for fans can put on a special headset during intermissions or before a game and access game and player related content, which the teams also promote via mobile and social media they originate.
Some NFL fans are enjoying in-stadium mobile technology at Levi's Stadium (49ers), with an app showing fans the waiting time at concession stands and restrooms.
This all should raise the question about team and league controlled content and the control about what is being reported to the fans.

LOS ANGELES: Joe Davis, handling play-by-play of baseball, football, and basketball in the relative obscurity of Fox Sports 1 has landed a plum assignment for the 2016 baseball season. Davis has been named to handle TV play-by-play for 50 of the Dodgers road games next season as fans begin to brace for having Dodgers baseball without Vin Scully after next year. The 27 year old Davis is expected to continue with Fox Sports next fall, but chances are a good performance could change all that if the Dodgers wish to retain him. Charlie Steiner will handle the lead TV play-by-play role for the remaining road games, except for those within California which Scully will probably travel to.
It remains to be seen (literally) whether or not more than 30% of the L.A. market will even have access to the team's TV games by next season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Same Time Same Network in Baltimore/D.C.

As we suspected, the local fallout in the Baltimore/D.C. market from last week's court decision regarding rights fees for the Nationals from MASN is having an impact on two other pro sports teams which serve that area.

Prior to last week, the speculation was that The NBA Wizards and NHL Capitals could become a part of the Monumental Network, which is owned by Ted Leonsis, who happens to own both teams. Talk was that these teams would be headed for a controlled package for their games including streaming, which would abandon CSN Washington as soon as each team's current contract allowed.

Since the court ruling (which we covered last week - see below), the word is (as also reported in Sports Business Daily) that Leonsis is now planning to partner with CSN Washington instead of forming his own network. The SBD report claims that Leonsis would gain 33% ownership in the network and will enter in to a lon term agreement through the 2031-32 seasons. The Wizards would generate more than double their current TV rights fees in the process.

Such an arrangement would be nothing new for Comcast SportsNet, which has partnered with teams in other markets, usually with success. Chicago is a positive example, with the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox each holding what is are believed to be 20% equity each. Houston was not a good example, with CSN Houston folding and ROOT Sports taking over the telecasts for the Rockets and Astros last year.

It would seem that MASN, which struggles for quality programming during the baseball off-season while being overloaded with both Orioles and Nationals telecasts in season, was either not in consideration by Leonsis or did not make a worthwhile bid for the rights to one or both teams.

As a result, Baltimore/D.C. area fans will be asked to pay for these two networks, likely whether they want to or not, even though both will have a string of months with little to no quality live telecasts every year. The ideal result, which most likely would never happen, would be for MASN and CSN Washington to do a swap of one team each. If one network had, say, the Orioles and Capitals while the other had the Nationals and Wizards, each would have year-round live pro sports. Instead, they'll both be regional networks with what we could term "regional calendars" for years to come.

CBS-TV hit the jackpot with its LSU vs. Alabama prime-time telecast last weekend (11/7). It finished as the most watched college football game of the season to this point, with a ratings and viewer increase of more than 20% over last year's matchup of these two powerhouse teams.

SAN FRANCISCO: As the Warriors begin defense of their NBA Championship, the local fans have taken notice. It's only a couple of weeks into the new regular season, and the TV ratings for the Warriors telecasts are already up an average of 47% compared with the same time frame of last season.

CHICAGO: DePaul University basketball will return to WSCR 670 The Score for its 19th season, although the announcement was only made within the past week. Actually, WSCR will air 22 of the games, farming out the rest due to conflicts. Zach Zaidman returns for his 11th season on play-by-play, while local sportscaster Jeff Blanzy returns for his 5th season as analyst.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Two MLB Teams Still Fighting Over $20 Million In Media Rights

The media war between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals reached the New York Supreme Court this week until Justice Lawrence Marks vacated an earlier arbitration decision regarding the TV rights dispute between the two teams. At issue is what would amount to $20 million in additional annual revenue for the Nationals from MASN, the regional TV network which televises both the Orioles and Nationals games within that combined market.

MASN has been paying about $40 million per season for the Nationals TV rights, with the arbitration decision to have been made as to whether or not this amount should increase to $60 million. The court ruling, however, does not mean that the Nationals cannot or will not receive the additional amount, instead meaning that the Supreme Court will not issue the ruling.

Sports team owners are, of course, expected to be disappointed with this decision, while MASN and other TV networks will react positively from this decision, which potentially saves them millions of dollars.

This is, at this stage, more of a positive for fans and for consumers. If the TV network needs to pay out an additional $20 million for one year, it sets up still another fee increase for carriers, which, of course, results in even higher monthly costs for consumers for their cable/satellite, whether they watch either team's games or not.

Ever since Washington got the Nationals prior to the 2005 season, the Nats and Orioles have had their share of disputes as the O's have fought to maintain their territorial rights. The Orioles own the majority of MASN, with the Nationals under an arrangement to eventually own 33%, but no more of the network. Even under those ownership circumstances, both teams were paid $40 million per season under the current arrangement.

From here, both teams generating the same revenue from the network seems justified, especially given the majority ownership of one of the teams.

While the World Series brought Fox Sports a nice ratings return, it's already back to "normal" this week. Now Fox Sports 1 brings us still another new show, starting next week (Mon. Nov. 9th). Technically Tuesday Nov. 10th, since the new show will air at Midnight ET. For some reason, FS1 will debut "TMZ Sports", a nightly half hour show spotlighting the "celebrity and lifestyles" of current and former sports personalities.

Oh well. At least Fox blessed us by putting all five World Series games on the main network and not on Fox Sports 1, allowing more fans be able to find the telecasts.

Even with Game 5 of the World Series on this past Sunday (11/1), NBC lucked out by having one of the NFL season's marquis games on against it when then unbeaten Green Bay took on unbeaten Denver. The 23,000,000 viewers of Sunday Night Football made this the highest ratings ever for a SNF game up against a World Series telecast.

Fox Sports acknowledged such on the air, as those already watching the finale between the Royals and Mets were given a sudden on-screen game recap, while Joe Buck said, "For those who watched the football game.......".

Yet, there is one curious part about that. I happened to have been watching the World Series telecast at that point, since the outcome of the football game had been established well before that. Most fans know that Joe Buck calls the lead NFL game for Fox (except during World Series time). However, Buck never mentioned which football game, or, more importantly, the final score. I'm certain I wasn't the only sports fan who, upon not being told the final score, was curious as to how the football game ended, and switched over to NBC to find out that score.

All Joe Buck had to do was say something like, "as Denver handed Green Bay its first loss of the season by a score of....." and he would have held more viewers. Granted, Buck could well have been under orders from the network not to do that, but this was the perfect time to promote upcoming NFL telecasts on Fox. Keep in mind that this coming Sunday (11/8), Buck and Troy Aikman will call the Green Bay at Carolina game (with Carolina coming in unbeaten) to the majority of the country, including Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, and Seattle, with are leading baseball and football markets. Still another missed opportunity by Fox Sports.

NBC also chose to flex schedule for its Nov. 22nd (Week 11) SNF telecast, understandably picking up the Cincinnati at Arizona game. As a result, CBS picked up the Chicago at St. Louis telecast as an early regional game on Nov. 15th, taking that one away from Fox. That will be a big ratings win for WBBM-TV Chicago for November, as the station will now have the Bears games on consecutive Sundays, as the Bears host Denver in a CBS early regional game the following week.

WASHINGTON D.C.: No more "Man Cave" for The Team, as WTEM ESPN 980 dropped its local morning show right in the middle of the Redskins' season, admitting the ratings were not strong enough. Although the station plans to include some specific local content during morning drive, it is back to airing Mike & Mike. The "Man Cave" just started early in 2015, with a quick check of the ratings showing some growth within the past three months in 25-54 males. It will be interesting to see if anyone else in the market picks up on (former) co-hosts Chris Paul and Jason Reid. This is a clear victory for WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan and it's "Sports Junkies" show, which is local.

DETROIT: WMGC 105.1 The Game, while getting crushed in the ratings by WXYT 97.1 The Ticket, is adjusting its weekday lineup in an effort to grow its audience. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press has joined Matt Dery to co-host the 3 to 7 PM spot. The Noon to 3 PM spot now has three co-hosts, Sean Baligian, Tom Mazawey, and Marc Fellhauer.

CHICAGO: Sorry to learn of the passing of long time Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Markus at the age of 81. Markus wrote for the Tribune from 1959 into 1996, and definitely fit into the "nice guy" category. My favorite memory of him was the time during the late 70's when he was asked to fill in as an analyst for a local college basketball telecast. Always one to thoroughly prepare for an assignment, he came up with some amazing insights during the first few minutes of the game, and then stated the obvious the rest of the way. After the game, he admitted that "I used up all of my notes in the first two minutes!".

KNOXVILLE: Russell Smith and Rich Daugherty quickly found a new radio home, taking over 3 to 6 PM on Fox Sports Knoxville 1340. Their show had been airing on 94.3 FM which changed format a couple weeks back.

JACKSONVILLE: WJSJ 105.3, which had been completely silent since April, has returned to the airwaves, becoming CBS Sports 105.3. However, this becomes the third sports station in the market, and it's not as if the Jaguars are the talk of the town this season. The market already has WFXJ SportsRadio 930 and WJXL 1010 and 92.5.

BEMIDJI MN: From this small market comes another classic radio management story. WBUN-FM 104.5 is new call letters and a new format as its music format has moved and the station is now all sports. At this point, the station is picking up KXFN The Fan from Minneapolis for the majority of its weekday programming. Why is this a "classic" story? Because Hubbard Broadcasting, which now owns the Bemidji station and made this decision, does not own KXFN Minneapolis. It does own Minneapolis station KSTP 1500, which airs (Are you ready for this?) all sports programming.

Adding to the fun is that Bemidji already has a local ESPN Radio outlet which airs on 1450 AM and 94.9 FM.

BENTON HARBOR MI: What a nice idea! WSJM 1400 Sports Radio aired its morning show this past Friday (10/30) live from Benton Harbor High School. The reason? To salute the school's football team prior to its playoff game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two National Telecasts - Two Mishaps On Same Big Night

Two games on national TV on competing networks on Tuesday (10/27) night, and two screw-ups to report. Obviously, the Fox Sports mishap with the power outage in their production truck during Game 1 of the World Series tops the list. That wasn't their fault, but it was ironic that it happened during one of the few times they had a big audience and didn't bury a post-season telecast on FS1.

They had an audience indeed. The overnight rating was 31% higher than last year's Game 1, and the highest Game 1 since 2009 which had New York (Yankees) playing Philadelphia. While NYC had a nice 26.2 rating and 43 share, Kansas City went bonkers, with an astounding 57.3 rating and a 78 audience share.

In Texas, where both the Rangers and Astros were long gone from this post-season, the overnight numbers showed at Austin actually had higher viewership than Dallas (for Game 1) while the Houston's audience came in as only the 54th highest rated market.

Over at TNT, about an hour after the Fox truck power loss, the network was showing its NBA season opening game from Chicago against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, which was a tight game going into the final minute of the 4th quarter and Chicago barely holding on to its lead. A basket by the Cavs, which was from near the three-point circle but a two-point basket, actually made the score now 97-95 in favor of Chicago.

Yet, the on screen score changed to 98-95. Seconds later, it changed to 100-92. As play continued with Chicago in possession, the score then changed to 98-95. Play-by-play voice Kevin Harlan (fresh off the Sunday NFL webcast from London) admitted the confusion about the actual score. Finally, the score was changed to the correct 97-95. Good thing it did. That wound up being the final score of the game.

Then, in the usual hurry to sign off right after the game (without an instant interview even though the game ended before the bottom of the hour and in plenty of time for the Golden State game telecast to begin), there was not even an apology or acknowledgement of the graphics mishap.

One other things both Fox and TNT had in common that night. They both insist on having a cast of thousands in the studio for analysis. By the time they introduce their studio cast and joke around during the studio segments, each analyst only gets a few seconds to chime in about each topic. Too many cooks, and not nearly enough food.

The latest radio ratings, these for the September/October 2015 period, show just how sports crazed the Boston area is with amazing ratings for both of the rival sports talk stations. Even the biggest of sports fans couldn't have dreamed that two of the top four stations (and this is overall audience, not just males 25-54) in the marketplace.

WBZ-FM Sports Hub jumped to a 7.1 rating (from a 4.9 just two ratings books earlier) and placed at #2 overall in the market. Yet, rival WEEI-FM showed a similar rise, going from a 4.6 to the now 6.3 rating this month, coming in at #4 in the market. That is nothing short of amazing, representing high points for both stations.

This helps to prove my point that content makes the difference for sports stations ahead of specific hosts and shows.

New York City also shows this trend, with WFAN 660 showing a one-half point rating increase over the previous month during the Yankees run to the post-season. (This was The Fan's first season as Yankees radio flagship.) WEPN ESPN 98.7 also increased, by .4 and had its best showing since May 2015. While WOR 710 is not sports talk, the Amazin' Mets made a huge difference. During this year 2015, WOR has more than doubled its overall audience, now riding its tenth consecutive ratings book with either an increase or holding steady.

In Chicago, WBBM 780 has ratings gold with the Cubs (1st year as flagship station) in the post-season throughout the ratings period and the always popular Bears football broadcasts. In fact, on Oct. 7th when the Cubs played Pittsburgh in the National League Wild Card playoff, the radio overnights showed 28.5% of radio listeners tuned to the game, combining the local WBBM broadcast with ESPN 1000 airing the national feed. This helped WBBM tie for #1 overall, with well over double the total audience of both WSCR 670 The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000. It will be interesting to see how WSCR and WMVP do over the next couple of rating periods, as each station is ahead of the other in key dayparts and demographics, while WMVP begins its final season as flagship for the Chicago Bulls.

This ratings book was also good for a few other large markets. In San Francisco, KNBR came in at #2 overall, still with more than three times the total audience of KGMZ-FM The Game, even though The Game was up slightly.

In Dallas, KRLD-FM rides those Cowboys to #8 overall in the market, its highest rating ever. The significance here is that KRLD-FM did not take away from its competitors. KTCK The Ticket and KESN ESPN both showed audience increases of at least 10% over the previous month. Philadelphia's WIP-FM rose .8 of a ratings point to finish #7 overall in that market.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM also rose .8 for the month, and came in at #6 overall, while Denver's KKFN The Fan rose more than a full ratings point. While at #13 overall in the market, the Broncos' start helped them to this impressive jump.

A couple of markets that usually don't make a splash came up positive for their sports stations as well. In Atlanta, which has not exactly been a force in sports talk over the years, WZGC-FM The Game has risen to #15 overall, increasing by a full ratings point over the past two months. And in Minneapolis - St. Paul, KFXN The Fan went up an astounding TWO ratings points over the previous month, showing up at #4 overall. The station now has six times the audience size of KSTP, which held steady. KTWN the music station which is the flagship for the Twins (who finished their improved season during this rating book) dropped .3 overall.

While most L.A. Dodgers fans still have nothing further in terms of being able to watch the local telecasts in 2016, the fallout from the Time Warner Cable mess is growing again. Now the L.A. Times reports that Time Warner Sports President David Rone will be gone by the end of 2015, adding that TWC "has no plans for a replacement". The Dodgers Channel is reportedly losing another $100 million just for 2015 alone, while its Lakers channel is suffering as the team sinks slowly in the west.

Speaking of fallout, the fantasy sports controversy continues to extend to the media. Over the past few days, the NCAA has officially notified the major networks that it has "banned all sponsorship/advertising activity in televised college sports championships" for DraftKings and FanDuel. The "request" also seeks to have these services stop offering fantasy contests based on college sports.

By the way, the new college football playoff system for this coming December-January is NOT overseen by the NCAA.

ESPN has not commented on its position for those playoffs, but did report that FanDuel has issued a legal response that it has no plans to change its offerings.

Of course, ESPN also has its ties to the NFL and advertising revenue for those games as well. Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was quoted as defending his investment in DraftKings, which is a personal investment, since NFL teams are "not allowed" to invest in fantasy sports companies. Yet, The Kraft Group, comprised of the Kraft family (and others) which own the New England Patriots, also owns a stake in one of the major fantasy sports companies. Jonathan Kraft went as far as to appear on WBZ-FM Sports Hub last week to comment about how the fantasy sports industry remains unregulated.

BOSTON: While fans mourn the loss of Don Orsillo from the NESN TV booth, there will be more changes for next season along with Dave O'Brien moving over from radio to handle the play-by-play. The phasing out of Jerry Remy is starting, in a move which will also not go over well with the fans. Remy will now work "about 100 games", which is a reduced work load (about 30 to 50 games less) from this past season. NESN is adding Dennis Eckersley and Steve Lyons as regular game analysts as scheduled, including a few games in which there will be three in the booth.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 needs to listen to Bristol (ESPN headquarters), which is certainly "talking". The station is forced to air the World Series radio coverage (which is not a priority in Chicago where Cubs fans lost interest after the Mets swept them out of the playoffs) in place of up to three Bulls regular season broadcasts.

Even though this is the final season as Bulls flagship, the conflicting broadcasts are being moved to WLS 890, which takes over in 2016-17 as Bulls flagship. During the same week this was dictated, ESPN announced that John Cravens, who had been with WMVP for more than 10 years, is no longer with the station, with no talk of a direct replacement.

The station also re-upped to air 15 games (out of a 30 game schedule) of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) basketball team. They have aired some to all of these games since 1997 (with the exception of one season). Jonathan Hood takes over as play-by-play voice for these broadcasts, replacing Dave Juday who left the station earlier this year.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago has added Leila Rahimi to its anchor and reporter staff starting this week. Rahimi is making the CSN rounds, having most recently held similar duties for CSN Philadelphia, and before that with CSN Houston going back to 2012.

MONTANA: Still no reason known for the sudden and unexpected "parting of the ways" between Mike Holien and the University of Montana football and basketball play-by-play position he held for the past 22 years. All we know for sure is that it has nothing to do with the entire broadcast crew, since Greg Sundberg continues as analyst and Adam Painter remains as sideline reporter.

U. of Montana games continue to be streamed (in addition to the large statewide radio network) at

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fantasy Sports To Produce Media Winners & Losers

My hunch is that many NFL and TV network executives are stressing out about recent developments from this season. Not the ones on the field even with a record number of unbeaten teams six weeks in. You can bet (pun intended) that the recent barrage of legal questions surrounding FanDuel and DraftKings and daily fantasy in general is their real "top story" of the week.

Maybe the news networks are reporting the story accurately, but maybe they are not. In recent weeks, the two fantasy "services" have been among the top three biggest national advertisers on the networks, bringing in millions of advertising dollars to the networks spending billions for the rights to televise NFL games. The more revenue the networks bring in, the higher the rights fees to renew the next contract.

If daily fantasy is not legally allowed to continue, the results would probably be millions in lost revenue to the networks. (I say "probably" because if there will be a loophole, it will be found.) Because of all of this, the NFL would stand to lose out on millions in TV revenue if the networks aren't taking in as much. In addition, the existence of daily fantasy entices even more fans to watch and follow each week's games above and beyond the numbers from 'season long' fantasy participants.

How this ongoing story will be covered by networks such as CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC, will be interesting because of how much their revenue could be impacted as a result.

Leave it to the NFL to create tremendous hype for a "filler" game between Buffalo and Jacksonville this week. The Bills have surprised and are holding on at .500, while the Jaguars have won one game so far this season. Fans of both teams are probably glad the game is being played in London and that it is not on one team's season ticket plan. Those in Buffalo and Jacksonville will see the game "over the air" at 9:30 AM ET on Sunday morning, and will probably be glad it will be over before the interesting games are played.

However, the tremendous hype comes from what is sure to be a large audience because of the NFL allowing this game to be streamed live nationally via Yahoo and its various platforms. Look for a large audience to give it a try by watching live action online ahead of the endless hours of pre-game programming at the same time. Of course, if this were played in either city and an early CBS regional game, fans in those market areas would likely do what they could to watch a different game.

As ESPN continues to crunch the numbers due to their spending for broadcast rights while consumers cut the cord, now ESPN Radio is feeling the effect. At press time, ESPN was beginning to issue a series of employee layoffs. Among the first set of casualties is Mike Thompson of KSPN 710 Los Angeles, who has been let go from his Program Director duties. The hunch here is that ESPN will reduce to having a single Program Director handle the large market ESPN stations, combining the responsibilities to include KSPN, WESN New York, WMVP Chicago, and perhaps one or two other top 10 markets.

The song title from the 70's, "It's A Strange Way To Tell Me You Love Me" by Firefall seems to apply to Fox Sports regarding its ALCS coverage. Even in prime time on Monday (10/19), the network stuck the Kansas City at Toronto Game 3 on Fox Sports 1, where fewer people knew to find the game. I have no idea how having only one of the five games in the series (as of press time) on Fox Sports and burying the rest on FS1 helps to promote the network having the World Series on.
Now that FS1 has a couple of years behind it, many more fans know it exists, but seem to forget about it because they have so little to offer on a consistent basis.

For example, last week's Game 5 between Texas and Toronto showed only a 10.9 rating in the Dallas market, even though it was a deciding game and was mid-week (with no competition from the Cowboys or college football). The following night, the same market showed a rating of 0.7 for some UFC show it aired. Probably came from casual fans checking in to see if a baseball game was on.

Then there is the matter of Fox having a cast of thousands of studio analysis. Don't get me wrong. I find Raul Ibanez, Frank Thomas, Pete Rose, and the other guests to be interesting. But having four or five guys giving their opinions on every little thing doesn't give any of them the chance to explain or go into depth.

What is strange is having Tom Verducci as the third man during the actual games. I actually enjoy his analysis, so it is not as though he does not do a solid job. My problem is that during the game itself is when a former player/coach/manager should be in the booth to interpret the games for the fans.

It makes zero sense to have Verducci in the booth while Ibanez, Rose, and Thomas are in the studio having to wait a couple of hours to get 10 seconds to comment on the big play of the game. Then again, if a tree fell on Fox Sports 1, would anybody hear it?

For the "How Embarassing!" moment of the week we turn to CNN. The sister network to TNT which has aired the NBA for more than 20 seasons and which also partners for the league's official NBA-TV. While reporting on the sad story of the condition of Lamar Odom last week, the on-screen photo happened to be of LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland.  Not the same player.

Besides the concern about what other mistakes has CNN gotten away with (when viewers are not familiar with a subject), you have to wonder how a network with ties to the NBA could have this happen. Look how far down CNN has come since the days of offering regular sports coverage in the era of Nick Charles and Fred Hickman.

CINCINNATI: A great idea has come from picking up on the Bengals getting off to a 6 - 0 start this season. To let fans enjoy the highlights of win number six this past Sunday, Dan Hoard put up a stream of the scoring play calls from the broadcast of the 34-21 win over Buffalo.
It can be heard at:

WASHINGTON D.C.: Following the announcement of a multi-year radio agreement to air Georgetown basketball, WJFK The Fan 106.7 has announced the broadcast schedule. Rich Chvotkin begins his 42nd season of play-by-play with the majority of the games airing on 106.7 The Fan. However, since The Fan also carries the Wizards and Capitals games, the Georgetown games will air elsewhere for the 13 games which conflict. Eleven of the games will air on WNEW 99.1, while a couple of others, due to Wizards/Capitals conflicts, will air on 1580 AM. These days the challenge for fans is more to know which station to tune to instead of keeping track of the players.

TULSA: Congrats to Steve Braun, named as Sports Director of KTBZ 1430 The Buzz. It completes a wonderful "working his way up" story. Braun returns to the station in this capacity after having worked there from 2010 to 2012 as a board operator and then a show producer. His position is also expected to include a hosting or co-hosting role to be announced shortly.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Will It Play In New York?

With all of the baseball ratings and other media stories this week, it is understandable that a couple of stories would fly under the radar. What is most amazing, however, is that one of those stories in taking place in New York City. Actually, it is what is NOT taking place in NYC.

Last week the NHL's New York Islanders played their historic first home game in Brooklyn, now sharing the three year old arena with the NBA's Nets. The Islanders, which have yet to change their name from their 40+ years of playing on Long Island, seem to have made an even more drastic mistake (than not renaming the team or at least officially becoming a Brooklyn team) in establishing themselves in Brooklyn.

It seems that Islanders management overlooked getting the team on a "big name" New York City radio station. Then again, they were struggling to get on a "name" station in the Nassau area where they played their home games all along until now.

For the second consecutive season, the Islanders games are originated on WRHU 88.7 Hempstead, which is a non-commercial station operated out of Hofstra University. To this point, all the Islanders have been able to do is get the games on WNYE 91.5, which happens to be owned by the City of New York. The team's "network" only includes one other radio station, which is a commercial station. However, that station is WRCN Riverhead 103.9 "Long Island News Radio".

Here the team is needing to promote their Brooklyn presence, and they didn't even get a major radio station to support them.

The other "quiet" story this week is again by way of the NFL and its own push to control content that goes to the public. Protecting game action video and reports is one thing. The Wall Street Journal reported that the League has been requesting that certain social media links to "pirated" highlights be taken down as part of its "copyright enforcement program". While this is understandable, given the billions of dollars it receives for rights fees, there is the matter of the NFL having its own YouTube channel and other outlets for game video.

This could be a matter of the NFL putting out highlights they want people to see, while stopping those with plays and comments which could be considered unflattering.

On to baseball, where an exciting post-season translates to record ratings all around, which figure to continue, especially on the National League side with the top markets involved. (Press time was hours before Game 5 between the Mets and Dodgers.)

TBS kicked major butt on Monday (10/12) with its National League doubleheader which averaged 5,000,000 viewers and increases of more than 30% over its telecasts last year. The St. Louis market drew a 27.7 rating, huge when you consider the game was only available via cable/satellite, while the Chicago audience was the highest for a post-season baseball game since the 2005 World Series clincher by the White Sox.  Later that night, the Mets vs. Dodgers telecast peaked with an average of 5,900,000 viewers, with the New York market generating the largest audience for a Mets game since 2012.

On the American League side, it depends on who you ask. The Sunday telecast of K.C. vs. Houston on MLB Network was the second highest ever for the Network, yet was by far the lowest rated of any of the weekend (and Monday) post-season telecasts. In a curious development from Monday's (10/12) K.C. vs. Houston telecast, the local Kansas City market rating was slightly more than double that of the local Houston audience.

Texas Rangers fans have the right to be upset when it wound up that not one of the five games between the Rangers and Blue Jays was played in prime time. Many expect Toronto vs. K.C. in the ALCS to suffer a similar fate because of the largest markets in the NLCS.

One nice thing about the Division Series telecasts was that at least a couple of the teams' flagship radio stations made the effort to sync up their local announcer feeds to the network telecasts in an effort to serve those viewers who prefer the home town call. Dallas' 105.3 The Fan went as far as to publicize their effort to do so, while those fans who thought to do so noticed that Chicago's WBBM 780 did the same thing for the Cubs vs. Cardinals telecasts on TBS. Then again, the Sunday Rangers game was farmed out to KRLD-AM (only) due to The Fan's coverage of the Cowboys game vs. New England, even though the two games did not directly conflict.

Congrats to the Big Ten Network which showed how far along it has come this past Saturday (10/10), even with MLB playoffs and college telecasts including Notre Dame on other networks.

BTN generated its best day of viewership in the history of the Network, smashing the previous viewership record (set in 2014) by approximately 30%. It finished as the top rated cable network in markets including Baltimore, Detroit, and Washington D.C., along with the obvious ones such as Columbus and Dayton (Ohio State territory). Among its games were Ohio State vs. Maryland and Northwestern vs. Michigan.

DETROIT: 97.1 WXYT The Ticket has punched through a multi-year renewal for both the Tigers and the Red Wings for the currently top-rated station. One element of the new contract is the expansion of teams related programming on sister stations in the local CBS Radio cluster, including news station WWJ 950.

MINNEAPOLIS: Timberwolves fans wondering why the team traded to bring back Kevin Garnett late last season now have a better idea of why. The team is more marketable, as evidenced by the multi-year extension for WCCO 830 to air the games, keeping the team from returning to KFAN 1130. With so many pro teams moving to FM and/or to less known AM stations, it's nice to have a pro team airing on a 50,000 powerhouse which gives them coverage over an extended area. This will be nice for NBA fans around Wisconsin and the Midwest who will be able to hear the Bucks games (Eastern Conference) out of Milwaukee and the Wolves (Western Conference) games via WCCO.

ST. LOUIS; KMOX 1120 has the Blues once again. Not because of any ratings difficulties, but into the 41st season of airing the NHL Blues. For this new season, the station has expanded to a 30-minute post-game show, and is adding three more weekly shows focused on the Blues during the season. Now that the Cardinals season is over, KMOX will air all games, at least until early April when baseball arrives again, as KYKY FM98 had aired some of the early season Blues games during conflicts.

SAN JOSE: It's not often a Fox and Sharks work together, but KUFX K-Fox 98.5 has agreed to a multi-year extension as the flagship station of the NHL Sharks. Like with the Red Wings in Detroit, the deal includes additional Sharks related programming and coverage on sister station KGMZ 95.7 The Game. KGMZ is the flagship station for the Oakland A's.

CHICAGO: WLS 890 has already begun its coverage of the White Sox even though their season ended earlier this month and the game broadcasts do not debut until March. The station now airs "White Sox Weekly" on Saturdays, currently prior to the station's Notre Dame Football coverage, and then at a regular time to be determined starting in December.

Comcast SportsNet Chicago has hired Siera Santos as a reporter and anchor, replacing Jen Lada, who left several weeks ago to begin at ESPN Radio. Santos was most recently with KCBS/KCAL TV in Los Angeles as a weekend reporter. CSN Chicago still needs to add one additional anchor, having not renewed the contract of Aiyana Cristal last week.

INDIANAPOLIS: WFNI The Fan 1070 is about to add a third signal to the market in order to provide listeners with the option of local sports programming or ESPN Radio national. The Fan, also simulcast on Frankfort IN 107.5, will move that FM simulcast over to recently acquired 93.5 FM, and include only national ESPN content on 107.5.

This is a also a smart move for Emmis Communications, which also owns news radio WIBC-FM 93.1, which means that their news and sports stations will be right next to each other on the FM dial once this move is complete.

DES MOINES: KBGG 1700 is already dumping a large percentage of its sports talk programming and going with general talk as of this week. As of this week "Big 1700" will be local sports talk from Noon to 6 PM with the "Jimmy B and TC Show" at Noon followed by Marty Tirrell and Ken Miller at 3:00. The station will continue to air Northern Iowa football and basketball.