As we come into one of the most significant weeks in TV sports history (with all four most important sports airing significant games at the same time), we can wonder about how this will shape up in the ratings. The NFL becomes the first sport to begin as scheduled on Thursday (9/10) with NBC airing the League opener with Kansas City hosting Houston.
On Sunday (9/13), the Fox doubleheader game features Tom Brady making his debut with Tampa, which figures to be a ratings winner, especially with New England vs. Miami being an early game over on CBS.
Also this weekend (along with some college football on Saturday) will be more NBA and NHL Playoff games and a full slate of MLB regular season games with the majority of the teams still in the race for the expanded playoffs. This marks the first time that we have had NBA and NHL playoff telecasts on the same weekend as NFL games.
This will be a test of how many hours people will watch the live sports which was so craved for months earlier this year. However, the Nielsen ratings for the now concluded first found of the NBA Playoffs were down roughly 27% from last season, and down roughly 40% over two seasons ago. It remains to be seen (pun intended) whether the noteworthy ratings increase for the Game 7 telecast of Oklahoma City losing to Houston would start an upward trend for the 2nd round.
In addition, the U.S. Open start saw its average audience fall by nearly 50% for the first three days of the tournament. While those numbers do not reflect the Labor Day weekend (not available at press time), the reason could be because several of the top players opted out of the tournament.
There was more media news on the NFL front, including NBC confirming that Al Michaels will not be calling every Sunday Night Football game starting this season. The 75 year old Michaels is beginning his schedule cutback. Mike Torico will be calling at least three, and reportedly no more than five, of the games this season. The games which Torico calls will likely be determined in part by his Notre Dame schedule for NBC, which begins this coming Saturday (9/12) against Duke. Tony Dungy will join Torico in the booth for those games this season, with Doug Flutie moving over to a studio role.
NFL Media also announced that it is allowing YouTube TV to carry the NFL RedZone starting immediately, to go along with it already airing NFL Network.
As the NBA Playoffs move further into round 2, the word is that TNT will have Brian Anderson on play-by-play for its Conference Finals telecasts. Anderson normally leaves his Milwaukee Brewers assignment for three to four weeks in April and May to call early round games. Now, he would miss most or all of the Brewers games during the final days of the regular season. In this case, Anderson temporarily replaces Marv Albert, who is not in the NBA bubble in Orlando in order to protect his health.
Quite the moment for ESPN on Sunday (9/6) when ESPN and ESPN2 needed to do a simultaneous switch. Its U.S. Open tennis coverage was running past its scheduled 7 PM ET conclusion, at which its Sunday Night Baseball telecast of Cardinals at Cubs was scheduled to begin. The network put its Baseball Tonight lead in on ESPN 2. Exactly at 7 PM, ESPN switched their tennis over to ESPN2, with a match in progress, and started Baseball on ESPN, forcing everyone already watching one or the other to have to switch.
MINNEAPOLIS: This one slipped through the cracks of being major media news, but baseball fans lost a solid analyst when Bert Blyleven suddenly announced his immediate retirement from the Twins' TV booth last week. Rather than finish the season, Bert decided not to overshadow the team and go out quietly. He will be missed.
SAN FRANCISCO: KNBR 680/104.5 is going overboard with its coverage and analysis of the 49ers starting this week. It seems as though all of their local and non play-by-play programming will feature a contributing analyst. Their impressive list, along with the 49ers broadcast crew, will include Jim Nantz, Brent Musberger, Steve Young, Tim Ryan, Adam Schefter, Kyle Shanahan, and even Mike Pereira.
PHILADELPHIA: WNJE 920 (licensed to Trenton NJ) has dropped Fox Sports Radio and picked up ESPN Radio. This replaces WTEL 610 which changed to a non-sports format days earlier. The Trenton station has no plans for local programming, airing strictly the ESPN Radio national feed.