Thursday, November 20, 2014

CBS Telecast of Bills Likely Shuffled Off From Buffalo

It is quite probably, as of press time, as the monster snow storm in the Buffalo area this week has many convinced that the NFL game scheduled for Buffalo on Sunday (11/23) will be moved to another city outside of New York (state) and also be pushed back to Monday night.

If that happens, it means that CBS would lose the telecast and that ESPN would gain the telecast. ESPN would then show the game only on a regional basis (throughout much of New York state as well as nearby New Jersey and Connecticut cable/satellite systems which are considered as NYC primary), while the scheduled Monday Night Football game would air as usual everywhere else on ESPN.

Moving an NFL game to another venue and from Sunday afternoon to Monday night has only happened once in recent memory, which was a couple years back when the Metrodome roof collapse forced the Vikings to scramble to get their next home game played.

If and when this Sunday's game gets moved from Buffalo, it would actually mark the second Bills telecast which CBS will have lost for its home market. The Bills' season opener in Chicago was flexed over to Fox in return for CBS taking the Chicago vs. Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day (next week). Now, CBS would lose this telecast because of the likely move to Monday Night, when ESPN takes it over.

It will also be interesting to see how Fox Sports would or would not react for the Buffalo and Syracuse markets if the Bills game moves to Monday. As of press time, the Fox schedule for both markets has the Arizona at Seattle 4 PM telecast scheduled as its only game of the day. This was planned based on the Bills vs. Jets being in the 1 PM time slot. Among the early regional games on Fox is Detroit at New England. In addition to being a battle of two contending teams, it is a rare chance for the local Fox affiliates to have a Patriots telecast.

CBS has the doubleheader game on Sunday (Miami vs. Denver), which would seem to make such a change by Fox to the earlier (and better game) telecast possible. And let's face it. That part of the country should produce astronomical ratings for football (and probably for all live sports) this weekend with so many people being snowed in.

DALLAS: Normally a radio broadcast of the University of North Texas hosting Florida International, especially late in the season with both teams having losing records, would not be noteworthy, but this Saturday (11/22) is an exception.

UNT play-by-play voice George Dunham (for the past 25 years) will be calling the final home game of the season, and thus the final home game of his son Blake Dunham, the team's long snapper. Dunham, who also appears as a host on KTCK 1310 The Ticket, has been able to call every moment of his son's college playing career, as well as travel with him to and from the games.

The team's regular season finale will be the following week, on the road at U-T San Antonio.

CHICAGO: The recent ratings increases for WSCR 670 The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000 appear to have caused WGWG 87.7 The Game to reconsider. After finishing in 38th place overall in the most recent ratings with a dismal .5 rating, the station will be gone as a sports talker before the end of the year. The "Kap & Haugh Show" with David Kaplan and David Haugh is, however, expected to continue as a TV only midday show, airing from 9 AM to Noon on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Congrats to David Schuster of WSCR The Score on being named the "Harry Caray Sportscaster of the Year" for 2014. His 36 years of covering sports in Chicago no doubt contributed to this honor. I first knew and worked with him in the early 80's in Chicago, and could tell even then that he held the knowledge, expertise, and patience to cover the day-in day-out practices, press conferences, and games.

CINCINNATI: The strong season for the Bengals has propelled their radio contract to another extension through the 2019-20 season as a "triple cast". WCKY ESPN 1530 and WEBN 102.7 will continue as flagship stations, with WLW 700 also airing every Bengals broadcast which does not conflict with its Cincinnati Reds coverage.

The stations also announced that Dan Hoard will return as play-by-play voice, with 2015 being his fifth season in that role. Even more significant is that Dave Lapham will be back as analyst, with the '15 season making it 30 years for him in that role. The team related programming and coverage will continue on WCKY as well.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A "Silver" Lining For The Print Media

The publishing of a commentary by a pro sports commissioner is always huge media news regardless of the content. In this case, the opinion piece written by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also happens to take a unique stance regarding the future of sports betting in the U.S.

Whether you agree or disagree with Silver's stance on betting, there is a lot to be said about his doing this at this time, especially from a sports media standpoint. Silver's thoughts did not come from a press conference or a scheduled media interview. Instead, they showed up unannounced in the New York Times on Thursday (11/13).

This is a nice boost for print media. By doing this, Silver was not mis-quoted and not taken out of context. He had the time to put his thoughts into the exact words he chose, as well as to reach a wide general audience. Had Silver made these comments on a TV or radio show, especially a sports show, there could have been a much different spin placed on this.

It is interesting that Silver did not use any of the media outlets which are league partners to make these important thoughts known. I'm sure that executives at ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports are especially miffed that they were not "chosen" to be the first to air a commissioner talking about the need to regulate sports betting. But it is quite understandable.

This matter is really not strictly a sports issue even though the ramifications could highly impact the sports community. Cheers to Silver for being the first in his position to tackle this head on, and do so in the best manner possible.

Meanwhile, Sports Business Journal reports that the media rights dispute between MASN and Major League Baseball will still be heard by the New York Supreme Court, although the proceedings have been delayed from next month (12/15) until March. The report indicates that the Orioles are looking to explore the role that MLB Commissioner-Elect Rob Manfred may have played in the dispute.

Over at ESPN, it's college basketball mania as the regular season gets underway this weekend, even to the point of ESPN not doing a Friday night NBA telecast this week.

ESPN still won't get rid of Bobby Knight from its roster of analysts, however. Then again, if they didn't fire him after he uttered a profanity on the air and never apologized (among his other antics), I suppose they aren't looking to. At least the network has downgraded his assignments to "third man", working behind Len Elmore while Mike Patrick does play-by-play. This team will only be seen on select American Athletic Conference telecasts which will appear on ESPN2 or ESPN3.

On the MLB side, ESPN has announced that its 2015 MLB season opener will take place, weather permitting, from Chicago on Sunday April 5, 2015. With the World Champion Giants opening on the road for the first week (thus no ring ceremony on opening night), the network has selected the St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field as its opener. This rivalry game will feature the debut of Joe Maddon as Cubs manager.

Over at NBC, the Saturday telecast of Notre Dame Football will have one slight change that could be an indication of things to come starting next year. Doug Flutie, who has been getting increased exposure within the NBC and Comcast SportsNet family of late (such as analyst appearances specific to CSN Chicago), appears destined to be moved up to the primary analyst role on the N.D. telecasts.

The Nov. 15 telecast against Northwestern will have Flutie in the booth with Dan Hicks, while Mike Mayock is, literally, sent to the sidelines for this one. Unless Flutie fumbles, this looks to be his opportunity to become much more of a presence with NBC.

At CBS, the network has chosen its next two weeks of SEC game telecasts. Ole Miss vs. Arkansas airs on the network on Nov. 22, while the rivalry game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State airs on the 29th.

NEW YORK: The Mets radio team of Josh Lewin and Howie Rose will remain in place for at least the 2015 as the team's broadcasts begin their second season on WOR.

CHICAGO: Even as ESPN is ready for the Cubs by moving their opening game to Sunday Night April 5th, the Cubs still (as of press time) do not have an over-the-air TV deal in place for the coming season. The announcement that the team was parting ways with WGN-TV after 60 years could even be taken back within the month. It appears that the two local Fox TV stations (the heavily rumored destination for weeks) have backed off, as has Weigel Broadcasting which owns local independent stations. With nowhere else to turn, the Cubs might have to settle for a revenue share deal and have even fewer games televised over WGN-TV.

AKRON/CANTON: Sam Bourquin will be starting as afternoon drive host, and Sports Director) of WHBC-AM Canton starting next week (11/17) from 2 to 5 PM. In addition to local play-by-play, Berquin handes the Public Address for the NFL Hall of Fame Game each August in Canton.

Finally, for those who haven't seen it, here is the link (which was still valid at press time) to the Adam Silver piece in the New York Times:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rockets Fans To 'Root' For New Launch

Finally some good news coming for Houston sports fans, as the path seems to have been cleared for Root Sports to begin a new regional sports channel to include the Rockets and likely the Astros telecasts.

Although this story was still breaking at press time, reports on the afternoon of 11/6 indicate that Comcast is more concerned with recovering money invested than preventing another provider from handling the telecasts.

This looks to be excellent news for Rockets fans, considering the team's undefeated start in the new NBA season and likely solid ratings as soon as fans can see the majority of the games. This could be another story for Astros fans, as revenue from Root Sports will likely be much less than promised from the now defunct Comcast SportsNet package, while millions of dollars in revenue could be in dispute for months to come.

LOUISVILLE: A sad day last week when the "Joe B. and Denny Show" radio show signed off for the final time after a run of more than ten years. Joe B. is Joe B. Hall, former coach of the University of Kentucky Wildcats and Denny is Denny Crum, former coach of the University of Louisville. During their respective prime years, the rival schools wouldn't even think of playing each other and fans of both teams were passionate against the other team. Yet, in later years the two became good friends and it came across on the air as well.

To the show's credit, they treated that final broadcast last Thursday as a special event. Hall, in the Lexington studios of affiliate WVLK-FM, had former players Kenny Walker and Kyle Macy with him. In the Louisville studios of WKRD-AM, Crum had Darrell Griffith and Jerry Eaves with him.

The final show aired on the 18 station network the show had throughout Kentucky.

Not only will these two legends be missed by listeners, but the concept of former rival coaches analyzing and interviewing former players remains something that a lot of sports radio stations could and should be using.

CLEVELAND: The latest "decision" by LeBron James to return to Cleveland is already paying off in terms of ratings, and not just in the Cleveland/Akron area. The Cavaliers' opening telecast on TNT finished with 50% more viewers than its second night of NBA games last season. Even more significant is that the national rating was more than 110% higher than the "average" TNT audience for regular season games last year.

Locally, the same effect exists, which is a lot less surprising. Even with somewhat better expectations for the Knicks (the opponent for that telecast), the Cleveland/Akron market had a rating more than three times higher than the New York City market.

DALLAS: CBS Radio, which earlier this year added the Chicago Cubs broadcasts (starting next season) to its local sports portfolio, has now added the Rangers play-by-play for KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan, beginning a multi-year deal in the spring. The Rangers had been airing on KESN 103.3 ESPN since the start of the 2011 season, following a 15 year run on KRLD-AM prior to that.

Since KRLD-FM is also the Cowboys flagship, conflicts will result in the Rangers airing on KRLD-AM. Eric Nadel and Matt Hicks remain as the play-by-play team. The station is also expected to announce more Rangers specific programming to be added to its schedule.

St. LOUIS: Not that anyone doubted the Cardinals for even one second for having moved their games back to KMOX a couple of years back, but there is even more proof now that the move was the best one for all concerned. The former KFNS 590, which aired the Cardinals (which owned part of the station at one point) for the non-KMOX seasons, has gone completely off the air with the station owners more than one-half million dollars in debt.

St. AUGUSTINE FL: It is rare to find a small market taking such an outrageous approach to a local sports show, but 96.5 FM is doing just that. Long time broadcaster Dino Costa returns to the market and begins a 2 PM to 5 PM weekday show with Pat Paolini as co-host. Paolini owns a local sports bar, but is also known for a one-hour show he has done on the station for nearly three years.

The pair are calling the show "The Sports Radio Mafia", and plan to discuss national sports from a local perspective. If that title sticks, it shows how far along the media has come over the years. Can't help but recall how the demise of then prominent CBS-TV sportscaster Jack Whitaker began after he referred to the crowd at one of the holes during a CBS telecast of The Masters as "a mob". Now, these hosts and the station will be mentioning "Mafia" on a regular basis.

Then again, in some markets, it is rare to find ANY approach for local sports radio programming.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Blame MLB For Lower World Series Ratings

Even though MLB had a very exciting post-season and a seven game World Series, the executives need to look in the mirror even moreso than to Fox Sports, to examine why the viewership was so (comparably) low for Game 7 and those before it. Specifically, MLB needs to quickly re-evaluate its having allowed its TV partners place the majority of the post-season on cable instead of over-the-air.
The "small market" argument no longer holds in pro sports TV ratings. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are among those NBA teams which draw respectable NBA national telecast ratings. The Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints drew millions of people to their prime-time game last week on Sunday Night Football.

Why didn't the Kansas City Royals do the same? While I will grant you that part of the reason is that the Royals lack a big name superstar (i.e. George Brett from the 80's), it is really because millions of casual baseball fans (who make the difference between lackluster ratings and strong ones) had little to no chance to get familiar with them.

As of this (just concluded) season, the national networks began MLB contracts at higher revenue, but with significantly fewer regular season telecasts, especially over-the-air.

TBS reduced its regular season workload by 50%. By the time it started showing games, at staggered times on Sundays, fans had already forgotten to even look for a game telecast, as well as NFL telecasts competing for the final month. Fox will tell us that it aired more MLB games than ever, and they did. However, their reduction of Saturday telecasts on "over-the-air" Fox Sports killed any momentum it might have built. As is obvious by the ratings, not many fans (in comparison) knew to seek out Saturday telecasts on Fox Sports 1 if they even knew about them at all.

Even if you include the regular package of games on ESPN, I do not recall the Royals being on any full national telecasts all season. Then, you factor in that NONE of the Royals' post-season games were "over-the-air" until the World Series, and this tells you why the audience MLB hoped for did not come around.

Of course, MLB is going to take the money and stop. It is no different than the NFL and NBA deals in that respect. However, the NFL keeps all regular season and post-season games over-the-air, and its network partners show games every week at every opportunity. If the Green Bay Packers did not appear on over-the-air national TV at all until the Super Bowl, would they still attract the same audience?

Your answer came from the Kansas City Royals, participants in one of the lower rated Game 7 telecasts in history.

Sure, Fox and TBS could have and should have shown their previous steady diet of regular season games. But how does MLB allow them to reduce the exposure its teams received?

And don't think that Fox Sports itself didn't suffer from not enough telecasts. Heads should be rolling after the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 when Fox blew the coverage. With only one more out to go, Alex Gordon of the Royals hit a ball in the gap and was flying around the bases representing the tying run in the final inning of the deciding game of the season.

What did Fox do? It stayed with the ball in the outfield, and failed to show Gordon until he was already slowing up while heading into third base. After the game, all the media could do was to speculate about whether or not Gordon could have made it all the way home and tied the game. Say what?

Personally, I have never produced or directed a telecast. But I have watched enough, as well as participating in other aspects of pro and college telecasts to know what SHOULD have happened.

All Fox needed to do was switch back and forth between Gordon flying around the bases and the ball going to the wall and being kicked around. Instead, they did a poor job of showing what could have been one of the most important plays in baseball history.

Now we have five months before the 2015 MLB regular season begins, and a new commissioner scheduled to take over before it does. How about making sure that fans get to see all of the contending teams "over-the-air" ahead of the World Series?

Meanwhile, the radio ratings continue to prove the point that the teams and sports content makes sports stations instead of the talent. The just released ratings for mid-September into mid-October, which includes the baseball pennant chases and the NFL season in full swing, left its mark in the usual important markets.

In New York, having the Yankees broadcasts helped WFAN rise to #6 overall with a full ratings point increase in just one month. It is important to note that the increase did not come from WEPN-FM, as the ESPN flagship saw its ratings increase by .5 overall during the same month.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 again finished #1 overall, since it is a sports station and the flagship for the (now) World Champion Giants. During this period, it went from a 5.7 to a 6.6 rating while staying on top. In fact, the station also rose from a 4.7 to a 5.6 in the San Jose rating book, which is considered a separate market by Nielsen.

Chicago sports radio stations all increased during the month, with WSCR The Scorer 670 and WVMP ESPN 1000 each increasing by .3. Even WGWG-FM The Game rose from a .4 to a .5, marking the first time that three sports stations in Chicago have all increased their rating during the same book.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles broadcasts helped WIP-FM, which rose to #5 overall, going from a 3.7 to a 5.3. Yet, WPEN-FM also rose .6 of a ratings point during the same time.

Sports radio continues to be at its strongest in Boston, especially with the Patriots and Bruins underway and expected to contend. WBZ-FM Sports Hub (Patriots flagship) rose to #7 overall with a ratings increase of 1.1 in just one month. Yet, rival WEEI-FM finished #9 overall and showed a 1.0 ratings point increase, despite the Red Sox finishing in last place.

You continue to see the impact a strong local team has on sports radio in several other top markets. Dallas' KRLD-FM went from a 1.8 to a 2.5 in one month while the Cowboys started off hot. Detroit's WXYT-FM The Ticket not only finished #1 overall again, but rose from a 7.4 rating to 8.3 with the Tigers in the post-season and the Lions off to a solid start. Baltimore's WJZ-FM rose to #6 overall, with an impressive rise from 3.6 to 5.1. And if you don't think the local team makes a difference, consider that WBAL, the Orioles flagship, went from a 4.2 two months earlier to a 5.7 this time as the Orioles entered the post-season.

Other examples include Seattle's KIRO-FM rising .5 in the ratings to #3 overall with its Seahawks coverage, and Pittsburgh's KDKA-FM The Fan moving up to #4 overall with a .7 ratings rise.
Folks, it doesn't always matter who co-hosts from Noon to 3 PM on these stations.

On the NFL side, it will be interesting to see how the NFL handles scheduling games from London next season. The Detroit vs. Atlanta game last Sunday (10/26) drew ratings much higher for Fox than the pre-game shows combined, and would seem to indicate that the league will look to add more early starts in the future.

Its choice of having the early start on this date is a very curious one. With fans around the country having the opportunity to have already watched three complete NFL games prior to NBC's Sunday Night Football, it is really no surprise that SNF drew its lowest ratings of the season thus far.
By choosing Oct. 26th, the NFL has its alabi. The SNF telecast went up against Game 5 of the World Series on Fox. Therefore, the NFL can point to the World Series as having taken away from its audience for the one night, and not alarming anyone about football burnout from four complete live telecasts in one day.

I'm thinking that the NFL will only add "early" international telecasts on days such as the Sunday during the World Series so it can have an excuse for a decline for the fourth game.

CBS Sports has announced its SEC doubleheader for November 8th, with Auburn vs. Texas A & M for its afternoon tilt at 3:30 ET. The prime time telecast will feature the huge rivalry of Albabama at LSU. No surprise with either choice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If Turner Dishes It Out, How Are Sports Fans Going To Take It ?

Here we go again with the rising costs of sports programming having an impact on how much more consumers are being expected to pay. As of press time (10/21), Dish Network is no longer providing Turner Broadcasting channels to its subscribers. Let the mud slinging begin.

Subscribers lose out on TNT, TBS, as well as CNN, HLN, Turner Classic Movies, and a couple of other channels in the family. You can't tell me it is a coincidence that this happens one week before the start of the NBA regular season (with TNT again having a national package of weeknight telecasts). Especially since TNT just nearly tripled its rights fees to renew its NBA rights earlier this month. Already, efforts are underway to raise the price so that TNT can attempt a return on its investment. An investment no one forced them to make.

If you are not a Dish TV subscriber, do not think for one minute that this does not have an impact on you. Perhaps it won't over the next few weeks, but for sports fans around the country this is another story which bears watching.

Turner Broadcasting is a division of Time Warner Inc., which also owns the L.A. Dodgers channel which is currently distributed in less than one-third of available cable/satellite homes in Southern California after a nearly $2 billion dollar deal commited to by TWC. Now, we have a percentage of national subscribers to Dish Network who, for very much the same reason, could be shut out of NBA telecasts for the regular season as well as potentially playoff games if nothing is resolved by April.
While this is going on, the possibility still exists of a merger between Comcast/NBC and Time Warner Cable. he potential transaction still has not been turned down. If it manages to be approved, consumers would be faced with the vast majority of cable systems, internet providers, and sports rights being owned/controlled by the game giant entity. Along with a lot of the media which "reports" and covers the very same sports teams and leagues.

Meanwhile, as we write this hours before the 2014 World Series gets underway, it's interesting to note that San Francisco area radio listeners have a choice of radio broadcasts, since ESPN's national broadcast is not blacked out in either local team market. With the likes of Jon Miller and a high caliber broadcast team, it's highly unlikely that Bay Area radio listeners would go anywhere other than KNBR 680's game broadcasts. But it's interesting to note that the ESPN broadcast will be carried on KGMZ 95.7 The Game.

Ironically, KGMZ is also sports radio and averages only about 20% to 25% of KNBR's total audience. In addition, the station serves as the Oakland A's flagship station, with the A's having blown a big division lead and then losing out in their one post-season game this year.

On the football side, several radio stations which carry the Bob & Tom syndicated morning shows are being provided with specific songs geared toward the local pro or college football team in an interesting marketing strategy. Duke Tumatoe and the Bob & Tom Band are producing the songs from their Indianapolis studios. Cincinnati's WOFX Fox 92.5 was the first station to receive one, with a song specific to the Bengals. Their stations in New Orleans, Detroit, and Buffalo, and Green Bay are among those which will be airing custom pro team songs, while stations in Oklahoma and Nebraska will be provided with songs to promote their major college teams. Most of the stations which air the show are not sports stations and/or do not air the broadcasts for the teams being featured within the songs.

It's not exactly a draft, but CBS and Fox have been working to select specific NFL telecasts to "protect" from flex scheduling to NBC or another network during the final six weeks of the regular season. NBC has the right to select from certain games for its Sunday Night Football schedule, with the current contracts allowing for Fox and CBS to protect up to one telecast per week from Week 11 through Week 17 of the season.

Among the games Fox is holding onto are Philadelphia vs. Green Bay (week 11), New Orelans at Pittsburgh (week 13), Seattle at Philadelphia (week 14), San Francisco at Seattle (week 15), and, for some unknown reason, Detroit at Chicago for week 16. I'll take a stab at a possible reason for Fox to hang onto Detroit at Chicago late in the season. It is likely because Fox loses the Chicago at Detroit telecast to CBS on Thanksgiving Day (when CBS was flexed a telecast on an "all NFC" day), and wants to be sure it will serve both Top 5 markets with a local telecast. However, as of now, it doesn't appear that by Week 16 either team will be a major post-season threat.

CBS, on the other hand, includes Miami at Denver (week 13), New England at Green Bay (week 15), and Indy at Dallas (week 16) on its list. We certainly understand New England at Green Bay on this list. Even if the Patriots are out of the picture, a Brady vs. Rogers matchup is top-notch no matter what.

On the college side, ABC is certainly pleased that the Notre Dame vs. Florida State matchup last Saturday (10/18) was at Florida State. Because of that, ABC was able to televise the game, and scored the highest rating of the season (thus far) for a college telecast. The Chicago market, with a strong Notre Dame base, scored a 10.4 local average rating for the telecast.

CHICAGO: WLS-TV channel 7 named Dionne Miller as its new weekend sports anchor, which gives her the distinction of being that station's first female sports anchor. Miller had been with WFLD-TV in Chicago as a weekend sports anchor since 2012 and had worked at Big Ten Network prior to that.

CLEVELAND: The impact of LeBron James continues. In addition to the AM-FM simulcast discussed here last week, the Cavaliers games will also be broadcast in Spanish. WLFM 87.7 will air all home and road games, and has brought in Rafael Hernandez Brito to call the games. Brito had called the Brooklyn Nets games in Spanish during the two previous seasons. This makes the Cavs the sixth NBA team to air at least some of its schedule in Spanish, and the first in a state other than Texas or Florida. The others are Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, and Orlando.

CANTON OH: WHBC 1480 has added Cleveland radio veteran Kenny Roda to its lineup, with Roda hosting 3 to 7 PM weekdays starting on Monday (10/27). This moves Sam Bourquin to the morning show, along with Gary Rivers and Pam Cook. In addition to the stronger Cleveland flavor by adding Roda (who was with WKNR from 1992 into last year), the station also airs the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians broadcasts. The station also continutes its local flavor with numerous high school game broadcasts, some of which are called by Bourquin.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NBA Advertising To Become "Uniform"

At what point will sports telecasts become too saturated with advertising content that they will become unwatchable? That "point" is getting closer to reality with help from the new multi-billion dollar deal for NBA rights from ESPN and Turner Sports. And it probably won't stop there.

Those fans who send me comments on this column thought I was nuts a couple of years ago when I began to comment about how it probably won't be long before the player uniforms contain advertising messages, and how NASCAR drivers were only the beginning.  Look again.

Among the small print in the new NBA rights deal is the ability for Turner Sports to sell advertising on NBA All-Star Game jerseys for 2017. (The new deal doesn't kick in until the 2016-17 season.)  It could get even worse.

John Ourand of Sports Media Journal has reported that negotiations are underway for ESPN and Turner Sports to receive money from any "jersey sponsorship plans" which the NBA sells to regional and national sponsors, and that the networks feel entitled to a percentage because said sponsors would be seen on ESPN and/or Turner Sports telecasts.

It is bad enough that we rarely see a camera shot without advertising somewhere during a MLB, NBA, or NHL telecast, including on the field, court, and ice. Once the players become walking, running, or skating billboards as well, it will make many telecasts hard to deal with.

It is interesting that CBS is actually looking at the rising consumer costs for cable/satellite service. The announcement (on 10/16) of the "CBS All Access" service to consumers, which allows programming to be seen without cable/satellite service for a monthly fee is sure to have ramifications on the industry.

Don't be surprised if and when other TV networks quickly come on board and also offer this service, and at a cost similar to the $5.99 monthly fee CBS plans to start out with. It is important to note that while the CBS plan is extensive, including first-run shows as well as entire show inventories on-demand, the announcement specifically states that CBS NFL coverage is NOT included.

I'm here to tell you that NFL and sports programming will be impacted big time from this. Here is why. Over the next few weeks, I fully expected NBC, ABC, and Fox to unveil similar services within the same price range. Thus, once all four networks have their full line of programming available, without cable/satellite being needed, it means that millions of "non sports" fans would have access to the four major broadcast networks' programming for around $25 per month, and can cut the cord with cable/satellite services. Their savings will be upwards of $100 to $150 per month in many cases.

Once literally millions of consumers do this, it leaves only the sports fans who can still afford it who would choose to pay these ever increasing monthly fees for cable/satellite in order to follow their favorite teams and games.

Meanwhile, we get ready for NFL Week 8 (10/26)which includes the Detroit vs. Atlanta game from London with a 9:30 AM ET start time. Fans have been wondering whether or not there will be four live NFL games available for that day, but the answer appears to be the regular three games. Word is that Fox plans to air its Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show at 9 AM ET for those markets getting the Falcons vs. Lions game only. Those markets will then receive either a 1:00 OR 4:25 PM ET telecast instead of both. (NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast rounds out the day as usual.)

In order to better sort out the "regular time" telecasts for October 26th, the NFL has moved Seattle at Carolina to CBS and the Houston at Tennesse telecast over to Fox.

Fox Sports Radio will not even be living up to that name much longer. The network plans to begin a new weekday lineup on November 3rd, which, by the way, includes about ten hours (that is HOURS, not minutes) of its day with programming not specific to sports. I especially love the release showing that hosts Rich Eisen and Jay Mohr's podcasts are now "ranked in the Comedy section of ITunes" as well as in the Sports category. After all, Fox is making it easy to associate its sports venues with laughter.

CLEVELAND: The "new" Cavaliers with LeBron James have increased interest to the point where the team's radio broadcasts will all be simulcast starting opening night. Both WTAM 1100 and sister station WMMS 100.7 will air all of the games, making the Cavs only the fifth team in the NBA to do so. (If you are wondering, the other four markets are Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Portland, and, ironically, Miami.) John Michael and Jim Chones continue on the call.

PHILADELPHIA: Sorry to learn of the passing of Bill Campbell, who at various points in his career did play-by-play for three of the major local teams (Phillies, Eagles, and Sixers). Campbell, who spent many years as Sports Director of WCAU (both radio and TV at separate times) passed away at the age of 91.

HOUSTON: Sean Salisbury has certainly found a home on Houston sports radio. In fact, he may not be able to leave "home" very often anymore. In addition to his afternoon show with John Granato (for Yahoo Sports Radio) which airs on low rated KGOW 1560 from 3 to 7 PM, Salisbury will also co-host from Noon to 2 PM on KFNC 97.5 on weekdays. He will pair with Dave Tepper during that time, replacing Jerome Solomon who left the station recently to devote more time to his Houston Chronicle duties.

DALLAS: The TV ratings for the Metroplex last Saturday (10/11) show that Notre Dame football doesn't hold up against the area's favorite teams. The Baylor vs. TCU telecast at the same time drew literally more than 12 times the audience as the Notre Dame 50-43 win over North Carolina. The Mississippi State vs. Auburn telecast, also head-to-head, drew more than three times the audience as N.D. and that game was decided by a 15-point margin.

WACO: Ed Sorensen started this week (10/13) as sports anchor on KWTX-TV. Sorensen previously spent 18 years as Sports Director of WRTV-TV Indianapolis.

TOLEDO: You might say that Norm Warner has gone from "The Front Row" to the Uecker seats. Warner, host of "The Front Row" on WLQR 106.5 The Ticket, is no longer with the station. Warner is also out as Program Director of WQLR-AM, a talk station. No replacement named as of press time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Slam Dunk: Look Out Cable Costs

It's the high cost of renewal for both ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports with the extension of their respective NBA contracts, which keeps the league on the same national networks for the next 10 years. One can certainly understand an increase in the new rights fees, but the fact that the rights fees will amount to nearly triple what they have been is disturbing to many, especially consumers.

These networks will need to do something to help offset what will be a combined amount of more than $2.5 billion (that's billion) dollars they will pay the NBA per season, and it's most likely going to raise the monthly cable/satellite costs for consumers again and again, whether sports fans or not.

While it is understandable that ESPN/ABC and Turner Sports would want to retain and expand upon these rights, and keep Comcast/NBC and Fox Sports out of the picture, the fact that their combined annual costs will nearly triple from the current contract is cause for concern.

Meanwhile, ESPNU will have a curious live show coming up this Friday (10/10) at 3 PM ET. The network plans a live telecast from the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, KY with "coverage" of the University of Kentucky's two hour basketball practice. This is not just "any" practice, as it is intended for scouts and personnel of NBA teams in somewhat of a draft combine.

On one hand, this is a nice service (of sorts) for U. of Kentucky fans, as well as for school rivals, to be able to get a true sneak peak at the players for the coming season. Considering how much of the programming on these numerous sports networks is wasted time, the idea of live and fresh content from a major college hoops team has some appeal.

However, from here this looks to be under the media radar as what is really a blatant self-promotion for ESPN. Think about it. (I'll be interested in your feedback on this either way.) ESPN has just renewed and solidified its agreement with the NBA for years to come, and this is a form of "futures" coverage. But we have to ask, "Why Kentucky?". They won't say, but I will. Kentucky basketball is a big draw around the region and much of the country. ESPN is only a few weeks away from saturating us with college hoops telecasts at all hours of the day and night on all of its networks (which is good thing).

Keep in mind that Kentucky plays in the SEC, and the new Southeast Conference Network just happens to be owned by (you guessed it) ESPN. If you think this is a coincidence, please provide me with a count of the number of promos which will air about the new SEC Network during this telecast.

I'll grant you that I have not been kind to Fox Sports and especially Fox Sports 1 in its attempt to gain any sort of audience respectability during its first full year of existence. Sorry, but the first week of the MLB post-season did nothing to change my feeling on this. I still can't believe that, even with the millions in rights fees, MLB is allowing Fox Sports to dump its NLDS series on Fox Sports 1 instead of on the real Fox Network. With the way the NFL is dominating in TV ratings, you would think that MLB would want the maximum exposure for its post-season product, especially with the L.A. and San Francisco markets showing heavy interest.

Last Friday night (10/3), I had two relatives call me to ask when and where the National League games were on. One of them had to literally scroll through the tens of cable channels in search of FS1, which he didn't even know he had. As it so happened, I was in different restaurants both Friday and Saturday during the N.L. games, which always have the "biggest" game on their TV's. Neither had the FS1 telecasts on, although one put the game on a couple of its TV's when I asked a manager to do so, and he had to hunt to find the channel.

What were decent ratings could have, and should have, been a ton stronger had Fox Network shown the games like they have in the past. Frankly, if they feel these games are only worth being buried on FS1, they should have bailed on bidding for them.

But it got even worse later Saturday night when the Giants and Nationals went 18 innings. During the last few innings of the FS1 telecast, the bottom scroll kept making a big deal about some boxing match being moved to FS2. Worse yet, the scroll stopped showing ANY other scores or sports headlines.

As a result, fans who tuned in from roughly the 12th inning on couldn't even see any facts about the Cardinals-Dodgers game from earlier that night, or from any of the many college football games played all day long. This from Fox which televises MLB and college football games on its networks.

When the game ended shortly after 1 AM ET, the game telecast ended as Fox went back to its studio for what looked to be their post-game show. What is seemingly a cast of thousands was still in the studio at that hour. Yet, about two minutes into that show, and before a couple of the studio analysts were even called upon to speak, the telecast suddenly cut away to the start of some boxing match or something. No sign-off from the MLB post-game, no warning. They just cut to the a live feed from the ring, and the announcers welcomed the viewers who had just watched the marathon baseball game.

Thus, after a couple hours without any scoreboard updates on the bottom scroll, their live post-game show gets cut off without warning.

If Fox Sports 1 doesn't care about the most important events it has ever carried, we should be relieved that Fox Sports will continue to not be a part of NBA coverage for years to come. We can only hope that they will provide us with professional coverage for those MLB post-season games they still plan to hide away on FS1.

NEW YORK: WEPN 98.7 ESPN has brought Mike Lupica for an early afternoon show now airing weekdays from 1:00 until 3:00. As a result, Ryan Ruocco, who co-hosts with Dave Rothenberg on the show which leads in to Lupica, now returns to the studio to contribute on The Michael Kay Show which airs from 3:00 until 7:00 PM or the pre-game show for the station's Knicks and Rangers east coast broadcasts .