Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why NFL Ratings Were Down This Season

Although the seriousness of the impact of football players winding up with CTE and other physical and mental problems in later years is not to be overlooked, the media needs to make this an issue in places other than TV ratings discussions.

There are other reasons why NFL regular season ratings dropped for the year, while NBA and MLB ratings are on the upswing.

It was interesting to see the ratings concerns being reflected by the networks during the final month of the regular season, especially by NBC. Despite being a consistent winner of the overall ratings on Sunday nights with Sunday Night Football, NBC was clearly well aware of the importance.

Their decision to keep Dallas vs. Oakland instead of flexing for a more important (and available) game because of the national strength of those two teams regardless of their record was one example.

Even more significant was the decision not to bother with a Sunday night game during the final week of the season.

The excuse of the possibility of the game they select being meaningless by the time it happens would have carried some weight if this was the first year of Sunday Night Football. It's not like that situation only existed for this season. This time around it was a convenient excuse. It was New Year's Eve, and TV ratings traditionally are low on that night, even for sports telecasts. The real reason to blow off a telecast that night was so that lower ratings would not pull down the season average and potentially lower advertising revenue for the 2018 season telecasts.

As for the regular season ratings being down across all networks, the real reason appears to be the bigger TV markets and their level of interest specific to this season.

Both New York City teams had poor seasons, which takes away many "casual" fans who watch more when their team is in contention. Usually at least one of their teams does better. Same story in Chicago, San Francisco, and Detroit, where it was a long season in those three large markets as well.

Speaking of large markets, there is Los Angeles, in its first year (in more than 25 years) with two teams which couldn't fill their seats for home games. There were instances where "out of town" NFL telecasts had higher ratings in Los Angeles than a telecast of the local team at the same time. There were a couple of Sunday where because of Rams or Chargers telecasts the market was deprived of a much better regional or national telecast.

We have Houston and several Texas TV markets that had the disaster of Harvey hit at the start of the season, combined with a less than expected season for the Texans.

Keep in mind that we just named six of the top ten TV markets in the country, all with understandable reasons to bring fewer eyeballs to the TV ratings.

Same story in Florida markets, where Irma forced postponement of the Dolphins and Buccaneers openers before the Dolphins had another poor season. Add in St. Louis, where fans are fed up with the NFL following the loss of the Rams, even to the point where some of the Rams games, during a successful season, were not aired.

Neither Washington, Baltimore, or the national draw Green Bay made the playoffs. Cleveland's team failed to win a game. Those are all large TV markets, with fewer fans interested in watching meaningless games for their teams.

There is one more factor which is overlooked. Consider the increase in live streaming, now that Verizon and Amazon showed large audiences watching the telecasts without using their TV's. And, of course, the millions of cord-cutters who either no longer watch or watch "out of home" every week.

Too early to tell, but if the 2018 season brings improvement from at least some of the big market teams, a stronger prime time schedule of games, and, hopefully, no major disasters, we'll see a nice rebound in the NFL ratings.

One thing will see is a new analyst for Monday Night Football to replace Jon Gruden. The first opportunity is being given to Matt Hasselbeck, who will do so for ESPN's telecast of the Pro Bowl in two weeks. At the very least, it gives some fans a reason to actually watch the Pro Bowl telecast.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dick Enberg Will Be Missed

It's a sad day in sports media with the passing of Dick Enberg at the age of 82. The younger sports fans only knew him from his 10 years of calling Padres baseball which ended with his official retirement following the 2016 season.

For those of us that have been sports fans for many years, this marks the end of an era. Enberg was among the first of the network sportscasters to regularly call multiple sports at the highest level, paving the way for the likes of Joe Buck and Al Michaels.

Enberg called 10 Super Bowls, 8 of the NCAA Tournament Final Four and championship games, many Rose Bowl telecasts, and 28 Wimbledon tournaments at the network level. When UCLA's incredible 88 game winning streak ended, it was Enberg calling it on national TV.

He was the primary voice of the NFL in the days when NBC had the AFC telecasts, including calling games with ageless George Blanda leading the Oakland Raiders week after week and with Merlin Olsen as his analyst.

And that wasn't all. Los Angeles fans also had the benefit of him calling Angels baseball on radio for many years, as well as UCLA basketball during some of the Johnny Wooden years.

Personally, I was fortunate enough to be working in Los Angeles during the mid-80's when Enberg returned to the Angels radio booth for about half of the home broadcasts. He called every home game his schedule would allow. It was then that I got to experience how good he was at calling baseball on radio.

Maybe his best contribution on the air is how he would sound amazed at what was taking place on the field or court, doing so in such a way as to not dominate what was happening. Somehow he made sure that you remembered the play or the result but not his call.

Sorry to lose him.

After ending Mike & Mike, the personnel changes, and losing so many subscribers over the past year, it turns out that ESPN will have a new president by the end of the first quarter of 2018. John Skipper resigned earlier this week, although not for the reasons you would think.
Skipper's immediate resignation was due to "substance addiction". Former ESPN President George Bodenheimer has returned in an interim role until the replacement is named.

In a separate move that may wind up in the "missed opportunity" file, CBS Sports Radio (as it continues to be known with Entercom running the network) has announced its new morning show to begin on January 2nd. They are not missing a morning show, but with many listeners searching for a "new" sports morning show after the end of Mike & Mike on ESPN, all they came up with having a former wrestler as a co-host.

Their 6 AM to 9 AM weekday spot will be "Taz & The Moose". Taz is Pete Senerchia, former world heavyweight wrestling champion and Moose is Marc "The Moose" Malusis.

It's a show which debuts at the start of the NFL post-season, while the first quarter includes the NCAA Tournament which CBS televises in March. The NBA and NHL are in full swing, as well as college hoops. Yet, CBS Sports Radio puts two hosts together who do not clearly represent any of those sports.

NBC Sports will grow its app even further next fall, as the network has secured streaming rights for its Sunday Night Football telecasts starting next season. This is a separate deal from the phone carrier which has and retains and exclusive NFL streaming deal.

Those of us that thought that bringing two NFL teams to Los Angeles would do more harm than good as a TV market are seeing the proof. The fans prefer to see the best matchups over the air and not necessarily the local teams.

This past weekend, the Rams had a huge game against Seattle (which they won big), but the Los Angeles marketing rating was a 7.2. The night before, the Chargers telecast vs. Kansas City with AFC West implications drew a Los Angeles rating of (get this) 3.0. Again, those were the local team ratings.

By comparison, St. Louis fans remain (understandably) furious about losing the Rams and don't watch. This coming Sunday (12/14) will be the second consecutive Sunday that the Rams will again not even be shown in St. Louis. Consider this. The Dec. 10th game between the Rams and Eagles was the most recent one shown in St. Louis. The local telecast rating for that game was 11.3. Yet, as local teams, the L.A. combined rating last weekend was 10.2.

This Sunday, L.A. has the Rams on Fox and Chargers on CBS up against each other as early telecasts. The fans are probably glad about that since the market will receive the Fox doubleheader game with Seattle against Dallas.

PHILADELPHIA: With WIP-FM being the most recent top rated radio station overall, 97.5 The Fanatic will gain more visibility, literally, prior to the start of the next baseball season. NBC Sports Philly (formerly CSN Philadelphia) has agreed to simulcast the first three hours (2 PM to 5 PM) of Mike Missanelli's afternoon show. NBC Sports Philly will continue with "Philly Sports Talk" at 5 PM.

Although this continues the trend of regional sports networks picking up local radio shows, this does provide live and local content, making more sense than same day replays of (in this instance) The Dan Patrick Show, often with already outdated segments.

WASHINGTON D. C.:  Saying it is her decision only, Carol Maloney is leaving her role as sports anchor and host of Redskins programming on WRC-TV after six years. This Sunday (12/24) is expected to be her final time hosting "Redskins Showtime" even though the team plays the following weekend. Maloney's contract expires, and reports are that the two sides could not agree on an extension. No replacement named as of press time.

RICHMOND: WXGI ESPN 950/102.7 has added 99.5 FM to it simulcast for additional regional coverage. The stations will continue to air Washington Redskins football, University of Richmond football and basketball, and non-conflicting Westwood one play-by-play including its NFL package.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Spelling FAN Without Francesa

This past Friday (12/15) marked the end of an era with Mike Francesa doing his final show on WFAN.

Obviously, there are those that enjoyed him and those that criticized, which is typical of any media personality beyond the sports hosts.

Like him or not, you have to give him a ton of credit for his farewell speech which was the entire final segment of 22 minutes.

Francesa went out with 110% class. Nothing negative about anyone.

We know he had his ups and downs with Chris Mad Dog Russo over the years, as those who listened and/or watched the recent documentary shown on ESPN about them know. He spoke highly about his years with Russo.

In addition, he touched on the history of the station, many of the people he worked with over the years, and on how well the "old" and the new management have worked with him during these past couple of years leading in to his retirement.

He also gave an amazingly honest answer to the question of whether or not he will miss being on the show every day. Saying that he usually took time off around these holidays and admitting he probably won't feel it until January is as honest as it comes.

WFAN has been enjoying very strong ratings in recent months, likely strengthened by being the Yankees flagship. Whatever the reason, its impact on the sports community continues.

It may or may not change in 2018 as WFAN brings us both new morning and new afternoon shows. We shall see.

For now, if you haven't heard this farewell, it was posted on Saturday morning. Do give it a listen.....

Friday, December 8, 2017

To Flex Or Not To Flex

It's time to re-examine the NFL game flex method in place for Sunday Night Football before next season. It has been the case that NBC has had the option of switching out its originally scheduled game during the last few weeks of the regular season, and until this year has done a reasonable job of getting the game which brings it the best possible audience.

There have also been restrictions added over the past few seasons allowing Fox and CBS to protect certain telecasts, and we certainly respect that.

However, for next Sunday (12/17), NBC has "chosen" to retain its scheduled Dallas vs. Oakland telecast. Going into this weekend's action, both teams are .500, but, of course, are national draws. The Cowboys in particular wind up on national games no matter what their record is.

NBC could very well generate its usual strong audience for the Cowboys and Raiders. However, there were certainly what appear to be better choices available to flex. Instead, Fox retains the L.A. Rams vs. Seattle and CBS retains New England vs. Pittsburgh earlier that day. Because of regional telecasts, many fans will not be able to see one or both of those games over the air that day. 

It is ironic that we have NFL owners going to incredible lengths to move their teams to L.A. The Rams are having an awesome season, but have been hidden from significant national exposure all season. For that matter, Seattle's win over Philadelphia this past Sunday (12/3) on NBC had a 12.7 rating for just the Los Angeles market.

Keep in mind that NBC is taking a similar course for this Sunday (12/10) by keeping the Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh game on its schedule. It could have flexed and put on the Rams vs. Philadelphia in a battle of two of the top three records in the NFC. That decision leaves the L.A. market with the Rams game on Fox at the same time the Chargers will be local on CBS with both teams at home.

When you consider that last Sunday's Chargers game (although it was only against Cleveland) on CBS in Los Angeles was crushed in the ratings by the Fox regional game between Minnesota and Atlanta.

Fox Sports had a significant ratings day last Saturday (12/9) with its Big 12 Championship telecast in the afternoon and the Big Ten Championship game telecast (all four hours) in prime time.

NFL Network has tapped former QB Kurt Warner as analyst for its upcoming Saturday (12/16) telecast of Chicago vs. Detroit, which will have Mike Torico on play-by-play. Al Michaels has already given way on to Torico on a few telecasts going back to last season, but Warner's appearance on this telecast, along with the Pittsburgh vs. Houston telecast on Christmas night, will give the nights off to Chris Collinsworth.

PHILADELPHIA: Just days after WIP-FM finished as the market's #1 station, long time morning man Angelo Cataldi has been extended with the station. The morning man since 1990, Cataldi will continue to be joined by Al Morganti and Keith Jones, who have also been extended.

SEATTLE: Dave Wyman is in as radio analyst for the Seahawks broadcasts starting this Sunday with their game against Jacksonville. Wyman is a sudden replacement for Warren Moon, who has taken a leave of absence following an accusation of sexual harassment.

DES MOINES: It seems that KIOW 107.3 has terminated announcer Orin Harris and board operator Holly Kusserow-Smidt after racially insensitive comments during a time out during a high school game last week, even though the remarks did not air on the station. It seems that the radio play-by-play was also shared via a video feed. Although the remarks were not on a radio broadcast, they were heard during the video feed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Radio Extension For Soaring Eagles

Thanksgiving weekend is always a great one for sports fans since we get everything except for baseball. NFL, NBA, NHL and both college football and basketball throughout the weekend. There is certainly a lot to talk about.

In addition, many sports fans are off from work, traveling, and/or not on their "regular" schedule throughout the weekend. It should be a great chance for listeners to be able to hear more of their favorite sports talk station than usual. However, the sports talk stations don't see it that way.

As much as I respect that the hosts have families and deserve time off, it is their business to build their audience. However, you can bet the ranch that over the entire four day weekend what you will hear will be the fill-in hosts instead of the prime time talent.

Sorry, but this is the sports radio stations telling us that the listeners matter more during working weekdays. This Friday and Saturday morning there will be a lot of sports fans in their cars or around the house with a chance they don't usually have to tune to their sports station, perhaps for an extended time, before the various football, basketball, and hockey telecasts start.

Even NBC-TV is giving us a Boston vs. Pittsburgh NHL telecast at 1 PM this Friday (11/24). Yes, a live national hockey game on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Obviously, this would not happen on any other Friday afternoon this year, but the network knows the sports audience is available.

This while sports radio stations won't have their primary hosts anywhere to be found all weekend. The stars of the station, whether morning or afternoon hosts, should be hosting one or both mornings and perhaps promoting special guests. It could be a great way to introduce themselves to many "new" listeners to start tuning them in on Monday.

Instead, we'll get the weekend guy who does nothing but take phone calls and talk endlessly about the upcoming local NFL team and Sunday's game. It's another missed opportunity for radio.

Meanwhile, ESPN Radio is gearing up for the lower cost and programming shakeup which will start on January 2nd. It's bad enough that the network has broken up Mike & Mike after 17 years. This latest move gives Stephen A Smith the 1 PM to 3 PM ET spot, giving him two hours to shout and shout about whatever topic. Their 3 PM to 6 PM slot has Will Cain joining Ryen Russillo who continues.

Evenings will have Jason Fitz coming in full-time after a weekend stint, joined by Sarah Spain, and then late night adds one more hour to Freddie & Fitzsimmons. Other than breaking up their long time morning show and not bringing in anyone "new" to the radio network lineup, they are ready to bring in the new year.

Looks like CBS got stuck with their New England vs. Oakland telecast last Sunday (11/19) from Mexico City. Obviously, it's not their fault the game was a blowout which was hard to watch. Nor was it their fault that the production crew literally had to fill in the background with crowd noise to cover up the Mexico City crowd shouting gay slurs during kickoffs and punts made by the Patriots.

From what we saw (and heard about from others watching), only one or two of the slurs was audible during the telecast.

PHILADELPHIA: The Eagles picked an ideal year to have a great season, resulting in a fresh seven year extension of their radio rights contract with WIP-FM 94.1 which starts next season and goes through 2024. This not only extends a 25 year partnership between the two, but also keeps Merrill Reese and Mike Quick as the broadcast team. Word is that Howard Eskin will continue as sideline reporter as well.

MIAMI: Fans upset that the new ownership of the Marlins is possibly considering trading its star player now have more to be upset about. Word is that ownership does not want TV popular voice Rich Waltz to return for what would have been his 14th season, which will make the third consecutive season of a change in their TV booth.

This past season brought in Todd Hollandsworth as anyalyst, who, as of press time, is expected to remain. Early word is that Craig Minervini will be brought back as studio host.

HOUSTON: Low rated KFNC 97.5 is bringing in Lance Zierlein to (once again) pair with John Granato, this time on the station's brief morning show from 7 AM to 9 AM starting on Monday (11/27). The pair have previously worked together over the past 20 years on both KILT and KGOW.

Happy Thanksgiving !!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New Lineups For NYC and Philly Sports Talkers

As we expected, as soon as Michael Kay re-upped with WEPN to continue as afternoon host, WFAN New York then had no choice but to accelerate the process of filling both its afternoon show and morning co-host.

WFAN decided to replace Mike Francesa with a three person team for afternoons, starting on January 2, 2018. Chris Carlin moves over from Philadelphia's highly rated WIP 94.1. Former Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who, obviously, will no longer be a part of WEPN-FM, joins Carlin, as does Maggie Gray, who has been hosting SI Now.

Carlin is also expected to continue as play-by-play voice for Rutgers football next season. He had come to WIP-FM in 2016 as the replacement for Josh Innes when Innes left Philadelphia for Houston sports talk radio. He (Carlin) is no stranger to The Fan, having begun as an intern in 1995 and later serving as producer for Mike & The Mad Dog.

At the same time, WFAN announced that Gregg Giannotti, who has served as the primary interim co-host of the station's morning show along with Boomer Esiason (following the Craig Carton resignation several weeks ago), will be the official co-host starting the morning of January 2nd. The show will officially become "Boomer & Gio".

This all comes after months of speculation regarding the afternoon show upon the retirement announcement by Francesa, who leaves the station mid-December.

In addition, the "Boomer & Gio" morning show will go national, with CBS Sports Network to simulcast the show, also starting on January 2nd.

On the Philadelphia side, WIP-FM 94.1 is riding the excellent season by the Eagles into tremendous ratings, and has to be careful about replacing Carlin in its lineup. Carlin and co-host Ike Reese were finally closing the ratings gap behind The Fanatic's Mike Missanelli. WIP-FM has officially moved Jon Marks up from evenings to co-host afternoons with Ike Reese. On weeknights when the station is not airing play-by-play, Joe Giglio will handle the sports talk. Giglio will remain on the station's Phillies pre-game and post-game programming.

ESPN is working behind the scenes to have a new direct sports streaming service available "Spring 2018". At press time, it remained a secret as to what the pricing will be, and whether or not streaming of events would be made available via the App to consumers other than cable/satellite subscribers.

Perhaps ESPN should have been working behind the scenes last week with their on-air editing team. Last Friday (11/10), ESPN was showing a graphic of its "NCAA Franchise Veterans Team" on the air, when the graphic clearly showed Duke's Grayson Allen as a "teammate" at North Carolina with Joel Berry.

It was bad enough the network got a star player on the wrong team, but it was even worse because the "wrong team" is considered to be the biggest rival that Duke has.

Speaking of ESPN mistakes, preparations continue to Mike Greenberg's new morning show, to be known as "Get Up". As mentioned here a couple weeks back, the new studio in Manhattan has been faced with a construction delay. Instead of starting the show in early January as planned, ESPN has decided to wait until the new studio is ready, which will not be until "Spring 2018".

This means that following the risky move of breaking up 'Mike & Mike' after their long successful run, that Greenberg will not have a show running for what could easily be more than three months. By then it could be too late.

The right move would have been to have Greenberg and crew (reportedly Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose) on location with occasional stints from Bristol. This show could easily originate from locations such as the NCAA Championship Game, NFL playoff cities, the Super Bowl, spring training, and NCAA tournament cities.

Instead, we have an idea for a new show and not even a specific launch date.

Los Angeles NFL viewers will again get four games during the Sunday CBS/Fox period this week (11/19). CBS has the doubleheader game and L.A. will get the primary games of Kansas City at New York Giants early and then New England vs. Oakland as the featured games. Since the Rams at Minnesota (early) and Buffalo at the Chargers (late) are both on Fox, both of those games will air in the local market. This continues to be the only market in the nation for which airing four games during these time slots is allowed.

Have to think that St. Louis fans are not going to be happy this Sunday, however. As of press time, St. Louis is scheduled to get the L.A. Rams at Minnesota as its only Fox telecast, ahead of other regional games such as Washington vs. New Orleans. Even though the Rams vs. Vikings is an appealing game to the casual fan, the viewers St. Louis have shown that they have little to no interest in seeing their former Rams in action.

CHICAGO: Just six weeks after becoming NBC Sports Chicago (from Comcast SportsNet Chicago), the regional network eliminated what appears to be 12 full-time positions, including Senior Executive Producer Jim Corno Jr. Also let go was White Sox beat reporter Dan Hayes.

COOKEVILLE TN: WPTN 780/106.1 has dropped its sports radio completely and changed to a music format.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Quite The Week In The (Sports) Hub

It has been happening far too frequently lately where a sportscaster says something on, or off, the air which sparks a harsh reaction and generates the expected apology. Many sportscasters, whether show hosts or game analysts, are hired to provide their opinions and often to generate discussion when others disagree. If listeners/viewers don't like what they hear, they can always turn the dial or mute the sound.

One such incident took place on Tuesday (11/7) upon the sad news that pitching great Roy Halladay was killed in a small airplane accident. In Boston, WBZ-FM Sports Hub afternoon co-host Michael Felger (along with Tony Massarotti) spent several minutes on the story, giving his reaction that this death was unnecessary because he (Felger) expressed that Halladay had no business flying a small plane and risking his life in the process.

Agree or disagree, the comments were made out of frustration and as a reaction, and I respect Felger for sharing such an honest and thoughtful commentary. Having heard the rant, his adding that Halladay "got what he deserved" was one part of the segment which seemed out of line.

On Thursday, after the reaction, Felger again spoke of the incident and apologied on the air. Significantly, his apology was only for the "deserved to die" reference. From here, Felger deserves credit for doing that. He admitted on Thursday that his choice of words in that one sentence was unacceptable and out of line. He then clarified that the "wrong" sentence did not change his opinion already expressed.

From the way his Thursday segment was delivered, it seems (no guarantee) that this truly was Felger's apology and not one which was induced by management. It did not appear to be forced upon him, and noting that his opinion stood seems to clarify that.

In these times when people call for terminations and drastic measures over controversial opinions, whether on the air or not, it is good to see that, as of press time, no disciplinary action is being taken against Felger. Those listeners who are upset with and/or simply don't agree have the opportunity and the right to call in and express themselves. Or they can choose to listen to another station.

Here's hoping that this doesn't continue to brew and lead to management making a change. Sportscasters should be able to express their opinion, as long as it is factually based, and take what may come.

Speaking of WBZ-FM and "what may come", we'll know soon about the change of ownership of the station, which appears to be coming during the first quarter of 2018 when the station will leave upon the (likely) merger of CBS Radio with Entercom. As has been talked about here and throughout the media, the new ownership group is not able to assume ownership of both WBZ-FM and WEEI-FM and have a sports station monopoly.

One very important local aspect to this is that the structuring of the deal calls for the new ownership group to "never" have any period of time during which it would own both stations. Earlier, the possibility existed that the new group would operate both stations until such time as one of them was sold or spun off.

As a result, WBZ-FM 98.5 will retain the rights to the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins going forward. This is a big win (pun intended) for The Hub, since it prevents the new group from "stealing" the rights to the teams before letting go of the station. With those rights (especially with the Celtics back into serious contention this season) secured, it keeps WBZ-FM as strong competition. Boston is the national leader for market share for sports radio, with both stations usually in the top seven or eight in the market overall, while no other market comes anywhere near that.

Not the best of broadcasts for University of Kentucky play-by-play voice Tom Leach last Saturday (11/4) when Kentucky lost on a Mississippi touchdown pass with five seconds left in the game. Ole Miss receiver Jordan Ta'amu caught the TD pass while reaching for the ball along with Kentucky defender Lonnie Johnson. Leach thought that Johnson had successfully defended and had broken up the pass, and reacted too quickly and called it an incomplete pass on the air.

Right away, analyst Jeff Piecoro interrupted Leach to inform him, and the listeners, that the ball had been caught for the touchdown against Kentucky. This is why broadcasters are trained to wait for the call before telling the audience what happens, but no one is perfect and it was the final five seconds of a close game.

To his credit, Leach admitted to fellow media members that he blew his call and went as far as to study the replays afterward to try and find out what and why he did wrong. More importantly, Leach revealed that he was pleased that Piecoro stepped in an told the audience what happened right away.

That's a class move.

While the rumors of more on-air cutbacks at ESPN later this year are picking up steam, the network could very well be auditioning a new replacement show for someone. In a sudden announcement, ESPN 97.7/1200 in Syracuse started a one hour show from 3 PM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. The primary host is actor Daniel Baldwin (brother of Alex), who is not considered to be an expert on sports.

His co-host is local personality Josh Grosvent, who is actually the morning show host for sister station WKRL-FM (and WKLL-FM) in Syracuse. The fact that it doesn't seem realistic that an actor would take on a show in Syracuse NY (as opposed to New York or another top 20 market), and that the co-host is also not the "typical" sports talk host, makes it appear that this is a trial run.

Got to believe that this is a one month experiment and if the performance goes well enough that Baldwin will be brought to ESPN Radio as a "replacement" for a dismissed show to start first of the year, if not sooner.

This coming Sunday (11/12) has the Los Angeles market again getting four NFL telecasts during the doubleheader window because both the Rams and Chargers are on CBS. As of press time, it had not been determined which CBS station would air which, but both the early game of the Chargers at Jacksonville and the late game of Houston vs. the Rams will air locally. The regional and national doubleheader games of Minnesota vs. Washington and Dallas vs. Atlanta, will air as the Fox doubleheader. It will be interesting to see how much the ratings are for the Fox telecasts.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game continues to struggle for an audience while being trounced by KNBR 680. The station now has a new Program Director, Matt Nahigian. Such a task is familiar territory for Nahigian, whose resume includes more than nine years in Philadelphia at WPEN 97.5. That station, similarly runs a distant second to WIP-FM there.

CINCINNATI: WLW has again renewed its contract as the flagship station of the Reds, which now runs through the 2022 season. The station has carried the Reds with only a couple of interruptions since 1924 and continuously since 1969. Marty Brennaman will return in 2018 for his 45th season calling the Reds. Our younger readers may not be aware that Marty, the father of Fox Sports and Reds TV's Thom Brennaman, started with the Reds in 1974, replacing none other than Al Michaels in that role.

RAPID CITY: KIMM 1150/106.7 changed over to sports (from news/talk) last week, now with the only local show airing from 4 PM to 6 PM on weekdays. The local show host is Nate Brown. Although KIMM is now competing against KTQQ ESPN 1340/105.7, the station is in the process of changing ownership. The new owner is Black Hills Broadcasting, which is owned by none other than Nate Brown. Other than Nate, the station is airing Fox Sports Radio during the remainder of the time.

MARSHALL MN: KNSG 107.5 has dropped its music format and become "The Fan", which is taking the programming of the highly rated "The Fan" from Minneapolis during the daytime. Nights and weekends will feature play-by-play of local high school broadcasts along with the Vikings and the Wild. When not airing games, the station will carry Fox Sports Radio during evening and weekend time.