Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Scully Final Home Game Broadcast To Air Nationally

It's not often that fans would choose a regular season baseball telecast over the NFL doubleheader game, but this Sunday (9/25) could be an exception for many. It will be the Dodgers final home game of the regular season, which makes it Vin Scully's final telecast from Dodger Stadium.

Since TBS is showing the Yankees vs. Blue Jays game as its national tilt, starting at 1 PM ET, it clears the 4 PM ET time slot, which is when the Dodgers vs. Rockies game begins. As a result, MLB Network is able to air that game nationally (except in the Denver and Los Angeles markets) and bring baseball fans almost everywhere this special telecast.

As expected, Scully will not call any post-season action, home or road, making the following Sunday (10/2) his final telecast ever, from San Francisco. Because of the uniform 3 PM ET start time for all MLB games that day, TBS (or MLB Network) will be unable to carry the Dodgers telecast. Our only hope is that the Dodgers - Giants game would have some meaning (which is possible based on the wild card race), and that TBS would select that game and perhaps carry Vin's call of the final inning.

On the NFL side, while it's only two full weeks into the season, there is already concern about the reduction in the ratings for prime time telecasts, especially Monday Night Football. This past Monday night (9/19), even with strong ratings from both Chicago and Philadelphia, was about 11 ratings points lower than week two (Jets vs. Colts) last season.

While it is true that the second half of the game was not competitive, this followed a week one doubleheader for which both games had a drop compared with last season's ratings. In fact, the late game between the 49ers and Rams (with the added significance of being the Rams first game as the L.A. Rams in many years) wound up with a 25% audience reduction from last season.
Having Atlanta vs. New Orleans this coming Monday might not be a ratings winner either.

Doug Sherman, who has called play-by-play of more than 50 college games for ESPN over the past year, has officially joined ESPN full-time. While he will also continue as the voice of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sherman is giving up his gig as Sports Director of WRGB Channel 6 in San Antonio.

Sherman, who was with WRGB-TV since 1995, will continue as sports anchor on the 6 PM and 11 PM newscasts through October, when his contract runs out.

ESPN is moving some of its program hosts around over the next couple of weeks. Jorge Sedano will join ESPN2 as co-host of what it calls a bi-lingual sports show, "Nacion ESPN", which will end the Jorge & Izzy Show on ESPN Radio on weeknights. Sarah Spain will join Izzy Gutierrez as co-host for "Izzy & Spain" starting next week.

Los Angeles over-the-air NFL viewers probably feel that they are getting screwed with this coming Sunday's local telecast schedule. The market does not get prime matchups such as Denver vs. Cincinnati or Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia.

Instead, its only Fox game will be a late game with the Rams playing at Tampa Bay. The local CBS doubleheader only gets those viewers Oakland at Tennessee followed by San Diego at Indianapolis. Back to the 'secondary market' bit for the Raiders and Chargers.

PHILADELPHIA: Let the speculation intensify about who will take over afternoons on WIP-FM 94.1 to officially replace Josh Innes. Afternoons had been the one shaky time slot for WIP-FM over the past year or so, yet the station has been in no hurry to announce a definite replacement.

This week brings the reports that Jon Marks plans to leave his morning co-host role on WPEN 97.5 The Fanatic when his contract is up in late October. Marks has been with WPEN (both the FM and the AM) in some capacity since it first went to all sports back in 2005.

Since the rumor is that Marks is "leaving" at the end of his contract (as opposed to being let go, which he is not), and WIP-FM has yet to name a replacement for Innes, it will be most interesting to see what Marks has to say on the first day after his contract expires. It is quite possible that, since he is still under contact, he can't say anything publicly about where he will wind up.

CHICAGO: As mentioned above, even with lower national ratings for this past Monday's Bears vs. Eagles game, the telecast was the most watched television program in the Chicago market, combining for a 22.1 rating between ESPN and its telecast airing locally on WCIU-TV.

Speaking of WCIU-TV, our best wishes to Sports Director (for the past 15 years) Kenny McReynolds. Kenny Mac, who has had some major health issues in the past couple of years, will soon need more surgery. He continues to call play-by-play of high school telecasts which air on sub-stations and sister station WWME-TV each weekend.

SAN DIEGO: Fox Sports San Diego has extended its partnership with Prime Ticket Los Angeles and will once again air all available (not national telecasts) L.A. Clippers games this season. This deal includes the ability for San Diego viewers to receive streams of the telecasts where applicable

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

L.A. & St. Louis Viewers Stuck With The Rams

Makes us wonder how many sales of Sunday Ticket there have been and will be this week in the Los Angeles area. With the Rams having played late on Monday Night Football to open their season, the impact of their Sunday schedule isn't being felt until this coming weekend.

On Sunday (9/18) the Rams are home against Seattle, and the game is sold out. As a result, viewers in L.A. will get that telecast as the only Fox telecast of the day. Thus, fans do not get an early game on Fox. The folks at Fox Sports are taking this telecast seriously, assigning Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to this game even though it will go to less than 25% of the country.

As a result, however, L.A. (over the air) viewers cannot get the CBS doubleheader game of Indianapolis at Denver because of home team restrictions, which L.A. hasn't had in all of the years since the Rams left. They do get the early primary regional game on CBS, which is the highly anticipated first meeting of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati since last season's memorable post-season battle between those two teams. All of this also prevents both the Raiders and Chargers games from being shown in that market.

However, it is possible that (over the air) viewers in the St. Louis area will feel even more screwed on Sunday. The local Fox station will also air the Rams vs. Seattle game as its only Fox telecast that day. Those fans do have another option, as the St. Louis market gets both ends of the CBS doubleheader. Have to believe that Indy at Denver will draw a bigger audience than the departed Rams vs. Seattle.
Denver's opening night win over Carolina last Thursday (9/8) was the lowest rated (nationally) since 2013. The Denver ratings rocked with a 74% share of the local audience, while the Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh/Durham, and Greenville markets were each among the top seven highest local markets.

For the Sunday (9/11) season openers, the Fox telecast of the NYG vs. Dallas game was up about 15% from last year's doubleheader telecast opener. It also had a larger audience than NBC's Sunday Night Football season opener with New England and Arizona, which was down 11% from last year's.
For this Thursday (9/15) the Buffalo vs. NY Jets telecast will also be the first to be streamed live via Twitter. The service has added Chris Carter as an analyst only for its feed. Carter, who is no longer with ESPN, will host a Twitter-only pre-game show about 90 minutes prior to kickoff, along with a half time and post-game presentation. He will also reportedly be Tweeting comments and possibly taking viewer questions during the games.

On the college side, Fox Sports is adding a "virtual reality" broadcast feed via its Fox Sports app for mobile devices for its Ohio State vs. Oklahoma telecast this Saturday (9/17). This feature will allow users to choose among multiple camera views as well as having access to stats and rosters.

ESPN/ABC continues to try and find a better studio presentation surrounding its NBA telecasts for the upcoming season. The struggle to find the right studio host for the pre-game, half time, and post-game show continues as Michelle Beadle is being brought in to be the main host on Wednesday and Friday nights. Sage Steele will continue as the main host on Saturdays (prime time) and on Sundays.

This takes Doris Burke out of her occasional hosting role (which she did on some Wednesdays last season), although Burke remains with the show as an analyst.

Back at Fox Sports, struggling Fox Sports 1 continues its push to grow an audience. It is getting to the point where more and more fans know it exists, but is finding out the hard way that content rules.

After spending a lot of money to bring Skip Bayless over for its daily show, which began last week, the ratings dipped by 45% from the day one premiere to day two. Even with stronger first day ratings, the total audience was well under half of what ESPN2 drew at the same time (not even counting ESPN).

At CBS Sports, the network, along with Westwood One, has expanded The Jim Rome Show to a daily podcast, which is a condensed version of his radio show. The Network is actually promoting this feature in an effort to create additional advertiser opportunities.

As an old school radio person, I will once again raise the point that promoting this also promotes time spent NOT listening to the radio (especially CBS) since they could instead hear the podcast and save time in the process. Of course, this points fans in the direction of getting used to podcasts, where they can EASILY find other sports podcasts which have nothing to do with CBS or any other radio outlet.

I'll bet many of the same executives that signed off on this are also wondering why CBS Radio is close to being sold and downgraded from its once lofty status.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN ESPN 710 is finally expanding its local programming starting next Wednesday (9/21). The new local morning show, from 6 to 9 AM, will be hosted by Israel Gutierrez along with (former NFL receiver) Keyshawn Johnson. LZ Granderson will also participate in the show. (Johnson will remain as an ESPN NFL analyst from L.A.)

The Mychal Thompson and Mike Trudell show will expand by one hour and air from 9 AM to Noon. Local programming continues each weekday until 9 PM, now including Kelvin Washington moving to afternoons to co-host with Marcellus Wiley from 3 to 7 PM.

KSPN will, of course, continue to air the Angels, USC and Rams football, and the Lakers, along with ESPN Radio play-by-play when there are no conflicts.

Sister station KLAA 830 will air ESPN Radio national programming including Mike & Mike airing live at 3 AM.

DALLAS: Although local interest is solid in the Rangers as they close in on the MLB post-season, the Metroplex is still a football town when it comes to TV viewing. This past Sunday (9/11), as expected, the Cowboys opener vs. the Giants had a local Nielsen rating of 32.7. No one will question that, although the Rangers vs. Angels telecast that afternoon had a rating of 1.4. Yet, the other three NFL telecasts on Sunday (including Sunday Night Football) all had at least five times larger than the Rangers audience.

AUSTIN: KLGO 1260 and KTXX 104.9 will remain as the flagship stations for Texas Longhorn broadcasts, despite the pending sale of those stations.

CHICAGO: And finally, this week, it's "ooops" time. On Monday late afternoon (9/12), Comcast SportsNet Chicago was, as usual showing the scroll of the upcoming night's sports schedule. Several times, when it was time for the NFL scoreboard, their scroll showed the late NFL game as "St. Louis at San Francisco". You would think that, for all of the time and effort they spend on Chicago Bears and NFL related programming, they would notice that the Rams no longer play in St. Louis. Even more amazing that no one caught it after multiple airings.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let The Pro Football Season Begin!

Always an exciting weekend as the NFL season kicks off, especially with a Super Bowl rematch on Thursday (9/8).

With the return of a home team to the Los Angeles area, it will be interesting to see if there is an impact on the TV ratings for that market. The L.A. Rams open their regular season on Monday night, which, for Week 1, opens up the L.A. market for outside NFL telecasts.

The concern is that, if the Rams do not do well this season, that fans without Sunday Ticket will be stuck with Rams telecasts instead of more important regional or national telecasts they are used to seeing.

For this Sunday (Sept. 11), the L.A. market gets the San Diego at Kansas City game as the early game telecast on CBS. This appears to be the most appealing west game of those available, while it remains to be seen (pun intended) whether or not CBS will continue to air every Chargers game it can in L.A. as if it is still considered a secondary market for that team.

The Fox games in L.A. will be Oakland at New Orleans for the early start and then the same doubleheader game that the majority of the country gets, which is the Giants vs. the Cowboys with Joe Buck on the call. It's also curious that L.A. gets the Raiders game early, since rumors persist that the Raiders could also move to L.A. in the next few years.

Thus, Week 1 Sunday is just like it has been for L.A., with the Raiders, Chargers, and regular doubleheader game telecasts being shown.

On the radio side, Westwood One continues to provide the most important national broadcasts, starting with Thursday's opener with Denver and Carolina. Ian Eagle will handle the call. For its Monday Night Football broadcasts, it will again be Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason, although Kurt Warner will handle several of the broadcasts instead of Esiason this season.

What is interesting is the desire for the Westwood One broadcasts of the prime time games to air in Chicago no matter what. Those broadcasts air on WSCR 670 The Score. However, WSCR also airs Cubs baseball, which looks to also include post-season games.

When there are conflicts with Westwood One prime time NFL broadcasts, they will actually air on another Chicago station through a time purchase arrangement. It is highly unusual for a station to broker time on another station when not for a local team's game. No word as to whether WSCR or Westwood One is actually purchasing the time to keep those broadcasts on in Chicago for every prime time game.

For the Monday Night Football openers, the season, as always, begins with a Monday Night Football doubleheader. While the first game, between Pittsburgh and Washington, is an anticipated matchup between two teams with significant national fan bases, from a broadcast point of view, the second game will be the bigger story.

This will be the Rams' first regular season game as the Los Angeles Rams since the team moved to St. Louis years ago. ESPN will have Chris Berman on play-by-play for the game, which is an even less popular move (based on fan reaction I've read) this season.

Besides that, this will be the first regular season game for 49ers backup QB (as of press time) Colin Kaepernick. However, with an earlier game having priority, and based on ESPN's policy, the national anthem will not be shown prior to the Rams vs. 49ers game.
In the unlikely event that the Steelers vs. Redskins game ends early, it will be interesting to see if ESPN breaks format and shows the anthem and what Kaepernick does or doesn't do during it.

On the baseball side, it is easy to understand why so many fans are clamoring for Vin Scully's final regular season game to be shown nationally on the final day of the regular season, Oct. 2nd.

However, with all games starting at 3:05 ET that day, and with TBS holding exclusive national rights, it can't happen. TBS has the exclusive national contract because they paid for it. Since it will be the Dodgers hosting the Giants that afternoon, there is a possibility that could be the national game for TBS. It would be, however, the regular TBS announcing team.

In that event, the best we can hope for is that TBS would be able to carry Scully's call of the final inning nationally and use its own graphics. However, if TBS goes with, say, an American League East battle that afternoon, the final Scully inning (or game) would not be shown live beyond the Los Angeles market, where it will be available via KTLA-TV Channel 5.

There have been reports that the Dodgers will have Scully work Dodgers post-season games, which would be radio only. The hope here is that it would not happen.

Chances are that the regular season finale will not have an impact on the post-season. That scenario would allow for Scully to have the spotlight he so richly deserves. If he calls the post-season, fans won't know which game would be his last, and the final out means that one team advances while the other goes home. The team advancing is the story, and not Scully. Vin should get the chance to wrap up as scheduled, in a more likely situation where he can be the dominant story.

Fans should also keep in mind that Scully is not the only long-time baseball broadcast legend calling it a career at the end of the regular season. This will also be Dick Enberg's last telecast.

While Scully's final regular season telecast can't be seen beyond L.A., we have hope that Enberg's final home game telecast calling the Padres, which is on Thursday Sept. 29th in San Diego, can and will be picked up nationally by MLB Network. Oh my!!

The Padres' regular season finale is in Phoenix at the Diamondbacks on October 2nd. Clearly, there is zero chance that game would have any national interest.

ESPN did the Chicago audience a favor by moving the Cubs vs. Astros game to Sunday Night Baseball this week (9/11). This allows fans to see both ends of the "Chicago at Houston" doubleheader on Sunday. Fox has regional coverage of the Bears at Texans in their season opening early game.

The following Sunday (9/18), ESPN has scheduled, of course, the Yankees at Red Sox game. While this seems to be a MLB mandate that all of their games be nationally televised, that matchup actually could be the most appealing game available that night. It might still be tough for fans around the country to adjust to having a Red Sox vs. Yankees telecast on because there is a good reason for it.

Fox Sports Radio has dumped Mike North and Andy Furman from their morning show (for the Eastern and Central time zones), doing so in time for football season.

CHICAGO: WSCR 670 The Score has a new multi-year agreement to continue to air DePaul University basketball. The coming season will be the 20th season for WSCR to air those games.

CSN Chicago received its highest ratings for a Cubs telecast since 2009 last week, when its August 31st telecast vs. Pittsburgh was the highest rated show for the entire market during prime time.

OMAHA: KXSP ESPN 590 has added the locally based "TBL - The Bottom Line" sports show from Noon to 2 PM on weekdays. The show, produced by the New Channel Nebraska Television and streamed via the local newspaper's web site, actually runs from 10 AM to 2 PM.

ASHLAND KY: WCMI 93.3 has increased its involvement with University of Kentucky sports, re-branding as Cat Sports 93.3 (for Kentucky Wildcats). The station now airs the regional Kentucky Sports Radio show from 10 AM to Noon on weekdays, along with carrying the weekly shows such as coaches shows specific to the University sports. It will also continue to air the Cincinnati Bengals games. The remaining time will continue to be filled by ESPN Radio.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Detroit Station Gets Its 'Ticket' To The Top Spot

While it is probably due to the "in between" period before the NFL season kicks in to high gear, the mid-July to mid-August period was not a good one for a lot of big market sports radio stations, based on the latest Nielsen radio ratings.

In Boston, the two high flying sports stations held steady, with WEEI-FM at #5 overall, while WBZ-FM Sports Hub closed the gap slightly (now .7 behind) coming in at #7 in the market. The usual very strong showing for this format in Boston.

A huge irony in Detroit, where WXYT 97.1 The Ticket fell to #2 in the entire market. The station which passed it was the former WMGC The Game, which earlier this year dumped its dismal showing as a sports station and went to a music format. Obviously it worked.

In San Francisco, the impact is felt from the end of the Warriors season (reflected in the previous ratings book). KNBR 680, while still #1 overall in the market (now tied for #1), lost .5 in its rating (which is one-half of a ratings point) from the previous month, along with just having lost the Warriors broadcasts. (The Warriors move from KNBR to KGMZ starting this coming season, where they will have full priority. On KNBR, they were behind the Giants and 49ers.)

KNBR has little to no reason to be alarmed, since it did not lose anything to what little competition it has for the sports audience. KGMZ-FM The Game also lost .5 of its audience over the same one month period, which in their case was losing nearly one-third of its total audience.

This while KNBR airs the Giants games and KGMZ airs the A's. Over in San Jose, which is among the 40 largest ratings markets in the country and has separate radio ratings, KNBR suffered a drop of 1.3 from the previous month, while KGMZ literally lost more than half of its audience.

While baseball failed to hold the San Francisco audience, the strong season by the Rangers has made a big difference in Dallas for KRLD-FM. The Rangers flagship station is now up .5 over the past two months and has increased its total audience by nearly 75% since the MLB season began. KTCK-AM The Ticket dropped .4 over the last month and now trails by .7, while KESN-FM ESPN now has less than 33% of the audience size KRLD-FM is now enjoying.

Sports radio continues its dismal pace in Houston, where KBME-AM, KILT-AM, and KFNC all combined to gain .1. That was by KILT-AM. However, none of the three stations appears in the market's top 20 most listened to list.

In Philadelphia, WIP-FM holding steady in the ratings (#11 overall) is not the big story. After nine consecutive months of afternoon drive with Josh Innes losing to WPEN The Fanatic, this time around WIP-FM shows more listeners during that time slot. This information comes out one week after Innes was fired days after the phony caller controversy on Mike Missanelli's show on The Fanatic.

In Los Angeles, neither sports radio station made the top 30 most listened to station list. In fact, both KLAC 570 (with the Dodgers broadcasts with the team in contention and Vin Scully's final season) and KSPN dipping from the previous month.

Although it made for some unique live programming, KLAC having a live report from L.A.'s Dedeaux Field (at USC) on Tuesday (8/30) from the Tim Tebow workout for MLB scouts seemed a bit of a stretch for a station looking for a bigger audience.

Also in Houston, it's a brilliant move for KGOL 1180 ESPN Deportes and still more publicity for NFL games. The Texans' Spanish language flagship station has increased its radio network by adding three special affiliates to its network. What makes this big news is that those stations are XEN 690 Mexico City, XEDKR 700 Guadalajara, and XESTN 1540 Monterrey. This gives the team unprecedented live radio coverage in Mexico. In addition, the Spanish broadcasts will also air on KHHL 103.1 San Antonio, and in El Paso on XEJ 970 from nearby Juarez.

If you don't think that Spanish broadcasts are important for the Texans, keep in mind that the new #1 most listened to station in the new ratings book is KLTN, which is a Spanish station.

Mike Torico will handle play-by-play for NBC's first three Notre Dame Football telecasts instead of Dan Hicks. One of those games will be on Sept. 17th when N.D. takes on Michigan State in a prime time telecast. That will be an interesting TV ratings night, as Fox has Ohio State vs. Oklahoma as their feature game that same evening.

Torico will also begin as studio host on Sunday Night Football, replacing Bob Costas in that role.
On Sunday Sept. 18th, when CBS has the NFL doubleheader game, Fox Sports plans to test the waters with adjacent MLS soccer telecasts. Fox will show games at 2 PM ET or at 5 PM ET, depending on whether the local station has an early or late NFL telecast.

In a welcome move for NBA fans, ESPN is finally moving Doug Collins out of the disastrous studio show and back to being a game analyst. He is expected to work 25 to 30 telecasts for ESPN and ABC this coming season. No word yet on who will be brought in for the pre-game, half-time, and post-game studio segments instead. Maybe this will be taken as the chance to blow it up and start all over again for that part of their telecasts.

beIN Sports is ready for its Conference USA football telecasts to begin this weekend. The network has added Donovan McNabb as a studio analyst for its weekly telecasts. This Saturday it shows the New Mexico vs. UTEP game. However, while the network has a streaming service, their web site fails to show (or it isn't easily found) any TV stations carrying the telecasts.

Sirius/XM begins its expanded college football coverage this weekend when it offers 60 live games to its subscribers. In addition to its previous deals to carry Notre Dame, USC, and Texas broadcasts, the service now airs select Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East, and Pac-12 games. In addition, its College Sports Nation channel now airs several of the coaches shows during the week.

Fox Sports is planning a special pre-game show on Sept. 11th, which is also opening Sunday of the NFL season. The Fox NFL Sunday show will originate from Houston, where the Texans open against the Chicago Bears. This gives Fox the chance to showcase in Houston, for which it only gets either one or two Texans telecasts each season (barring a flex game trade), and to better serve the usual large Chicago audience.

Those interested in pre-season telecasts should be aware that the anticipated major storm in Florida has caused the NFL to move up the Washington at Tampa game by one full night. The game will air live on NFL Network (as well as in the local markets) on Weds. 8/31 at 8 PM ET, instead of its previously scheduled Thursday Sept. 1 time.

CHICAGO:  Baseball fans received a wonderful treat this past Sunday (8/28) when Comcast SportsNet Chicago partnered with SportsNet L.A. and carried the 3rd inning of the Cubs vs. Dodgers game with Vin Scully on the call.

Scully spent much of the time talking to the Chicago audience (which was probably significantly larger in Chicago than in L.A. where 70% of the market can't get those telecasts).

At the same time, the TBS national telecast was blacked out in Chicago, but not in Los Angeles. Ironic that, even for the one inning, more people in Chicago could hear Scully while most fans in Los Angeles had the national call.

This coming Sunday's (9/4) TBS telecast of the Giants and Cubs will be available in both markets as well as nationally.

KANSAS CITY: While the Royals try to make a comeback into the post-season race, the fans are taking notice. The Monday (8/29) telecast of their game, vs. the Yankees, on Fox Sports Kansas City had the highest ratings ever for a Royals telecast, higher than any other station in the K.C. market. At the game, the team had its smallest crowd of the entire season.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Let The NFL Hype Begin...........

More than in past seasons, the NFL is aggressive about showing exhibition games on the national level, even this week, which is only the third week of pre-season.

In addition to Thursday's (8/25) NBC prime time game between Atlanta and Miami, the national audiences have more NFL action available than during most regular season weekends. Proving this point is that Friday (8/26) CBS is actually airing the Cleveland vs. Tampa Bay game in prime time.
Cleveland vs. Tampa Bay? If this was a regular season game it would be hard to imagine this early game going anywhere beyond the local team's regular markets. Yet, CBS is devoting its prime time to this game.

On Saturday, CBS is back, this time with a prime time telecast of Tennessee vs. Oakland. In New York, WCBS-TV is, of course, airing the local Jets vs. Giants exhibition game at 7 PM. There will be only one telecast of this game, which will be considered a Jets telecast on Channel 2 and called by Ian Eagle and Greg Buttle. WCBS will then air the Tennessee vs. Oakland game on delay at or after 10:30 PM. Yes, nothing like a delayed telecast of an NFL exhibition game to complete a Saturday night of TV viewing.

This Sunday fans could make like the regular season. Incredibly, Fox is airing a national pre-season doubleheader, with San Diego vs. Minnesota followed by Arizona vs. Houston. Then NBC takes over for Sunday Night Football, with Mike Torico (now on NBC) and Chris Collinsworth calling the Cincinnati vs. Jacksonville game. Yes, it's Jaguars on in prime time with an exhibition game.

It will be interesting to see the national ratings for a couple of the prime time games featuring teams that won't be anywhere near primary game feeds during the regular season.

PHILADELPHIA: Josh Innes finally got the whip from WIP-FM 94.1. After several months of losing in the ratings during afternoon drive to Mike Missanelli on The Fanatic, while clearly winning in the overall ratings battle between the two stations, Innes was let go earlier this week. His contract had been scheduled to run out after this year.

WIP used an on-air attack against Missanelli's show, which reportedly used at least one "fake" caller, which Innes commented on, as their excuse to end his run. Clearly they were looking for the excuse to dismiss him prior to his contract running out.

The bigger news will be the naming of his replacement, especially with the Eagles' season starting in just two weeks. With the uncertainty at CBS Radio (parent company of WIP), we will see if they spend the money to attract prime talent for their all important afternoon spot.

CHICAGO:  WMAQ-TV Channel 5 wasted little time in moving recently hired sportscaster Mike Berman to a weekday role within some of its newscasts. Berman will replace Peggy Kusinski, who will continue with the station on a freelance basis and will focus on occasional investigative pieces.

WCIU-TV will again televise a series of eight regular season high school football telecasts on one of its substations and its web site. However, five of the eight games will air on delay at 10 PM although they will be streamed live. CSN Chicago continues to air the high school football playoff games in November.

DETROIT: Best wishes to WXYT-FM The Ticket 97.1 co-host Terry Foster, who continues to recover from a stroke suffered last week. Foster now says he is "going to be fine" and expects to return to co-host his show along with Mike Valenti no later than October 3rd.

BILLINGS MT: KBLG 910 ESPN is adding a local show, which, however, will only be once per week. Billings Gazette Sports Editor Jeff Welsch will host "Billings Sports Talk", focusing on local and area college and high school sports, each Wednesday from 4 to 6 PM.

LUBBOCK TX: Those of you who don't believe how important high school football is in Texas will be amazed at KFYO 790 and its sister stations and their plans for the local season.

The three major high schools (Coronado, Monterey, and Lubbock High) will all have their games broadcast live on either KFYO, 98.1 FM or KRFE 580, complete with 15-minute pre and post-game shows for each. After the games, SportsRadio 1340 will air a high school scoreboard show with reports from other area games. Play-by-play voices will be David Thetford, Chris Due, and John Hill.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS CO: KTYV 98.9 has become the latest station to dump ESPN Radio and take the chance with going to Fox Sports Radio. The station will, however, continue to air every NFL game it can (but not the Broncos), planning to air the NFL prime time games on Thursdays, Sundays, and Monday nights.

The Broncos broadcasts have moved, starting this season, to KQZR 95.5, which also continues to air "select" Rockies baseball games, even though this is a classic rock station all other times.

HELENA MT: ESPN Radio 94.9, along with 99.9 in Great Falls, have added a new local show focused on area high school and college sports. What makes this unique is that this show will air weekly - in morning drive. As of this week, Jason Walker (who calls the local Carroll College games) and John Kemper (who calls Helena High School football) will co-host the show each Monday morning from 8 to 9 AM. Stranger things have happened, but this would seem to be the only such weekly program to air in morning drive in any market.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sports Media Notes - August 18th

Last Saturday's (Aug. 13) NFL exhibition game between Dallas and Los Angeles didn't mean a thing for the standings, but it does in the TV ratings.

This was the first game for the L.A. Rams since leaving an understandably disgruntled St. Louis fan base. No longer the local team, the game was only available in St. Louis via the ESPN national telecast. The ratings in St. Louis were 2 and one-half rating points LESS than the average for the market for the entire 2015 pre-season.

In fact, St. Louis finished 24th in terms of local market rating, with cities such as Alburquerque and Norfolk being among those with a larger local audience. We might get a better indication as to whether or not enough people in St. Louis will care to watch the Rams. This weekend's (Aug. 20) game vs. Kansas City will air in St. Louis on KMOV-TV Channel 4. The radio broadcast will, ironically, air on the mighty KMOX 1120, which signed on as a K.C. Chiefs affiliate for this season.

This means that KMOX will be airing the Rams game, with the broadcasters rooting for the other team.

On the Los Angeles side, it may be from curiosity or being the first home game for the Rams since their return, but the Los Angeles market had the 3rd highest audience of any. The game was shown locally as well as on ESPN, with only Dallas and (nearby) San Antonio having a larger audience.

Elsewhere on the St. Louis scene, long time sports talker Kevin Slaten has left his latest sports show from KFNS 590 after last week. The controversial Slaten claims he is heading over to KQQX 1190 to host a political news talk show.

It was obviously a surprise to KFNS, which is stuck airing replays of his show until they can find a replacement.

NEW YORK: In another surprise move, the Islanders have named their new TV play-by-play voice to start for the upcoming season.  Brendan Burke, known for calling college football and basketball for Fox Sports, takes over for the retired Howie Rose. Rose had called their games for the previous 21 seasons.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 has one staying and one going. John Jurkovic, who is in his 16th year as a co-host, has signed what was reported as a "multi-year" extension. At the same time, Ray Flores, who had been an update anchor, is not being retained by the station. Flores is known to some around the country for his work on MMA telecasts, on which he will continue.

DETROIT: It's a long way from trying to compete with the #1 rated The Ticket, but WDFN 1130 has started a three hour afternoon drive sports show this week. In a surprise move, the station has picked up the "Gregg, Big Drew, and Jim Show" from Grand Rapids ESPN 96.1.

What makes this so unique is how rare it is, even in today's radio climate, for a show to go from Grand Rapids to Detroit, instead of the other way around.

Nothing further, yet, as to whether or not WDFN is looking at adding any more sports programming. Perhaps the next couple of ratings books will be an indication one way or the other.

SAN DIEGO: XTRA 1360 continues to make an effort to grow its ratings, beginning a new local morning show this week. "Hardwick & Richards" airs from 6 to 9 AM, with Nick Hardwick (a former Charger) and Judson Richards (already an XTRA personality).

The station recently placed "The Mark & Rich Show" from Noon to 3 PM, with Mark Willard co-hosting with former NFL lineman Rich Ohrnberger.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM has, understandably, expanded the role of local sports writer Ray Didinger in time for the Eagles season. Didinger will continue with his Saturday and Sunday 10 AM to 1 PM shows, co-hosted with Glen Macnow. In addition, he will appear on sister station WPHT on Fridays (during football season) with Chris Stigall.

NASHVILLE: The Game 102.5 began its new afternoon drive show this week. "Jared and the GM" is co-hosted by former Titans GM Floyd Reese. Jared Stillman is the co-host. This is a great idea for a football heavy town, having a former GM of the local NFL team for football analysis.

DENVER: Colorado State University football, heard on Mile High Sports 104.7 and 1340, will have Mark Driscoll as the analyst starting this season. Driscoll seems to be a perfect fit, having been the starting QB for 2 seasons, and later both assistant coach and Athletic Director. Brian Roth continues in his play-by-play role.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: Morgan Patrick will return as pre-game and post-game host for 99.9 The Fan's broadcasts of Hurricanes hockey starting next month. Patrick hosted these shows from 1999 until 2006. The station plans to continue to have afternoon drive co-host Adam Gold continue to handle the daily coverage of the team for the staton.

ALBANY: Now we know why Rodger Wyland moved his morning show to WTMM 104.5 back in June. The University of Albany, for whom Wyland has done football and basketball play-by-play for the past 19 years, has moved its broadcasts to WTMM starting next month with the Sept. 2nd football opener vs. Buffalo. Wyland and the games had both been on WOFX 980.

What we don't know is whether Wyland moved because of the game broadcasts, or if the game broadcasts changed stations because of Wyland.

BURLINGTON: Hard to say if the writing is on the wall or not, but it's been a tough two weeks for WCPV 101.3. Days after Ryan Matlack resigned as Program Director (although, to his credit, it was to take a production position with ESPN in Bristol) comes word that on-air host A.J. Kanell would be leaving as well. That puts an end to the "A.J. and Rich Show". Co-host Rich Haskell will be joined by Arnie Spanier, who most recently has done weekend co-hosting for Fox Sports Radio.

MATTOON IL:  The town has a new sports station as Victory 103.9 has been launched. Thus far, its only play-by-play will be originating Charleston High School football broadcasts (with Rob Calhoun and Jack Ashmore. However, the station is only airing NBC Sports Radio including its morning show with no other local programming at this time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sports Media Mourns John Saunders

A huge loss to the sports media today (Aug. 10) with the passing of John Saunders at the age of 61. It seemed appropriate that the news was broken live on SportsCenter by Hannah Storm, who has been in the national sportscasting spotlight for about as long as Saunders.

Saunders was with ESPN since the mid 80's, mostly hosting and anchoring, including hosting The Sports Reporters since 2001. Among his other hosting duties was hosting ESPN's NHL coverage back when they televised regular season and post-season games, which showcased his hockey expertise.

He was one of the hard working breed of sportscasters who, even in recent years, didn't get caught up in the speculation and rumor stories which comprise far too much of today's sportscasts. He will be missed big time.

Although NBC's ratings for the Olympics have yet to be what they hoped for, the network's coverage is generating a buzz. The best example was on Monday (8/8) night, when the producers thought to have constant camera coverage of Michael Phelps surrounding the events of his incredible performances. Capturing the much talked about "death stare" while an opponent tried to rattle him in the locker room prior to the meet was pure television gold. These days, not every production crew would have known to be on top of that.

Regardless of what fans think about Alex Rodriguez as his playing career likely comes to an end this Friday (8/12) night, chances are the fans will be curious about how the Yankee Stadium crowd reacts to him.

Nice move by Fox Sports to pick up the telecast in east coast prime time and to air the game on Fox Network, instead of burying it on FS1 where few will know it exists. Fox even plans a pre-game show to begin at 6:00 PM ET. Kevin Burkhardt and John Smoltz will call the game, which has the Yankees hosting Tampa.

So Tim Tebow says he wants to try baseball. So what? This would only be "news" if a pro team actually signed him to something. The fact that some of the national reporters actually spent time on this story and gave it a degree of prominence is hard to stomach.

ESPN has, at least for now, decided to put Brent Musburger back on the telecast map beyond doing a few SEC Network telecasts. Brent will be on ESPN, along with Jesse Palmer, on Saturday Sept. 3rd to call the Clemson vs. Auburn game. This will be in addition to his previously scheduled telecasts for the coming season on SEC Network. No additional ESPN (or non-SEC Network) telecasts have been announced yet for Brent, who last called a game for ESPN/ABC in 2014.

SAN FRANCISCO: Not sure if this has happened before or not, but this weekend will have a female play-by-play announcer for an NFL pre-season broadcast. With 49ers pre-season TV voice Ted Robinson on assignment in Rio for NBC's Olympic coverage, 49ers radio broadcaster Bob Fitzgerald moves over to the TV booth for this Saturday's (8/13) exhibition opener vs. Houston.

Because of this, KNBR 680 will have Kate Scott, who provides morning sports updates during the Murph & Mac Show, on the play-by-play. She is no stranger to play-by-play, however, having called games for Comcast SportsNet and the Pac-12 Network. Scott will also do the radio call on Aug. 20th when the 49ers play the Broncos.

LOS ANGELES: Exhibition football is big news this week, at least in L.A. The Los Angeles Rams make their official return on Saturday when they play the Dallas Cowboys in their first pre-season game. J.B. Long and Maurice Jones will have the call as the Rams begin on flagship station KSPN 710, with 100.3 The Sound on the simulcast. The Rams Radio Network of stations also carrying their broadcasts already includes KTIE Riverside, KKBZ Fresno, KHTY Bakersfield, ESPN 103.9 Palm Springs, KMET Banning, and KSMA Santa Maria in California. In addition, the Rams games will air on KBAD Las Vegas and KPLY Reno.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The popular Sports Junkies morning show on 106.7 The Fan will soon be simulcast each morning on Comcast SportsNet, which will also include This will be similar to what CSN already does with Boston's WBZ-FM Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich morning show. In Boston, CSN also airs the Sports Hub's afternoon show with Felger & Massarotti.

CHICAGO: Cubs radio play-by-play voice Pat Hughes still has a couple more scheduled days off this season, and will be taking them both later this month. Next Tuesday (8/16), when the Cubs have a day-night doubleheader vs. Milwaukee. Pre and post-game host Mark Grote will call both of those games, while Bears play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak will fill in for Hughes on Monday Aug. 29th.

Even though WGN Radio has not aired play-by-play of the Bears games since 1999, the station continues to program as if it still does. Keep in mind it is a news talk station (with play-by-play of the Blackhawks and Northwestern University football and basketball).

The station has announced that, again this season, it will air a full three-hour post-game show following each Bears regular season game, hosted by three former Bears players. Yes, three hours, and they don't even air the games. The former players hosting are Dan Hampton, Ed O'Bradovich, and Glen Kozlowski. In addition, they will have another former Bears standout, Doug Plank, as a call-in guest each Monday night to further discuss the weekend's Bears game.

WFLD-TV has moved George Smith off its morning show and into the roll of sports anchor in time for football season.

BIRMINGHAM: This week saw the debut of a new sports station, 99.1 The Game, which includes a local morning show, "Smashmouth Talk" with Scott Griffin. Although the station is currently filling time with Fox Sports Radio and NBC Sports Radio programming, it does plan to add local weekday programming in the near future. The station plans to air Homewood High School football, along with NFL action as an Atlanta Falcons affiliate.

The Game has a tough battle ahead, since WJOX 94.5 has a strong audience. In addition ESPN 100.5 airs ESPN national programming, while WJOX-AM 690 airs Fox Sports programming.

LAS CRUCES: KWML 570 has dropped Fox Sports Radio, as well as the NFL game package it used to air, returning the station to a music format. Interesting time to drop the NFL games, since the season is about to start.