Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WTMJ Leads The Way In More Ways Than One

It can happen. A prominent radio station making use of its web site to add innovation and expand its reach for its audience. WTMJ 620 Milwaukee is about to launch a new feature for its WiSports.com web site called "Preps Live". This will include live streaming broadcasts of at least 26 area high school football games this season, with plans underway to include basketball when that season arrives.

Matt Menzi and Alex Uhan will be the lead announcers for the series, which will also feature various football playoff games in November. Although WTMJ is not a full time sports talk station, the station has been Milwaukee's dominant play-by-play source over the years, including the Brewers, Packers, Bucks, and University of Wisconsin football.

This high school series of games will not be on the air, but having these games available live on their web site is still a nice innovation.

My contention has been that radio stations (sports and other formats) generally do not use their web site(s) to add to station content. They often give the audience FEWER reasons to listen to or engage with the over-the-air content.

When listeners to a sports station need to go to the web site to get out of town scores (not given on the air) or read a blog or opinion piece from a host or station reporter, it takes them away from listening to the station. If listeners don't have to tune in at a certain time to hear their favorite reporter's commentaries because they can read it on the web site, it serves to reduce the station's listening audience and reduces the urgency.

Too many sports stations fail to provide out of town scores, instead promoting them being on the station web site. What that really does is tells a percentage of the listening audience that they need to go elsewhere for information they want. Often times, the "elsewhere" is NOT the station web site. Thus, the station opens it up for a percentage of its audience to go to another source for the scores, as well as the opportunity to enjoy its content.

This is where the WTMJ innovation comes in. Not everyone in its listening audience is interested in local high school games. But those who are now have a special resource for it, which they can't get from another radio station or local source. And they can engage in WTMJ content while they listen. WTMJ  can provide this without having to program another entire radio station, and better serve its audience.

LOS ANGELES: KFWB 980 is going ahead with its all sports plans after all, even as KSPN and KLAC struggle for an audience. The station has reportedly added Ted Sobel, Bill Seward, and Bob Harvey to its local staff, and is now looking at starting in early September along with football season.

Across town, the current voice of the USC Trojans, who has also called L.A. Clippers games, Pete Arbogast, is going to be honored. Arbogast will be inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in January.

BOSTON: The Sports Hub 98.5 has not only been losing its audience, but now has lost former Patriot Jermaine Wiggins from its talent roster. Wiggins left the station last week, and now has been added to the morning show of a music station instead.

HOUSTON: Listeners may need a magnifying glass to find him, but Barry Warner, a local radio veteran of the past 40 years, will return to the airwaves. The 70 year old Warner, most recently with KILT 610 until about a year ago, will appear on KFNC 97.5 and KGOW 1560 at least once per week. He is already scheduled to appear on Wednesdays with Geoff Ketchum and Sean Salisbury.

DES MOINES: The Champ 1700 is moving "The Zone" with Larry Cotlar and Jason Highly from middays, after a five year run, to the 4 to 6 PM spot starting next week. This is targeted toward taking away listeners from KXNO 1460 and its local "Miller and Brinson Show" which airs at the same time.

BENTON HARBOR MI: WSJM 1400 is dropping its news related talk shows in favor of going all sports starting next Monday (8/25). The station plans to expand its local high school sports coverage well beyond its 2-hour Saturday morning "The Coaches" show with Phil McDonald and Bret Witkoski.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When Suspends Hurt The Suspense

Note to radio executives: The recent wave of sports talk hosts being suspended or disciplined is going to result in more harm than good. This is not to say that on-air personalities who say or do something inappropriate should not be disciplined. It's just that the audience gets punished, and it is an audience of sports fans who have plenty of other easy resources for sports commentary.

Sure, a Boston radio host acted wrongly by specifically calling out a network sideline reporter last month. But the fact that I heard about the host being suspended on radio stations nowhere near Boston, as if the story had any meaning to a non-local audience, is a horrible waste of my time when I am listening for sports information. So what if a Miami sports host was shut down for buying advertisements in Cleveland?

Fans in other cities do not need to be bothered with this so-called "news" when there are local teams and colleges to cover. Let alone some of the "local" sports stations that don't bother giving out of town scores, but somehow make time for a waste of time story about a program host hundreds of miles away.

What is the harm? These "announcements" can make sports radio listeners think that any host that crosses the line will be disciplined in some way. If these hosts cut back, their shows won't be as entertaining. Or if the primary hosts are not on the air, listeners are forced to listen to a substitute instead. How does it help that Boston station when they had a secondary host as a fill-in for an entire week?

As it is, too many sports radio stations spend too much time on local callers and speculation and not enough time on actual sports news, guests, and local coverage. Having program hosts suspended and talkng about it as if it is big news provides the audience with ANOTHER reason to go elsewhere.

Those stations which fail to provide full scoreboard updates "argue" that the hardcore fan is getting those scores on their phone or personal device "anyway". While I "argue" that they can get more information and expert opinions from that same device than the station provides as well.

What these stations should do (or should have done) was to announce that "(Name) has been disciplined for (whatever was said or done)" and not reveal any details. When fans of him or her do not hear him/her on the air the first day, it keeps them tuning in every day to hear when he/she returns. Stations in other cities have zero reason to include this story on their newscasts. The advertisers which often need to be pleased and are the reason some of these suspensions occur will be made aware of the disciplinary actions.

This needs to change (stop) before even more listeners think there is less of a need to listen to their favorite local hosts.

CHICAGO: It is curious that there is still nothing regarding Cubs TV for next year, as rumors of a pending deal with the local Fox TV stations have yet to pan out officially. I'm thinking this is a case of the local stations and regional networks waiting to see how the standoffs regarding paying a truckload of dollars for TV rights in Los Angeles (Dodgers) and Houston shake out over the next few weeks. That both of these deals have been financial disasters for the entities which spent billions could be an incentive for Chicago stations to wait and see before spending millions more than they need to.

WBBM-TV 2 has added Camron Smith as a backup sports anchor. The former high school hoops coach has appeared on local high school basketball telecasts as well as on the Big Ten Network.

Northern Illinois University football, which has jumped into the national spotlight during this decade, will have a new Chicago radio home for the new season. WIND 560 will air all football games and at least 12 basketball games, along with a weekly one-hour coaches show during football season.

Chicago native Bill Hazen will be calling play-by-play for select Conference USA basketball games on Sinclair Broadcasting Group TV stations starting with the coming season. Hazen has called Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls telecasts in the past.

INDIANAPOLIS: Michael Grady, co-host of the "Grady & Big Joe Show" on WFNI 1070 and 107.5 and the P A announcer for the Pacers, has also been hired as a sports reporter for WRTV-TV 6.  He begins his new role on August 22nd.

PITTSBURGH: Meet the news boss. Same as the old boss. Must be the slogan at WWCS 540. The station will be dropping its Fox Sports Radio programming. What will replace it? By September 15th, the station will remain a 24 hour syndicated sports station, but will have the Yahoo Sports lineup instead.

CHARLOTTE: Fans who can't get enough of sports radio from the three stations already with that format in the market will have still another choice starting within the next few weeks. WRFX 99.7, a low power signal, will begin airing Fox Sports Radio and nothing but within the next few weeks.

NASHVILLE: WNSR 560 and 95.9 has a new sports show from 4 to 7 PM as of this week, as Johnny "Ballpark" Franks returns to the airwaves for the first time since the late 90's.

ROCHESTER: ESPN Radio 950 and 95.7 has a new local show from 3 to 7 PM. Scott Pitoniak and Dan Borrello now host "The Radio Press Box".

Friday, August 8, 2014

Still The Teams - Not The Hosts

Sports radio stations can continue to act as though certain personalities make a difference on the station, but what current status of sports in a given market is what it's all about. The latest radio ratings, covering the period from late June to late July, continue to indicate this in certain key markets.

The sports talk race in Boston has been a big story for the past couple of years, especially when WBZ-FM Sports Hub overtook WEEI and was going strong. But look again. The Bruins and Celtics finished up weeks ago, and the Red Sox are headed toward the distinction of going from worst to first to worst in the East Division over three seasons. The Patriots are just starting, so we'll see some audience growth by October.

WBZ-FM Sports Hub has now dipped to #17 overall, officially having lost nearly 50% of its overall audience since its May ratings. And, of course, in May the Bruins and Celtics were in the post-season while the Red Sox were expected to contend. If WBZ-FM lost its audience to WEEI-FM, you could argue that station content makes a difference. But WEEI-FM has dropped again as well, although it now holds a .4 overall lead over WBZ-FM.

In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket remains the #1 overall most listened to station, and it's no coincidence that they also air the Tigers games while the team can coast into the MLB post-season. In Pittsburgh, KDKA-FM, which also features Pirates broadcast while they contend again, just rose to #6 overall with a .7 rise in just the past month.

Philadelphia teams are struggling, especially the Phillies this season, and the 20% overall audience dip by WIP-FM since May reflects this. An ever better example is San Antonio, where the Spurs remain the only show (pro team) in town. With this ratings period taking place mostly following the Spurs' championship run, not one of the three English sports stations in the market so much as cracked the top 20 in overall audience or have a rating above a 1.0.

Meanwhile, on the TV side of things, nothing further on the Dodgers TV situation, or lack thereof, in Los Angeles. There may now be less hope for immediate action due to the withdrawl of the Murdoch/Fox bid to purchase Time Warner Cable from earlier this week. It looks more and more like it will take a merger/takeover by Comcast to make the Dodgers games more readily and economically available, and that is likely months and months away.

This past week had the four games between the Dodgers and Angels, shown to most of the market via Fox Sports (Angels telecasts) receive significant ratings increase. The Angels telecasts received double their typical ratings for the current season (which are also well up from last season's). On the radio side, these latest ratings were up for both KSPN and KLAA which are sports stations that share Angels radio broadcasts.

While the Dodgers local telecasts continue with low ratings (because so few fans can receive the games at any price), the Angels' result is more typical of how the various local and regional sports networks are doing this season with MLB telecasts when the teams are in contention. Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Cincinnati are each coming up with #1 ratings for local prime time telecasts this season.

The Houston Astros are far from contention, but are now showing the potential to peform like a true big league team by next season although still mired in a legal dispute about having their games shown on more systems. The possibility of a bankruptcy court awarding ownership of the regional network they share with the NBA Rockets to AT&T and DirecTV to operate as a Root Sports network brings hope that the games could be readily available well in advance of the 2015 Astros season. The anticipated court ruling will likely come within the next two months, potentially allowing the entire Rockets season to be available to possibly millions more viewers.

CLEVELAND: The start of exhibition games also means the start of the vast new radio coverage of the Browns games. All of the team's games will air on three local radio stations, WKNR, WKRK, and WNCX. WKNR will air the bulk of the surrounding coverage, including what is now a four hour pre-game block with a separate two hours prior to the Browns Radio Network two hour show.

Play-by-play voice Jim Donovan will, however, shift over to WKYC-TV 3 for three of the four exhibition games shown only on a local basis, where he will be joined by analyst Solomon Wilcots. Donovan will do the radio call for the Aug. 9 game vs. Detroit since ESPN will show it nationally. Jeff Phelps, afternoon host on KRKK 92.3, will handle radio play-by-play for those three games, while Doug Dieken remains radio analyst for all games. But you do have to wonder how you keep a pre-game show longer than an overtime game would be interesting to the audience.

WISCONSIN: A chain of three AM stations in a region are all becoming sports stations this month, each dropping music formats. WXCE 1260 Avery, WHSM Hayward, and KKIN 930 Atkin MN will share programming and be known as "Red Zone Sports" stations.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The "Price" We Pay For Actual Sports News

What ever happened to reporters waiting for facts before they report? The MLB trade deadline and all its fuery was fun for the fans, but aggravating at the time. The trade of David Price from Tampa to Detroit was the biggest of the trades made on deadline day, but it took a while to get the facts straight.

I happened to have been watching the Detroit vs. Chicago telecast at the time when rumors of the Tigers acquiring Price were going strong. The Chicago telecast also showed Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski go into the dugout and then motion for Tigers CF Austin Jackson to come off the field less than four minutes before the deadline time of 4 PM ET. This was during an at-bat, not between hitters or between innings.

Upon going to a variety of online sources, they were still "reporting" that baseball writer Ken Rosenthal was "reporting" the details of the trade. Even the Detroit Free Press web site has this "report" as its lead story. It took me at least 15 minutes before getting the official "facts" of that three way trade.

It shouldn't be such a big deal about who is first to break the facts of a story. How major news sources merely report what someone else is "reporting" without a confirmation or denial from their own sources is still beyond my comprehension. If you can't confirm or deny a report, then simply say "We are awaiting a possible trade involving David Price......." and leave it at that.

These same sources don't update their headlines to say "The Tigers are winning in the 9th inning, so they could win this game!". They wait until the game is over before publishing the final score. (That was example, regardless of how ineffective the Tigers bullpen has become!) They should be doing the same, if they are even going to bother with trade and signing rumors.

Worse yet are some of the "news" stories on sportscasts around the country within the past week. The NFL training camps are into full swing. The MLB trade deadline came and went with several major trades. The major college football conferences held media days. Yet, many sportscasts and reports outside of Boston wasted fans' time with the "story" about a Boston sports radio host being suspended because of comments about a sideline reporter.

This is not to say that punishment wasn't warranted, but, other than listeners of WEEI Boston (where the suspended host is employed), who cares? Why is this "news" in Chicago or Kansas City or anywhere else?

Same thing with controversial remarks by Stephen A. Smith. Other than possibly ESPN (which could "report" the controversy to smear his name) and Sirius/XM satellite which will now employ him for the Mad Dog Channel, why did stations and web sites bother to "report" this? If there isn't enough actual sports news to talk about, try confirming or denying speculation instead.

Meanwhile, ESPN managed to get Time Warner Cable, as well as Bright House, to pick up its SEC Network in time for its launch later this month leading into football season.  The Network will air at least 45 Conference football games. One of the markets that gains from this is the Cincinnati area, where University of Kentucky fans will be able to see those games shown on this channel. In addition, SEC Network plans to air three UK exhibition basketball games from the Bahamas in mid-August. And some were worried about having enough programming?

Fox Sports has added former NFL QB Brady Quinn to its NFL and college football coverage, where he will be a game analyst as needed. In addition, former pro and college coach Dave Wannstedt has been added as a college football analyst for Fox Sports, as well as on Big Ten Network. Wannstedt is expected to be a part of the Fox Sports college studio pre and post-game coverage.

LOS ANGELES: The chess game continues with the Dodgers TV situation, or lack thereof. As if it is a coincidence that Vin Scully, who in past years has waited until the off-season to announce a return to the booth, decides in July that he will be back for 2015. This "just happens" to provide an added element to Dodgers telecasts for next season, which are still not approved to be shown anywhere other than Time Warner Cable.

Earlier in the week, TWC said it is willing to allow for arbitration to determine a "fair price" for DirecTV and other carriers to carry the Dodgers channel. As expected, DirecTV does not approve. And the Dodgers brass still has no comment about all of this. Of course. DirecTV takes the "We don't want to raise our prices across the board" approach, while the Dodgers quietly generate enough money from the TWC contract to cover their payroll and then some no matter how few of their fans can watch the games.

On the radio side, and separate from the Dodgers, there is the possibility of KFWB 980 transitioning to all sports radio by Labor Day. What started as the intent to get the Jim Rome Show back on radio in Los Angeles has escalated to the point of the station considering adding more and more sports programming as well in hopes of gaining an audience. However, KSPN 710 ESPN barely cracks the top 20 in the ratings, KLAC hovers around a 1 rating even with the Dodgers broadcasts. KLAA, even with most of the Angeles games, has a tiny audience otherwise. While the only local team KFWB currently carries is the Clippers.

KABC 790 has jumped back into play-by-play with a new multi-year contract to air the Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings games starting in the fall. The Kings had been on KTLK 1150, and now gain a much stronger signal in the process. Nick Nickson will continue in his long-time play-by-play role.

BOSTON: It's still too soon to tell whether or not WEEI 93.7's Dennis & Callhan morning show will continue beyond Labor Day. The speculation is primarily the result of the simulcast of the show's first three hours is being pulled from NESN in September. No word yet if NESN will create its own morning show or what direction the TV network will go. It will be interesting to see whether WEEI makes a change or NESN will announce its morning intentions first.

SAN DIEGO: After moving from afternoons to mornings and put on shuffle over the past year, Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton is now gone from the Mighty 1090 XEPRS, as well as the Padres pre-game show, even though the season is still in progress. Hacksaw has been a part of the San Diego sports talk landscape for more than 25 years.

KNOXVILLE: Two smaller stations are dropping sports programming after nearly four years which included a huge focus on University of Tennessee sprots. WVLZ 1180 and WKCE 1120 (licensed to nearby Maryville TN) will be in a different format by the end of August.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Will The Dodgers Telecasts Remain A Secret?

Word is that the Dodgers are looking into a partnership or outright purchase of KLAC 570, which currently serves as the team's flagship radio station. At first, I questioned this, based on what has (or hasn't) happened when other MLB teams have bought into a radio station for their game broadcasts.

The Cardinals returned to KMOX in 2013 after the ratings disaster from their purchase of 570 AM as well as complaints from fans who could not easily pick up the broadcasts. The Angels share some of their broadcasts with KSPN 710 in order to increase their audience from the KLAA broadcasts. The Twins broadcasts are now on the much lower rated KTWN, which is also owned by the team. And so it goes.

What makes the Dodgers situation different is the team's TV contract with Time Warner and the ramifications it brings. My new theory is that a Dodgers purchase (or joint venture) of their flagship radio station plays right into their hands, and that, frankly, it is not good for the frustrated fan base.

Here is why.

If the Dodgers are going to take over KLAC, it would happen in time for the 2015 season. Since this is now late July and there is no movement on getting the Dodgers TV games into any more homes, it probably won't happen at all this season. If the team has control over the radio inventory, along with the stadium advertising, signage, web site(s), and related marketing opportunities, they can add the total multi-media package onto selling the TV spots to the limited audience.

In other words, the Dodgers could give large scale advertisers a combination of TV, radio, signage, stadium, and online commercials based on the "total" audience these combine to reach on a regular basis. Even with a TV audience limited to less than one-third of its potential, this plan, if successful, would allow the Dodgers to boast that a large percentage of their TV ads are sold out. This would help the team justify the huge contract the team has with Time Warner for years to come.

Advertisers would then be reaching the audience via TV, radio, online, and at the stadium in one media buy. If the Dodgers own and/or control the radio station, the Dodgers can appeal to even more advertisers which would participate in other station programming for an amount less than the actual games, thus creating more revenue opportunities for the team.

While team officials are acting frustrated by the Time Warner deal keeping other cable and satellite companies from airing their games, the word "acting" is meant in the literal sense. Just like the quotes last week from Commissioner Bud Selig about being frustrated about Dodgers TV. They are all saying that because they have to.

While they laugh all the way to the bank. This deal (alone) brings the Dodgers hundreds of millions of dollars each season for years to come. Even with a team payroll close to $200,000,000, this TV deal covers their costs even if no one bought tickets and they played in a closed stadium. Think about that. (There is the revenue that could very well be buying the team its own radio station!)

Here are the 2014 Dodgers seriously contending for a West Division title, and the fans continue to fill Dodger Stadium for many of the home dates. That ticket, concession, and parking revenue adds even more to the coffers. As long as the team is in the mix, fans will buy tickets. While their TV contract, no matter how few fans can watch the majority of the games, continues to pay the freight.

Why would MLB be frustrated by this? I don't think they are one bit concerned. Think back 25 years ago when the first round of massive new stadiums were being introduced. Team owners were making threats of moving the team without a new stadium deal, and several of them (new stadiums) happened. So when one prominent franchise pulls off a massive TV deal for BILLIONS (which is partially shared around all teams), it could set the template for other teams to follow. Especially if the other teams can show a "sold out" TV inventory and the ability to contend, such as the Dodgers are doing.

DirecTV appears to be frustrated over this. But when you think about it, right now they benefit from the current media wars. First of all, DirecTV is about to enter its final season of the current NFL Sunday Ticket package, so the more publicity they generate, the more possible subscribers (especially sports fans) become aware of them. If they were able to offer the Dodgers games in Southen California within a more expensive package, its percentage of the take would be that much greater, since x percent of $5 per month will mean more profit for them than x percent of $1, but they would have "no choice" in the matter.

What about Time Warner? How will they survive with a debt of billions of dollars over the next 20 years? There actually is an answer. TWC is looking to be sold, possibly to Comcast. If not, word is that Fox (Murdoch money) is next in line to acquire TWC's cable rights, which includes Turner Sports, which gets them NBA and additional MLB and PGA rights to start.

From a business standpoint, TWC can include the "billions in debt" as part of the sale conditions, and walk away from the Dodgers deal while still taking in millions for the purchase of their business. In effect, the buyer of TWC pays a lot to the Dodgers instead of the TWC people, but gets this rights deal instead.

This could very well be the reason that TWC refuses to lower the costs for other cable and satellite providers for the Dodgers games, and ultimately to the fans. They now have a valuable bargaining chip, and if they plan to be sold, the long-term profitability is no longer a major concern.

One more thing. There is one more major reason why the Dodgers want to have this "combined buy" situation for advertisers. It is not only to make the TV games fit in. Keep in mind, as much as we all hate to face it, that Vin Scully won't be around forever. It could be that he won't even be around next season, or will further reduce his schedule. And that will make even the radio package (on which Vin is heard in simulcast for three innings on the games he broadcasts) less desirable. Thus, the Dodgers want the ability to sell everything in combination.

While the team "wins" by this, Time Warner "wins", and MLB "wins" under this arrangement and the possibilities in the near future, it is only the paying fans of the team that lose out.

I hope somebody can prove me wrong on this.

Elsewhere, ESPN has chosen its August 10 Sunday Night Baseball game, which will be the Nationals vs. the Braves.

ATLANTA: The Game 92.9 has added Mike Bell to its afternoon drive show, along with Carl Dukes, and has extended the show to now air from 2 to 7 PM weekdays. What makes this an interesting hire is that Bell comes over after having most recently spent 15 years on 790 The Zone, which (790) got rid of its local programming in May.  Of course, the station still remains well behind The Fan 680/93.7 in the ratings.

SAN DIEGO: Let's go with a different syndicated programming source for XTRA Sports 1360. KLSD has decided to try Dave Palet and Jeff Dotseth, who have been hosting weekends on Fox Sports Radio, as its "local" morning team from 6 to 9 AM, and will plug in Fox Sports Radio for the midday and weekends. As of now, Steve Hartman and Mike Costa will continue locally in afternoon drive Judson Richards will continue "The Chargers Power Hour" from 6 to 7 PM and then stay on (most weeknights) for "XTRA at Night". For those scoring at home, the station simply dropped NBC Sports Radio to do this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's Really Content That Is "King" in Cleveland

My "content is king" theory for sports radio stations turned into "content is King" for Cleveland's WKRK 92.3 The Fan last week when it came to reporting on "King James" returning to Cleveland.

While much of the Cleveland media was surrounding LeBron James' suburban mansion as the word spread that an official announcement could be coming very soon, WKRK's Joe Lull scooped them when he reported that Cavaliers team owner Dan Gilbert was on his plane headed to South Florida.

That is where LeBron was at the time. Gilbert reportedly posted on social media that he was "enjoying the backyard", even though Lull was tracking the exact location status of the plane (via FlightAware). Even when Gilbert was made aware that word had leadked out, he had his crew change the flight into a different airport, hoping to avert anyone seeing him arrive in Florida. However, that move did not effect Lull's ability to track the specific location of the plane.

This enabled reporter Anthony Lima to (reportedly) be the first to broadcast the announcement that LeBron is returning to Cleveland, doing so during the Baskin & Phelps Show.

At that moment, WKNR 850 had Aaron Goldhammer on the air, but without vacationing co-host Tony Rizzo, while WTAM 1100 (news radio and the Cavs' flagship station) was into a long commercial break, before both stations soon after jumped on the story.

The sports media should be saluting and taking note of the work by Lull and Lima to be the first to report the most important local sports story in years. This is a whole lot better than reporting that some other network is "reporting" that LeBron "could be" about to return to Cleveland. And they scooped the team's flagship station in the process.

As it should be, this was about being the first to break a story and taking the steps necessary to do so ahead of the competition. It is all too rare in the sports media these days. For once, it was great to see radio lead the way.

However, a couple of days later there was reason to, again, be very disappointed in the sports media and what they "report". Fox Sports decided to reveal that it is making a change of the sideline reporter for its primary NFL telecast announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. I'll say this again. In more than 50 years of personally viewing NFL games on a weekly basis, I have never made a viewing choice, nor met anyone who has, based on who the "sideline reporter" is, or even whether or not there is one.

This item should have been nothing more than a one-line blurb buried in the NFL News. How disappointing to tune to sports radio stations and read sports columnists spending ANY time about Erin Andrews and Pam Oliver. Even Fox Sports stations should know to have something of importance or urgency to be discussing instead. Way too many outlets acted as though this was a "news" story, and it should be cause for embarrassment if this is something to actually talk or write about.

Then there was ESPN, faced with an unfortunate rain delay during its Yankees vs. Orioles Sunday Night Baseball telecast (7/13). The network had presented its full hour "Baseball Tonight" leading into the telecast, and had a crew in Minneapolis for the following night's Home Run Derby telecast.

Yet, all ESPN chose to do during the rain delay was to join ESPNews for "SportsCenter". At the start, they were doing an extended wrap up of the World Cup. Don't get me wrong. I understand the significance of the World Cup. However, this was during MLB time. ESPN is not one of the regional or local sports networks that doesn't have anything to show during a rain delay and sticks viewers with a rerun. Where was any of their baseball crew? At the very least, they should have replayed the still timely segments from "Baseball Tonight" recapping the day's action and previewing the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.

Over at NBCSN, they are getting ready to begin having what will be an extended post-game show following NBC Sunday Night NFL telecasts. The network "just happened" to have scheduled the NBCSN Sunday Sports Report for 11:30 PM ET, the time that their upcoming Sunday Night telecasts could end if the game is played at a reasonable pace. The show will actually debut on August 17th.

Once the NFL regular season starts, this should prove to be a good idea for NBCSN. Many football fans would prefer a national wrap up of the SNF game and other NFL action instead of the local news (on the NBC station) or alternative programming on the west coast.

PHOENIX: Three sports radio stations seems to be not enough for KTAR 620, which plans to take on ESPN Radio no later than mid-September. As a result, plans are reportedly in the works for KMVP 98.7 to take on being the primary station for the city's pro sports team broadcasts. This will mean that when there are no conflicts (of more than one local team playing at the same time) that the local play-by-play would be on the FM dial, while the AM dial would likely have THREE stations with seemingly the same "national" sports talk. In addition to KTAR, there is KGME 910 (Fox Sports Radio) and KDUS 1060 (NBC Sports Radio). Yikes.

DETROIT: During this time when 97.1 The Ticket is enjoying excellent ratings, it is now officially 20 years since full-time sports radio arrived in Detroit. It was July 11, 1994 when WDFN 1130 took the air in that role. The timing back then was impeccable. The Lions were about to begin their season under much-maligned head coach Wayne Fontes, while MLB was headed toward the labor dispute that stopped an exciting season which never finished.

Come to think of it, those are still more compelling topics right now than who will be the sideline reporter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Out "Fox-ed" Again

It's not 'lead story' material, but it is good to see some genuine competition among TV sports sources. On Wednesday (7/9) afternoon, Fox Sports promoted a scheduled appearance by David Ortiz of the Red Sox shortly after 6 PM ET on Fox Sports 1. Sure enough, at 4:20 PM ET, viewers of MLB Network, shortly after its live airing of the Dodgers vs. Tigers game, "just happened" to score a live interview with none other than David Ortiz.

Getting the jump on a competitor is how it used to be in the media. This sure beats them reporting what the other is reporting instead of using company resources to confirm or deny.

Elsewhere, a definite Ohio flavor this week.

Our congratulations to Bob Trumpy, who is going to receive this year's "Pete Rozell Radio and TV Award" during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction weekend of Aug. 1st to 3rd. During his playing days with the Cincinnati Bengals, Trumpy was among the very first athletes to transition into radio sports talk, doing so at a time when maybe one or two stations in a large market even had a show dedicated to sports talk.

Trumpy managed to host a show on WCKY Radio during his playing days in 1976, later to be hired away by WLW 700. This helped lead to being hired as a game analyst for NBC, working with Dick Enberg and Charlie Jones among others, and later doing at least one Super Bowl on national radio.

Having worked in the Cincinnati region during that time, I personally witnessed Trumpy go from his playing days to covering and talking about the games, and still recall who adept he was at that transition. He brought a strong broadcast presence from day one, and, unlike many former athletes turned analysts, worked hard at learning the other sports and making his opinions known.

These days in Cincinnati, Reds fans are enjoying watching their team on the tube. You would not guess this, but for the first half of the current baseball season, Reds telecasts have the third highest local ratings on Fox Sports Ohio. Not surprisingly, the top two local team telecast ratings come from Detroit and St. Louis.

In Cleveland, WTAM 1100 is picking up on the increased popularity of the Indians (and perhaps anticipating more interest in the Cavs games?) with regard to its nighttime lineup. On weeknights when there are no Indians (or Cavaliers games during NBA season), the station has added Nick Camino as its show host from 7 to 11 PM. Camino is the station's Indians reporter and host of "The Sports Feed" as well. Even though Camino's show will not be 100% sports focused, he replaces Bob Frantz, who is (as of this week) no longer with WTAM. Frantz had been with the station since 2006, his second stint there.

With the Indians hosting a series of 20-year anniversary celebrations for what is now Progressive Field, the August 1st home date will include a salute to radio voice Tom Hamilton. Fans at the game will be treated to Hamilton's calls of his "top 10 ballpark moments". A well deserved salute, indeed.

Meanwhile, CBS continues to gear up for its Thursday Night Football package, which begins in just two months. Former NFL official Mike Carey has been added to the on-air crew to comment about specific calls and explain rule interpretations. Carey is also expected to participate in the network's regular Sunday coverage as well.

OLYMPIA WA: KGY 1240 and KAYO 96.9 have announced they will no longer air high school football or basketball games effective immediately. This even includes playoff games. Management reports that the stations lost money on these over the past ten years, which, to their credit, shows this was not a typical radio "impulse" decision. But it is a shame for even one radio station to give up on something that it could offer exclusively to local listeners.

BILOXI MS: Sorry to hear of the passing of Walter "Waldo" Thornton last week at the age of 53 following a heart attack. Thornton is remembered as a long time play-by-play voice of Pascagoula High School (where he was a standout player on the 1976 MS state championship team) as well as Moss Point H.S. He also hosted sports talk shows on WPMO during his career.