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.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Speculation About A Competitor??

It's always curious when one media organization reports on another, but it's even more curious when it is speculation and not actual news. The Sporting News reported earlier this week that there will be another round of cutbacks and jobs eliminated at ESPN between now and the end of the year.

Perhaps it is showing how much social media as well as the level of media "reporting" what other media sources are saying has risen, but this still seems odd. Reporting that "ESPN staffers are worried" is an obvious poke at the competition. If this winds up being the case, watch The Sporting News brag about how they were the first to report this. As if people would think ESPN or another media outlet would have "reported" it sooner?
As it is ESPN has another problem to face. The word is that construction delays in Manhattan have set back the scheduled opening of the network's new studio at South Street Seaport. Because of this, the studio will not be ready by late December as planned, which means that the new Mike Greenberg (solo) show on the TV side will not start from that location.

No word yet as to whether Greenberg's show will instead originate from another studio (such as ABC or WABC-TV) in the New York City area or be based out of Bristol where in studio guests are tougher to come by. ESPN might have this to contend with after breaking up the Mike & Mike Show after so many successful years.

Even with the NFL calling more attention to its regular season games in London, as evidenced by word "leaking" as to which teams will play there next season, the streaming of regular season games overseas is bringing on some issues. Game Pass Europe, the app which allows streaming of a number of regular season games, has been plagued by technical difficulties over the past month. Subscribers have been refunded 20% of their fees, including those who did not experience any problems.

But that's not all. The company which supports the App was caught posting fake reviews about the performance of the app, as reported by The Independent. The publication obtained an internal e-mail from within Delatre (the company in question) in which a manager instructed staff members to post the fake reviews.

Here in the States, and other countries, the Amazon streaming of Thursday Night Football telecasts has been a success thus far in the season, reporting more than seven million streams for its first four games. The results show a large improvement over the numbers which Twitter generated last year with this streaming package.

The Nielsen Radio Ratings for the mid-September to mid-October period were released this week with a few very interesting markets. Although we usually lead with sports radio crazed Boston, which has another success story, this month Minneapolis is making the biggest ratings splash.
The solid start by the Vikings and the post-season run by the Twins (even though it lasted one game) boosted KFXN The Fan by more than 20% of an already impressive total audience from just the previous month. KXFN rose 1.7 ratings points and finished #1 overall in the market.

On the other side of the ledger are the two markets which produced the teams making for one of the most exciting World Series ever. While it's true that these ratings are from before the World Series participants were determined, both teams were in first place and starting their post-season runs.

Neither Houston or L.A. generate decent ratings out of their full-time sports stations anyway. In Los Angeles, it's interesting that KSPN 710 actually finished with a 20% larger audience than KLAC 570, which airs and is partially owned by the Dodgers. Even worse, neither of those stations showed up in the top 25 in the market.

Houston's sports radio audience went up only one-half of a ratings point between its three stations, and this is with the Astros run and a decent start by the Texans. KILT-AM did rise .3 to a 2.0 overall rating, which is more than KBME-AM and KFNC-FM had combined. Yet, not one of these stations finished in the market's top 20. The next ratings period will tell a lot about where Houston sports radio is at.

Of course, Boston's two all sports stations came in strong, as expected with the Red Sox post-season run along with the Patriots regular season underway. WEEI-FM rose another one-half point and finished at #2 overall in the market. What makes that even more amazing is that its competition WBZ-FM Sports Hub rose an entire ratings point and finished #5 overall. Two of the top five stations in a large market like Boston for one format is amazing enough, and an even more special accomplishment for sports stations.

The Yankees run to almost make it to the World Series boosted both sports stations in New York City. WFAN rose .6 of a ratings point to finish #6 overall in the market, its largest rating since going to FM. WEPN ESPN also increased, rising .4 although with under one-third of the audience of The Fan.

Same story in Chicago with the Cubs run to the post-season. WSCR 670 The Score went up a full ratings point and came in at #4 in the market. WMVP ESPN 1000 rose .4 although its audience is well under half of WSCR.

Philadelphia sports is a big deal these days, with the Eagles off to their best start in years and more hope for the Sixers in the new season. WIP-FM got a huge boost from Angelo Cataldi and the morning show, which finished #1 in morning drive for the month and helped put WIP-FM into the #2 most listened to station position. The station is also #1 on the weekends.

Denver's KOA 850 is always strong in the ratings (and not an all sports station) and its play-by-play, including the Rockies, is making a difference. The station came in #1 at night and #2 on the weekends.

Meanwhile, it is often interesting to hear/see how competing sportscasts handle certain stories or even which story they lead with on a busy sports day. Of course, certain stations will make a certain team or story a priority based on a team it broadcasts. There are, however, times when the decision can be extreme.

On Wednesday (11/1), WBBM-AM 780 Chicago went to its usual 2:15 PM sportscast, hosted by Sports Director Jeff Joniak. His "lead story" was about how the Chicago Bears coaching staff continues to work with QB Mitch Trubisky, who has now started four games in his young NFL career. This was the "lead story", and included a sound bite from the Bears QB coach.

What's wrong with this picture? For one thing, the coming weekend (11/5) is a bye week for the Bears, who don't even play their next game until November 12th. Their record is 3-5 and they are not even considered to be in the post-season hunt.

My reason for listening to this (and other sportscasts) at that time? This was five hours before the start of Game 7 of the World Series., the start of a home game for the Chicago Blackhawks, and roughly four hours before the start of a Chicago Bulls road game. Neither Chicago team had played a game since the previous Saturday.

I listened because I was curious to hear if Joniak would lead with the baseball OR the Blackhawks. It was neither.

Of course, WBBM is the flagship station for the Bears and Joniak does the play-by-play. Every sportscast on the station (as much as two per hour seven days a week) ends with "on your home of the Bears......" and a promo.

Hyping a meaningless game 10 days in advance ahead of a big national story and two local teams is going too far.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Big Markets But Smaller Audience For Series

No surprise here that the early ratings info from this year's World Series are not all that strong. MLB can blame it on a variety of factors, but there really is only one explanation. Somehow MLB continues to keep the Wild Card games, Division Series, and the Championship Series in each league mostly off of over the air channels.

It's getting worse. This post-season we had a total of ONE telecast over the air on Fox.
Sure, the NBA and NHL have their post-season games only on cable. But there is one important difference. Their fans know where to find those games.

With the NBA, ESPN/ABC combine to carry telecasts every week, with ESPN producing several doubleheaders on weeknights and ABC airing Saturday games in prime time during the second half of the regular season.

TNT produces doubleheaders at least once per week throughout the season. Those same two networks share the post-season telecasts, and fans are used to finding the games on one or the other.

For the NHL, NBC and NBCSN show a good amount of regular season telecasts each week during the season. Again, the fans know where to find the games and are familiar with the contending teams.

Not the case with MLB. Over the past couple of years, TBS reduced its regular season presence in half, now showing Sunday games starting after the All-Star break and doing so without the benefit of a consistent starting time.

Fox Sports shows MLB in prime time for a few Saturdays before the All-Star break, and then waits to resume until September, when their telecasts go up against numerous college football games. Fox Sports 1 shows at least one live game each Saturday, but still doesn't generate a large enough audience from its other programming to bring an audience.

While ESPN has a steady flow of games on Sunday nights, along with most Mondays and Wednesdays, the network chose to cut back on its MLB coverage this season, drastically reducing Baseball Tonight from every night to no more than once per week during most of the season.

Along comes the post-season, with its varied starting times and networks the fans are not used to covering almost all of the games. By the time we get to the World Series, many casual fans are not familiar with the teams and what has been taking place. It's nuts that Fox Sports expects an enthusiastic audience when elimination games between the Astros and Yankees were limited to Fox Sports 1. They won't even allow games to air on the local Fox stations in the participating markets.

Out of sight, out of mind. MLB has a World Series with two teams which won 100 games in the same season, representing two of the larger markets. Hopefully they'll make the fans winners when it comes to the next round of negotiations.

The baseball announcer named to the Baseball Hall of Fame next year will very likely be a long-time and well known national voice of baseball. Five of the seven finalists, named this week, for The Ford Frick Award which goes to one broadcaster each season, are known for their work around the country.

Bob Costas, now calling games for MLB Network, and Joe Buck of Fox Sports lead the list of nominations. Also on the list is NBC's Al Michaels. Some of the younger fans probably don't realize that Michaels rose to national fame as a baseball broadcaster in the 70's. After leaving the Cincinnati Reds radio booth, he joined ABC and called many of their Monday Night Baseball telecasts as well as post-season games.

Of course, Michaels is more widely known for his excellent work in prime time for the NFL, as well as for his 1980 Olympics hockey call for ABC.

The other two nominees who called games at the national level are Joe Morgan and Pee Wee Reese. In addition, Buddy Blattner, who called Royals games for many of the early years in franchise history after coming over from the Chicago White Sox, and Dizzy Dean, the former pitcher who was known for his broadcast personality from his years on the Cardinals broadcasts, are on the list.

The vote winner will be announced on Dec. 13th. Look for either Costas or Buck to get the nod.

Speaking of calling games for many years, a salute is in order for Joel Utley, who broadcasts Kentucky Wesleyan basketball. Not enough people are aware that Utley is returning in a couple of weeks to begin his 57th season of calling their games. His first broadcast was on Dec. 2, 1961, and he has called an estimated 1,600 games since then. Incredibly, Wesleyan has had winning seasons (including a string of six consecutive Division II national championships) during 50 of those 56 years.

Also making this a huge accomplishment is the fact that a small school doesn't have a big budget, and Utley has worked the vast majority of the games alone.

A pair of unrelated questionable moments from ESPN within the past couple of days.

On Monday (10/23) ESPN2 aired one episode of "Barstool Van Talk" and then canceled it before so much as a second episode could air on Tuesday. The belief is that this was due to social media exchanges between ESPN staffers and the staff of the blog associated with this show.

The feeling here is that this was a calculated move by ESPN to attempt to destroy the image of this show. The casual fan will take on the point of view that the show "didn't make it" and isn't worthwhile and keep watching the line of similar concept shows already on ESPN and ESPN2.

As a result, ESPN has been able to destroy potential competition, while Barstool will have a tough time gaining this level of popularity in the future.

On Tuesday, ESPN Stats & Info put out on its Twitter feed (hours prior to Game 1 of the World Series) that "Dodgers 7-1 this post season. 1998 Yankees only team in wild card era to win World Series with 2 losses or fewer."

The fact that there was no guarantee that the Dodgers would win the upcoming World Series, or if they did that it would happen with only one loss was not the problem with this post.

They forgot to do their fact checking, since the White Sox went 11-1 in the 2005 post-season on their way to the World Series win that season. Furthermore, their first win of that post season, the ALDS opener against Boston, was televised on ESPN.

Indeed, an interesting start to this week over at ESPN.

NEW YORK: Former WNBC-TV and NBC Network sportscaster Len Berman is temporarily the solo morning host on news/talk WOR 710 as of this past Friday (10/20). This was the result of WOR releasing morning co-host Todd Schnitt last week. Look for a new co-host to be added by Thanksgiving, and for Berman to remain on the morning show.

ATLANTA: Bob Whitfield, who played for 15 seasons in the NFL, is no longer a co-host of the "Regular Guys" sports talk show on WFOM 1230 The Fan 2. The interesting part is that Whitfield is very much still with the group of stations. Management says that Whitfield will become a bigger part of a different show, possibly on sister station WCNN 680/93.7. In addition, word is that the other sister station, WIFN 1340/106.3 could also add some local sports programming within the next six months.

COLUMBIA MO: University of Missouri basketball broadcasts, which begin in a couple weeks, will have a new analyst as a result of a University decision. Long time analyst Gary Link has been removed from the broadcast team and had his role in the school's Athletics Department reduced simultaneously. Reportedly, Link had become critical of others in the Athletic Department.

Obviously, no reason was officially given for this change. And no replacement analyst named as of press time.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Twin Cities Fans In The Discussion

It's a wonderful way for sports fans to be involved in the discussion, literally. The University of Minnesota Sports Management Program, along with the Minnesota Twins, will be hosting a panel discussion on November 8th. Called "The Challenges & Future Landscape of The Twin Cities Sports Industry, the event will take place inside of TCF Bank Stadium. Hosted by Dave Mona, former WCCO sportscaster who also was analyst on U. of Minnesota football earlier in his career, other panel members will include U. of Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle.

Bryan Donaldson of the Twins, Dannon Hulskotter of the Vikings, and Ryan Tanke of the Timberwolves will also participate. At press time, it was not certain who will participate from the Wild.

The announcement of this event mentions that the Twin Cities market is actually the smallest market in the U.S. with six major league pro sports teams, a Division I sports program, and a minor league team.

What makes this such a wonderful event for the fans is that the event is free and open to the public.

The trend of putting sports radio shows on TV continues going into 2018. CBS Sports Network will pick up The Jim Rome Show starting Jan. 2nd from Noon to 3 PM ET.

NEW YORK: Although nothing was done about Fox Sports hiding most of the American League Championship Series on FS1, the network finally gave in and allowed YES Network to begin its local post-game coverage to begin shortly after the end of the game, starting with Monday's (10/16) Game 3.

During the Division Series and for Games 1 and 2 against Houston, YES had to wait at least 30 minutes after the end of the game for FS1's postgame show to conclude. Incredibly, YES Network was forced to wait roughly 90 minutes after the end of the Yankees' clinching win over Cleveland in the ALDS to begin its post-game show well after the fact.

As bad as it is that Fox buries playoff games on FS1, it's even more of an outrage that Fox doesn't allow its over the air stations in and around the participating markets to air the games.

LOS ANGELES: Former NFL standout Eric Davis, who appears on various FS1 programming, has joined KSPN 710 to co-host afternoons with Marcellus Wiley and Kelvin Washington. This is in addition to Davis being a part of the Rams radio pre and postgame shows along with Travis Rodgers and Kirk Morrison.

This Sunday (10/22) has the L.A. market getting "only" three telecasts, with two of them being a Rams then Raiders doubleheader. The Rams meet the AZ Cardinals in London on Sunday. After years of hyping the London telecasts, including several national telecasts starting at 9:30 AM ET, the NFL knew they couldn't get away with what would have been a 6:30 AM local time telecast for both teams.

As a result, this will merely be one of the early regional games, with a 10 AM local time start in L.A. and Phoenix. This time around, the game will only be seen in a few northwest markets beyond Southern California (although San Diego is scheduled at press time to get New Orleans at Green Bay) and Arizona. Sam Rosen and Ronde Barber will call that game.

The other games will be CBS games, with the early primary game of Carolina at Chicago (moved over from Fox to CBS) followed by L.A. getting Denver vs. the Chargers as the market's only late game. Even San Diego gets the Chargers as its only late telecast.

ATLANTA: 92.9 The Game continues to beef up its surrounding Hawks coverage as the flagship station. New team GM Travis Schlenk has begun a new weekly segment (this week, to coincide with the season opener) which will be on the morning show with John Fricke (the former CNN sports anchor) and Hugh Douglas each Tuesday. This is in addition to head coach Mike Budenholzer appearing each Thursday on the midday show with Rick Kamla and John Michaels, and team CEO Steve Koonin appearing each Friday afternoon during the Dukes & Bell Show with Carl Dukes and Mike Bell.

CHARLOTTE: WFNZ The Fan has extended the contract of former Panthers lineman Frank Garcia to continue as midday co-host with Kyle Bailey.

LEXINGTON: Congrats to Darren Headrick, who has joined the University of Kentucky Sports Network Team and will handle play-by-play for baseball and women's basketball.