Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Bulls Broadcasts To Be In A Funk One More Season

Another week, another announcement in sports media about disputes between sports networks and cable/satellite providers. There was actually a news release over this past weekend to let people know that Fox Sports, as well as local Fox over the air stations, were "restored" to Dish Network.

In the early years of cable, providers were required to be approved by each local municipality because of their service to the community. In recent years, the paying subscribers have zero say in whether or not certain channels are renewed or dropped, regardless of their impact on the monthly costs.

Sports fans suffer enough with increased costs to watch games on TV and/or devices without having to watch the news to find out whether or not they can enjoy certain sports events and programs on their intended provider. There ought to be a regulation saying that when it happens that providers and networks/channels don't agree, everything stays the same.

One thing that won't stay the same will be the TV voice heard by Chicago Bulls fans after the new NBA season. After 43 seasons of calling NBA games, Neil Funk has announced that this will be his final season. Funk joined the Bulls for the 1991-92 season, which was right after the franchise's very first championship with Michael Jordan. Like last season, Neil will be doing a reduced work load, calling all available home games (not on national TV) and roughly half of the road schedule. No word yet on a replacement, but the word is that radio voice Chuck Swirsky will shift over to the TV side starting next season.


CHICAGO: It remains to be heard whether or not WMVP ESPN 1000 will be able to increase its overall audience and more favorably compete with WSCR The Score 670, but the effort is coming from the new management ESPN has brought in. The group brought in Mike Thomas to be Market Manager for Chicago. Thomas comes from WBZ-FM Sports Hub in Boston, one of the nation's most successful sports stations over the past 10 years. Thomas plans to remain with WBZ-FM in a consulting role to help transition to his eventual replacement.

WMVP faces the challenge of not having any significant local play-by-play. The Cubs and Bulls air on WSCR 670, the Bears on WBBM 780, and the Blackhawks and White Sox on WGN 720. 

CINCINNATI: It won't be easy to have a new radio voice of the Reds starting next season after 46 years of Marty Brennaman doing the honors. In a surprisingly low key announcement, the Reds made it official that Tommy Thrall will take over the lead role, continuing to work with Jeff Brantley. Thrall has already been a part of the Reds broadcasts, thus making for an easier transition. 

SAN FRANCISCO: KTCT-AM 1050 has become the flagship station for University of San Francisco basketball starting with the coming season. Pat Olson has been named play-by-play voice.

PITTSBURGH: AT&T SportsNet has extended its agreement to show every Pirates game it can (at least 150 per year) as part of its multi-year extension. No replacement has been named (as of press time) for Steve Blass, who retired from the booth after this season, and after 60 years in the Pirates organization. Maybe that is fitting. It's hard to think that anyone could replace Blass and all he did for the team. Of course, there will be a new member added to the broadcast team at some point during this off season.

DENVER: Former Broncos tackle Tyler Polumbus has joined the afternoon show on KKFN The Fan 104.3. Polumbus will work with Darren McKee and Nick Ferguson, replacing Tom Nalen, who is no longer with the station.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Why We Should Pass On Pub Pass

The announcement earlier this week that NBC Sports is partnering with AEG to create "NBC Sports Pub Pass" is an alarming one for sports fans for a number of reasons.

Although this platform will start out with 140 Premier League soccer matches, additional cycling race coverage (such as Tour de France), and at least 185 Rugby World Cup and Premiership Rugby matches, this could lead to still more sports telecasts becoming a part of this.

Pub Pass is designed to only be shown in what it terms "retail pub and restaurant establishments providing live international sports for their patrons".

Here is NBC Sports telling fans that they will have to go to a restaurant or pub to watch certain events. Events we won't get at home? The same fans who pay rising cable, satellite, or streaming fees to see the live events they have the rights to. From one of the many sports networks which fill up hours every day of meaningless programing which is not always sports related.

Don't think for one minute that we have nothing to worry about since this is "only" for international sporting events. If this concept shows any degree of success, we all know this could expand to the major U.S. sports. It's not like NBC Sports (or any of the other networks that start doing this) will lower residential subscription bills to help with our restaurant costs.

This may seem unrelated, but it falls under the same heading of sports fans (and millions of consumers who are not) being gouged to be able to watch their favorite sports events at home. The L.A. Dodgers still lack TV coverage in 70% of their local market. They have added five late season telecasts to be simulcast on KTLA Channel 5. The Dodgers have no control over the YouTube live streams which include the Dodgers, which include the Sept. 17th home game vs. Tampa Bay.  The Dodgers vs. the Yankees upcoming on Aug. 23rd will be available via Facebook.

There has been little mention of how the Dodgers' TV Network does not even offer streaming of its telecasts to the few subscribers they have. Around the country, most of the Fox regional and NBC Sports regional networks offer free streaming to authorized subscribers. This includes the L.A. Angels, whose games can easily be streamed (locally) via the Fox Sports app.

As of now, Dish Network no longer carries any of the 21 Fox Sports regional networks. Dish chairman Charlie Ergen was quoted in Ad Age as saying that it "does not look good that the regional sports will ever be on Dish again". Although that is nothing but a bargaining plea, there is a point to be made.

While this takes place, the Chicago Cubs prepare to launch their own regional network, Marquee Sports, in February. A Comcast official was recently quoted as saying that the Chicago dominant cable provider "had nothing to report" regarding the possibility of carrying the new network.

Although Fox Sports does not get to begin its Thursday Night NFL package at the start of the season, part of its MLB deal includes airing baseball in prime time in September instead. Fox will air Atlanta vs. Philadelphia on Sept. 12 and St. Louis vs. Chicago Cubs on Sept. 19th. To get the jump on the night's NFL game, these games will begin at 7:15 ET.

NEW YORK: Two baseball play-by-play voices in the news. Congrats to Howie Rose on his upcoming induction into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame on Nov. 3rd. Howie now serves as the Mets radio voice in the first of the team's seven year contract with WCBS 880. His time with the Mets goes back to 1987 to 1995 when he hosted pre and post-game coverage on WFAN before taking over on TV from 1996 to 2003. In addition, Rose called Islanders hockey for Fox Sports New York from 1995 to 2016.

The N Y Post reports that Michael Kay is about to return to the Yankees TV booth upon his recovery from vocal chord surgery. Ryan Rucco will continue to fill in for Kay until his return.

CHICAGO: Talk about technical difficulties! During its August 14th telecast of the Cubs vs. Phillies game, NBC Sports Chicago was losing its feed, going to a black screen except for the NBC Sports Chicago Logo. After a couple of minutes of the game feed dropping in an out, a scroll came across the screen. It said "We apologize for the technical difficulties. Stand by for Blackhawks hockey". While their first Blackhawks telecast remains more than a month away, the baseball feed did return seconds after that.

VSiN, the sports betting network with Brent Musberger, will have its "Sunday Preview" show in Chicago on WLS 890 on Saturdays from 6:30 to 8:30 PM along with airing weeknight updates at 6:58 PM. This will be unless pre-empted for University of Illinois football and basketball broadcasts. The VSiN programming expands and moves over from WSCR 670.

Bears fans will have NFL Network's Kyle Brandt on the play-by-play call for the Aug. 29th preseason local telecast. Adam Amin, who calls the other local pre-season games, will be calling the UCLA vs. Cincinnati game on ESPN that night.

DALLAS: KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan has scrambled its midday and afternoon lineup, which begins on Monday (8/19). Ben & Skin (Ben Rogers and Jeff 'Skin' Wade) shift to 10 AM to 2 PM. GBag Nation with Gavin Dawson, Jeff Cavanaugh, and Lucious Alexander will continue to air for five hours, now from 2 to 7 PM.

PHOENIX: After years of being shuffled to other frequencies due to play-by-play conflicts, the AZ Coyotes finally have a flagship station which makes them the priority. Bob Heethuis and Paul Bissonnette will be calling the games on KGME Sports 910.

CHARLOTTE: Just in time for the exhibition games, the Panthers radio network announced its new analysts, replacing Eugene Robinson. Former QB Jake Delhomme did not wish to do the entire season, but has been hired to do all home games and only the road games from Houston and New Orleans for this season. Former tackle Jordan Gross will serve as analyst for the remaining road games. Mick Mixon is beginning his 15th season on play-by-play. WBT 1110 continues as the flagship station.

SALT LAKE: Spence Checketts returns to the local airwaves after a year and one-half absence. Starting on Monday (8/19), he will be hosting 2 to 6 PM on ESPN 700. Checketts is the son of former Utah Jazz and N Y Knicks President Dave Checketts.

NASHVILLE: WSM 650 returned to full-time country music this week, dropping George Plaster's afternoon drive sports talk show experiment after only one month.

COLUMBIA SC: Chris Miller has been named new host for University of South Carolina football pre and post-game coverage. The pre-game show runs for three hours prior to kickoff. He replaces Jay Philips, who held the role for 17 years, but continues his weekday how on 107.5 The Game.

OMAHA: 1620 The Zone has brought back Mike Severe after a five year absence. He will co-host mornings with Damon Benning, the former University of Nebraska football standout. Gary Sharp moves out of mornings and into the midday spot. Also, University of Nebraska at Omaha basketball and hockey games will continue on 1180 The Zone 2 under a just extended agreement.

BANGOR: 92.9 The Ticket debuts a new early morning show with Wayne Harvey on Monday (8/19). Harvey will host "The Morning Line" from 6 to 8 AM, drawing from his 26 years of local radio and TV experience.

Thursday, August 8, 2019


The start of the full NFL pre-season is upon us. While local ratings for exhibition game telecasts don't mean much (beyond the local markets), one of the Saturday (8/10) games will be an interesting one for viewership. It seems that the L.A. Rams play in Oakland. This bring us one team which recently relocated back to L.A. to a so-so fan base playing in the final pre-season opener for the Raiders while they are still an Oakland team.

With both teams originating their respective telecasts, this game can be seen in almost every northern and southern California market, and beyond. The "beyond" includes Honolulu HI, Reno NV, ,Anchorage AK, and, of course, Las Vegas.

The Raiders pre-season games are carried in Los Angeles (where the team resided for years), obviously in Las Vegas (where they move after this season), and also in Honolulu, which is considered within the California region for local telecasts. The Rams are also carried in Las Vegas and Honolulu.

As a result, this exhibition game will appear with both telecasts airing simultaneously in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Honolulu. The Raiders telecast will be called by Beth Mowins with Rich Gannon, while the Rams telecast will have Andrew Siciliano and Nate Burleson on the call.

Ironically, this first week of exhibition games includes the New York battle with the Jets playing the Giants. The Jets are the road team. Yet, for these two established franchises, the Jets are not offering a telecast, forcing their fans to watch the Giants telecast as called by Bob Papa and Carl Banks. Go figure.

On the radio side, we will undoubtedly see the impact of the return of the NFL in key markets over the following couple of months on the ratings of the sports and flagship stations. Interesting research by industry trade publication Talkers Magazine showed that 57% of sports talk stations in metered markets saw declines from May to June this year. This is during the "height" of the NFL off season.

Four of the NBC Sports regional channels, including Washington and Chicago, are or will be airing "The Daily Line" on weekday afternoons. This is actually a simulcast of the NBC Sports Radio show which began earlier this year, but lacks a presence in the big markets. Michael Jenkins and Tim Murray are the hosts. The regional channels will, of course, preempt when local play-by-play and adjacent programming dictates. The focus of this show is on sports gambling. Although four hours a day on this topic may be a stretch, replacing infomercials, previous day game replays, and other programming which doesn't matter is a step in the right direction.

NEW YORK: The strong presence of WFAN 660 and 101.9 will pay dividends starting this week when play-by-play conflicts occur over the next couple of months. WFAN is the flagship for both the Yankees and Giants. When the teams conflict (which is three times in August and four times in September), the Giants broadcasts will air on 660, while Yankees broadcasts will air on 101.9.

BALTIMORE / D.C.: Bobby Trosset has joined WBAL 1090 and 101.5 as morning sports anchor along with being the station's Ravens reporter.

DC's WSBN ESPN 630, which earlier this year broke away from the news/talk simulcast of WMAL-FM, may need to re-think that decision. The just released ratings book showed the station with the lowest possible overall rating of .1.

MINNEAPOLIS: Mark Rosen, the former WCCO-TV sportscaster, and Kirk Cousins will co-host "Under Center with Kirk Cousins" on KFAN 100.3 each Tuesday at 6 PM starting Sept. 3rd. The weekly episodes will also be made available via The pair plan to have interviews with other Vikings players on this show.

SAN DIEGO: KLSD 1360 has shuffled its weekday schedule. The Darren Smith Show, with co-host and producer Marty Caswell, moves to Noon to 3 PM. Jon Schaffer moves from the midday show to the Loose Cannons from 3 to 6 PM with Steve Hartman and Rich Ohrnberger. Nick Hardwick goes from midday co-host to the role as the NFL "Insider", including an hour on the Monday and Friday morning Costa & Richards show.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: "SportsChannel8: The Radio Show" started this week on WCMC 99.9 The Fan from 10 AM to Noon. Hayes Permar, Josh Goodson, and Brian Geisinger continue as co-hosts. This addition brings listeners nine hours of local sports programming on weekdays. As a result, the Dan LeBatard Show moves to Buzz Sports Radio, which now airs all three hours instead of only two hours.

MOBILE: WNSP 105.5 begins a new afternoon local sports show from 3 to 6 PM on Monday (8/12), co-hosted by David Schultz and Jordan Glass. Schultz joins WNSP from 103.7 The Game in Lafayette LA, where he had served as Program Director for six years.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Boston Morning Landscape

The seriousness of the sports radio race in Boston came to the forefront with a major change in WEEI-FM's daily schedule. Within hours of the spring ratings showing WEEI-FM slipping to more than 1.5 ratings points behind rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub for overall audience, WEEI-FM changed its morning show.

Management opted to bring the Greg Hill Morning Show over from sister station WAAF. Hill will take over the station's weekly interview segment with Tom Brady. What makes this transition even more significant is that Hill's show will carry over some of the "non sports" programming, including its monthly interview segment with Governor Charlie Baker. Danielle Murr will continue as a co-host. The show begins on WEEI-FM on Monday July 29.

The Greg Hill Morning Show replaces Gerry Callahan, who is out after having been a part of the morning show since 1997. Callahan's contract was to expire in August. His ratings were dropping following the November 2018 departure of Kirk Minihane. Recent co-host Mike Mutansky leaves "Mutt & Callahan" to return to evenings.

Recently released spring ratings show WBZ-FM Sports Hub, even with dropping, at #4 overall in the market, while WEEI-FM came in at #8.

The morning show change for WEEI-FM coincides with the opening of training camp for the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

MINNEAPOLIS: WCCO 850 showed its 4th consecutive ratings increase, which coincides with the tremendous start of the Twins. Although the station is at #9 overall in the market, WCCO finishes as the market's highest rated AM station.

CHICAGO: On the radio side, sports talkers WSCR The Score and WMVP ESPN held steady, with WSCR finishing with more than triple the audience size of WMVP, WSCR remains strong, especially at night, as the Cubs flagship station. WGN Radio also held steady with its overall audience, including White Sox broadcasts.

What makes that interesting is that regional sports network NBC Sports Chicago, which airs the majority of White Sox telecasts, showed a large overall ratings increase this season for its telecasts (before the All-Star break) over last season. In fact, their White Sox ratings are the highest average in five years. Of course, this is the first season in more than 30 years in which Ken Harrelson is not announcing White Sox telecasts.

RALEIGH/DURHAM: Congrats to Carolina Hurricanes play-by-play voice John Forslund on his well deserved contract extension. TV analyst Tripp Tracy was also extended, which means that the coming season will their 21st season together. Forslund will be doing his 25th season of TV play-by-play for the Hurricanes.

In addition, Forslund will continue to call selected regional and national telecasts on the NBC Sports networks during the regular season and post-season.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Toronto In Finals Throws Loops Into Hoops

While the current NBA Finals are shaping up as possibly one of the most interesting series in recent years, the question remains (as of press time, following Game 3) whether or not viewership will increase as the series plays out.

It is not surprising that Game 2 set a record for the most viewed NBA game ever throughout Canada, with the likelihood that more viewing records will be set if there were to be a possible championship clincher for the Raptors. On the U.S. side, Game 3 in prime time produced the lowest ratings for a Game 3 (Finals) telecast since 2013.

Even with the Warriors becoming a nationally recognized brand over the past few years, there is the possibility that many casual fans are "ho hum" about the continuing appearance of the Warriors in the Finals.

However, it could be that ABC could be a victim of the NBA television partners rarely showing the Raptors all season in comparison to the number of games they featured the other contending teams. Since Toronto is not a local market for the U.S. networks, TNT and ESPN went with fewer appearances than normal for a team at or near the top of the Eastern Conference all season.

As a result, we have fewer fans familiar with the talent of the Raptors, while more fans expect the Warriors to win against any opponent. The translation, so far, is in lower ratings for ABC. Even the possibility of sports history of having the NBA champion being a Canada team while a U.S. team wins the Stanley Cup has yet to make a difference in the ratings.

Another reason could be the ratings declines from the regular season for several of the NBA's important markets. It's no surprise that without LeBron James and a contending team that the Cleveland Cavaliers ratings for the season fell by 58%. The NY Knicks' TV ratings fell by 38%, the seemingly always contending San Antonio Spurs ratings fell by roughly 28%, while the Chicago Bulls local ratings dropped by 24%.

Still no word (as of press time) as to what is next from John Hayes, who surprisingly left the Paul Finebaum Show on ESPN Radio and the SEC Network this past week. All indications are that the decision came from Hayes and not from either network. Hayes has been a part-time host on 730 The Game in Charlotte, leading to speculation that he is closing in on a more prominent solo hosting role in Charlotte or elsewhere.

NEW YORK: Great to see Ron Darling back on Mets TV on SNY following his recent treatment for thyroid cancer. It had not been certain that Darling would be able to return for the remainder of this season.

WFAN will have a new overnight host this fall following the announced retirement of Tony Paige. Paige announced that he will wrap up his 2nd stint at WFAN following his Sept. 14th show, ending this run which began in 2003. His retirement comes during the week of his 66th birthday. WFAN also has confirmed that Giants QB Eli Manning will not return for his weekly segment on Mike Francesa's afternoon show this season. This comes along with speculation that Manning's days as the Giants' starting QB may be coming to end.

The short term plans for YES Network are uncertain now that the sale to Disney is expected to close. Reports have YES talking with partners (such as Sinclair Broadcast Group and Amazon, which reportedly lost out in the bidding for the Fox Sports Regional Networks) about acquiring at least a controlling interest in their network. Recent reports also have YES looking to begin a regional or national radio network, possibly involving SiriusXM.

HOUSTON: Paul Gallant is no longer the third man on the morning team at KILT 610, and is no longer with the station after an eight year run. Gallant had moved to share the morning show last year after hosting his own show at night on the station for nearly seven years.

TULSA: The Sports Animal has made a couple of changes to its daytime lineup. R.J. Young has taken over as host from 9 AM to 11 AM, while Erik Gee has joined The Pat Jones Show, which airs from 11 AM to 2 PM. Jones, the former OSU football coach, had been hosting the show solo for the past few weeks. Prior to joining The Sports Animal, Gee spent four years at KRXO 107.7 Oklahoma City.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Paying Fans Being Sent Up Stream

Like always, this is perhaps the greatest week of viewing and listening for fans of multiple sports with so many choices and so little time. NBCSN was blessed with a pair of Game 7 thrillers in its Stanley Cup coverage, including the double overtime Carolina vs. Washington battle.

Thursday (4/25) featured the extensive NFL Draft coverage, with ABC-TV providing a mostly separate feed from the more "serious" ESPN coverage while NFL Network did its version. Early ratings, available at press time, showed the ABC-TV version with slightly improved ratings over Fox Network's coverage of last year's first round in prime time.

Over at TNT, they had the coincidence of NBA legend Kevin McHale on as the analyst for its Game 6 telecast of the Denver vs. San Antonio first round series, during which the news came that McHale's former teammate and NBA legend John Havlicek has passed away at the age of 79. McHale's heartfelt reaction, understandably, took precedence over much of the 3rd quarter of the telecast.

Kudos to MLB Network for switching its scheduled telecast of Friday (4/26) from the originally scheduled Brewers vs. Mets game to the Oakland at Toronto game which marked the debut of Vlad Guerrero Jr. in a Blue Jays uniform.

However, fans are getting more caught up in the growing controversy regarding the availability of the league owned/operated networks. The potential disaster for fans began last week with the announcement that AT&T is dropping NFL Network from DirecTV Now and U-Verse. The silver lining for fans is that we still have more than three months before the regular season begins.

The NFL is fighting back with AT&T by pulling Sunday Ticket from DirecTV Now, although they have not pulled it from DirecTV. However, the NFL is reportedly trying to make its Sunday Ticket available via more sources than "only" DirecTV. Multiple reports claim the NFL is negotiating with Amazon and Disney (ESPN+) to also be able to offer Sunday Ticket.

This is turning into a high stakes game between the NFL and the networks, although the fans will be the ones to get screwed with even higher costs across the board. The hunch from here is that DirecTV Now and U-Verse will get NFL Network back in return for the NFL being able to take away the DirecTV exclusivity on Sunday ticket. It's the NFL putting the squeeze on by costing AT&T subscribers either way. Fans will leave AT&T to get NFL Network elsewhere, or fans will leave DirecTV if they can get a better deal which includes Sunday Ticket.

There is no precedence for this situation because the NFL is the only one of the four major pro leagues that has had an exclusive with one provider for its extended coverage.

However, MLB is involved in the process of the upcoming sale of the Fox Sports Regional networks, continuing to pursue a part ownership interest in them even though it only involves some of the its teams.

Fox Business reports that Sinclair Broadcasting appears to be the bidding leader for the group of regional networks, while the N Y Post reported that Amazon is proposing a partnership with Sinclair. At the same time, MLB is supposedly in discussions to obtain a minority partnership with Sinclair with regard to the potential purchase and ownership.

The Fox RSN's, which include YES Network (NYC), currently air a total of 44 pro sports teams from MLB, NBA, and the NHL. The winning bidder for this deal also receives streaming rights, which is the reason why Amazon is keeping tabs.

What all this really means is that it shows how the NFL and MLB are working in different ways to keep raising our monthly bills. By involving streaming rights, it becomes a factor in terms of also including the cord cutters by increasing streaming fees.

BOSTON: The Nielsen radio ratings for March into early April show the widest margin between the sports radio rivals WBZ-FM and WEEI-FM in several years. WBZ-FM Sports Hub held steady for a third place finish in total audience. WEEI-FM dropped one-half of a ratings point, falling out of the top 10 (#11 overall), and now with only half of the total audience of WBZ-FM.

Typically, WEEI-FM jumps back up during the summer as flagship station of the Red Sox. However, the team's slow start could be a factor for the current ratings period.

SAN DIEGO: More than two weeks later, still no return of XPRS The Mighty 1090 to the airwaves after its sudden shut down reportedly due to non-payment of station lease fees. The sports station had been in place since 2003 and served as the Padres flagship for 12 seasons through 2016.

Still too soon to tell what will become of its local broadcast rights. The station had been airing both San Diego State football and basketball as well as University of San Diego football and basketball (as its live schedule allowed). In addition, the Mighty 1090 was the San Diego station for the Los Angeles Rams, banking on local fans disowning the Chargers when they relocated in L.A.

Some of the on-air hosts, still under contract to the station, continue to air their shows via the station's web site and app.

Finally, CBS Sports Network continues to show its need for programming and is picking up local feeds of up to 40 WNBA games this summer. These telecasts will be scheduled for times which do not conflict with the ESPN/ABC package of games (which they originate) or NBA-TV's package, from which they (also) air the various local telecasts.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Will MLB Out Fox The Others?

One sports media story which bears watching over the next couple of weeks is the fate of the 21 Fox regional sports networks, which will be purchased by a new buyer between April 15th and June 18th.
The RSN's are owned for the short term by Disney, which is required to unload the Fox Sports group due to its ownership of ESPN. (June 18 marks 90 days after the closing on the deal in which Disney purchased 21st Century Fox.)

What makes this so interesting is that Fox Business News reports that Major League Baseball is among the entities bidding on the group.

While it is understandable that MLB would like to generate additional income from monthly subscriptions and advertising revenue from the networks which televise many of its teams, this possibility raises ethical questions. MLB would want for the teams it televises to be competitive to attract ratings and advertisers, but not have these rights for all of the teams.

MLB owns MLB Network, along with MLB-TV. As of now, no pro sports leagues own any regional networks which feature one or more local teams.

The process for this sale includes sealed bids which are binding. The sale price for the group is expected to be between $10 billion and $20 billion. Obviously, there is a lot at stake. Fox Business reported that other bidders include Liberty Media (which owns Sirius/XM, which has MLB radio broadcast rights) and Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns TV stations across the country.

Among the RSN's in the group are Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Wisconsin, and Fox Sports Midwest.It is not certain whether entities such as Amazon and Yahoo will submit bids, which need to be done by an April 15th deadline.

Research conducted by Nielsen between August 2018 and January of 2019 shows that ESPN Radio attracted more than 22 million listeners to its live play-by-play events during that time period. The number of listeners account for 9.2% of the population.

What makes this impressive is that their broadcasts are not exclusive in local team markets and were "duplicate" broadcasts. In most cases, such as the college football championship broadcasts, fans prefer the call of the school's broadcaster. Same for all of the MLB post-season games, where the ESPN feed was competing against the regular team broadcasts in local markets as well as their network of regional stations. This time period included the MLB post-season, some NFL regular season games, NBA regular season broadcasts, and select college football regular season games along with the college football playoffs.

There are some analysts pointing to the number of cord-cutters dumping their cable and satellite providers that may be returning to radio broadcasts to keep in touch with the games. How ironic, given the monthly fee ESPN forces upon most subscribers whether they are sports fans or not.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Congratulations to AL Eschbach on being inducted into the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame this week. Eschbach goes back to being named Sports Director of KTOK back in 1976. In the mid-80's he joined WWLS-AM prior to the station becoming a sports station. All these years later he is still on the air, now on WWLS-FM where he joins Jim Traber, Dean Blevins, and Berry Tramel during afternoon drive.