Thursday, August 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sports Media Notes - August 18th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sports Media Mourns John Saunders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sports Radio Ratings On Summer Vacation

The mid-June to mid-July radio ratings period is always an interesting one for sports radio stations since it is the time of year when the NFL, NBA, and NHL are either concluding or not started, and baseball rules the roost.

It's no surprise that the baseball crazed markets show the strongest while other major markets show declines in overall audience. The point is that this trend shows that sports radio is really more driven by sports content than the individual shows and personalities in markets where there are not two strong competitors.

Once again, Boston is the exception, as sports radio continues its ratings dominance compared with other radio formats. WEEI-FM, helped by a solid season from the Red Sox broadcasts, remains #1 in overall audience at night, and finished a solid #4 in total audience for the market.

WBZ-FM Sports Hub held steady (compared with WEEI-FM losing .4 from the previous month) and finished at #7 overall, while getting ready for its Patriots broadcasts to begin next week. This next ratings period could be significant for both stations and the format in Boston.

In Chicago, the Cubs broadcasts continue to bolster WSCR 670 The Score, which finished #6 overall in the market. After trailing WMVP ESPN 1000 early in the year, The Score now has more than two and one-half times the total audience of WMVP, and that's with WMVP actually gaining more audience than The Score did during this most recent ratings period.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 remains a solid #1 overall despite a half-point dip in audience size from the previous month. KGMZ-FM The Game held steady with just over 25% of the total audience of KNBR.

Detroit's WXYT-FM The Ticket remains #1 overall, winning every daypart except for morning drive.

In Dallas, the Rangers broadcasts have helped KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan to a .8 ratings increase in the past three months. KTCK The Ticket has lost .4 of a ratings point during that same period.

In Philadelphia, while WIP-FM has more than twice the total audience of WPEN-FM The Fanatic, WPEN-FM continues to win the afternoon drive battle. For the 9th consecutive ratings period (going back to last year) 97.5 The Fanatic with Mike Missanelli continues to lead his afternoon time slot ahead of WIP and Josh Innes. To that point, the station has yet to announce anything regarding Innes' contract, which is reported up at the end of this year.

If you separate the Baltimore and D.C. markets it makes it curious. In DC neither WJFK-FM or WTEM-AM are in the top 15 stations, with both showing slight audience decreases from the prior month. This, of course, figures to change with the Redskins pre-season games coming next week.

Over in Baltimore, WJZ-FM, which broadcasts the Orioles (having their best season in a while), is #5 overall in total audience.

Another interesting market this month is the Twin Cities. KXFM-FM The Fan increased over the previous month to finish #10 overall in the market, now with literally four times the audience size of KSTP-AM. While the struggling Twins air on KTWN-FM, otherwise an alternative music station, that station showed a 30% audience dip overall from the previous month, dropping it behind both of the sports stations.

Some markets have their sports talkers struggling because of the time of year, such as Miami, Seattle, and Kansas City.

None of Miami's three sports talkers placed in the top 20 stations, and none of the three gained in audience. While WAXY-AM held steady, both WQAM and WINZ lost some of their audiences from the previous month.

KIRO-AM in Seattle dipped .6 of a ratings point to #18 overall, while KJR-FM finished even lower and lost .3 of a ratings point at the same time. KFNQ 1090 The Fan is nowhere to be found in the ratings listings.

KCSP Kansas City is down, but it is not entirely due to the Royals' dip in the MLB standings. From a top of the market status in May, Sports 610 is now in 11th place in the market. The station is still #1 during the evening time slot (when most of the Royals games take place), but the rest of the day is down.

Other markets, such as Los Angeles and Houston, where sports talk stations struggle most of the time, don't have much to report.

KLAC 570, the Dodgers flagship station, still did not even make the top 25 in the market, holding the same rating as the previous month. KSPN 710, the Angels flagship and ESPN Radio, lost 10% of its audience from the previous month. This market bears watching with the NFL season coming upon us, and the L.A. Rams being back on the scene.

Houston's KBME-AM has taken over the sports station lead from KILT, although KBME-AM only came in at #23 overall. None of the three sports talkers (also KFNC-FM) have more than a 1.0 rating again.

MIAMI: WAXY 790 The Ticket has a five-year contract extension to continue as the flagship station for the Heat. This agreement runs through the 2020-21 season.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM has signed the BGN Radio (Bleeding Green Nation) weekly Eagles program to its schedule for two hours each Saturday afternoon beginning next month. The popular program, taken from the BGN podcast, aired last season on 97.5 The Fanatic. In addition, program host John Barchard has been officially hired by WIP-FM.

LEXINGTON: WLEX-TV is adding a half-hour weeknight show next month which will have its fair share of sports content. The host will be Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio. This show, still not titled as of press time, will air at 7:30 PM beginning the week of September 19th.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A 'Stream' Of Revenue For Pro Sports Leagues

The pro sports leagues are well aware that the billions of dollars paid for TV rights may not be there next time around, and continue to turn to revenue from online streaming.

Two more streaming deals have come to fruition within the past 10 days. Twitter now has a deal in place to be able to stream out of market games for both MLB and the NHL, likely to start with the coming NHL regular season in October.

Part of their arrangements allow them to include additional content along with the actual game telecasts. This of course, will allow for additional advertising revenue and for additional posting and interaction by users of Twitter, whether or not they are even signed in.

Fox Sports has secured the rights for local streaming of 12 NHL teams for which Fox and its regional networks hold the team rights. This makes Fox Sports the only provider to already have local team streaming deals with MLB, the NBA, and the NHL. The supposed multi-year deal will include the Fox Sports apps along with some distributor apps and web sites to be announced soon.

One likely difference between these two deals, as well as the Yahoo Sports deal to stream some NFL telecasts, is that the Yahoo and Twitter deals are separate from the user/viewer having to be a subscriber to a provider which carries Fox Sports.

The feeling here is that the sports leagues are seeing the Dodgers TV deal being priced out for the majority of Los Angeles viewers, the problems that teams such as the Yankees are having with fees for distribution, and realizing that the TV cash cow might not be as fat in the coming years.

By making streaming deals at this early stage, they can still have hundreds of millions of dollars coming in, regardless of how much cord-cutting consumers are doing.

Nice move by MLB Network to quickly schedule and air Game 1 of the Mets vs. Cardinals doubleheader on Tuesday (7/26) in the late afternoon period. The Monday night game was rained out, forcing the doubleheader on Tuesday, but MLB Network jumped on it. This gave fans a live triple header on a Tuesday, with ESPN's national game following and then MLB Network's previously scheduled west coast telecast airing live after that. Great move to add live games at every opportunity.

CHICAGO: WMAQ-TV Channel 5 has added Mike Berman as a sports reporter and anchor. Berman will join the station in time for football coverage, coming from WTTV-TV Indianapolis. The Chicago native did a sports intern with WLS-TV back in 2005.

Quite the telecast mess for White Sox fans this past Sunday (7/24). The team's Saturday night game vs. Detroit was suspended after eight innings late Saturday night with the score tied going to the 9th inning, and scheduled to resume at 1:10 PM on Sunday, with the scheduled game to follow.

However, Comcast SportsNet Chicago was televising Saturday's game, while WGN-TV had the Sunday "regular" game telecast.

WGN-TV aired their 'White Sox Warmup" pre-game show as scheduled at 12:30 PM, announcing throughout that the suspended game telecast will be on CSN starting at 1:00 and that WGN-TV would "return" for the scheduled game telecast 30 minutes after.

At 1:00, WGN-TV aired game shows, while CSN signed back on to show the finish of the suspended game. When the game ended (in the bottom of the 9th less than 20 minutes later), CSN stayed on for its postgame show. Host Chuck Garfein handled the show solo as studio analyst Bill Melton was not scheduled to work on Sunday.

Before the postgame show ended on CSN, WGN-TV came back on from the ballpark and then did the telecast, as usual, of the scheduled game, which ran more than one hour over their scheduled time due to the delayed start.

SAN FRANCISCO: KKSF 910 switched formats to sports, although it is now a Spanish sports station.

DENVER: Fans of The Fan 104.3 finally have their Sandy Clough back on the air, even if only from 10 AM to Noon as of this week. Still no explanation (as of press time) about his absence which went on for months, but both parties appeared to be happy to have his show back on the air. Clough has been part of the radio scene since 1980.

ROCKFORD: WNTA 1330 is dumping its Spanish programming and going to all sports starting on August 1st, in time for football season.

The station plans to air high school football each Friday and then high school hoops two nights per week, along with airing Chicago Bears pre-season and regular season games. Despite its Illinois location, it will also air University of Wisconsin football.

Just as curious, with the station airing Chicago Bears games, is the announcement that they will air "The Bill Michaels Show" each weekday, which has the Green Bay Packers (the Bears' biggest rival, of course) as its primary focus. As of now, much of their programming will be from Fox Sports Radio.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another College Sports Network Coming Soon

Sometimes the strategy of showing the games is even greater than the strategy used by the coaches to try and win those same games. The Atlantic Coast Conference is unveiling plans for its own TV network to showcase its games and events, along the lines of what the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12 have been doing.

It appears that starting this network within the next year in a streaming platform is the first move. While it will be presented as introducing the network and enticing viewer interest, the reasoning behind it is to allow for some current rights deals, such as the one with Raycom to syndicate selected telecasts, to run their course. However, Raycom has some ACC game rights for the next 10 seasons.

It looks as though ESPN will handle the digital portion and make selected telecasts available via its streaming and app over the next year or two. The thinking is that this gives ESPN more ammunition, especially on the east coast, for negotiations with carriers and providers over the next year.

MLB local team telecast ratings are going strong this year, as the team by team reports for the first half of the 2016 season indicate. The K.C. Royals are the local leaders, yet are one of ten teams which are #1 rated during prime time in their markets including both broadcast and cable offerings. Other cities with top evening telecast ratings include St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, and Dallas.

The report also shows the Chicago White Sox with a 30% increase in TV ratings over last year. In this case, it could be because of the addition of Jason Benetti, who handled play-by-play for the home game telecasts (plus one road series in April). This is the first break that White Sox fans have had from Ken Harrelson, who this season is only doing road telecasts. Although there is no breakout of home vs. road telecasts, the team is also around .500 this season, leading one to indicate that fans prefer announcers who actually describe the game and discuss the team ahead of rants about the umpires, excuses for every run the opponents score, and the other incessant babblings from Harrelson.

Houston Astros telecast ratings are more than six times higher now than they were just two seasons ago. In this case, it is the combination of the team's rise to contention along with the change from now defunct CSN Houston and the start of ROOT Sports.

And after the understandable protests in Boston when Don Orsillo was not rehired, Red Sox telecast ratings were up 11% over the first half, coming in 6th among local telecast ratings. It helps to be a contender this season, as opposed to last season's horrendous start.

It is worthy of note that while the local team telecasts are up, the ESPN game ratings are down this season. It may not only be because fans are more interested in the local teams. ESPN has reduced its Baseball Tonight load, often skipping entire nights from either ESPN or ESPN2. It is less consistent with when it airs games, now showing some Tuesday games instead of its traditional Monday and Wednesday nights. Reduced coverage means reduced interest in watching.

For those keeping score on the name of the network, the former One On One Sports, Sporting News Radio, and now Yahoo! Sports Network is changing names still again during the week of August 1st. It will soon be called SB Nation Radio.

BALTIMORE: The Ravens have extended their radio and pre-season TV agreements through 2022 as both will remain in place. The radio play-by-play team of Gerry Sandusky (the one with the same name, but not "that" Gerry) and Stan White will continue on WBAL 1090 and WIYY 98 Rock for regular season (and any post season) games. They will again move over to the TV booth to call all available pre-season games (not shown on a national network) on WBAL-TV Channel 11.

MILWAUKEE: Although the Brewers are again struggling through a poor season, WTMJ 620 has decided to continue to long standing relationship and extend its contract beyond this season. The team has aired on WTMJ for all but two seasons on WISN since its inception in 1970.

Making this season tolerable for the audience is the 46th year of Bob Uecker calling the games, although understandably on a reduced schedule these days. Jeff Levering and Lane Grindle are also in the radio booth and are expected to continue.

MIAMI: The NHL Panthers have extended their radio contract with WQAM 560 for what is termed a "multi-year" deal to continue.

SAN FRANCISCO: KTCT 1050, the sister sports station to KNBR, is now the focus of the parent company's attention while KNBR 680 maintains its lofty ratings status. The Ticket is adding a local morning show starting the week of August 8th. Their morning show will include former pitcher Kevin Frandsen, as well as Drew Hoffar and Rudy Ortiz. Ortiz had been hosting a weekend show on KGMZ 95.7 The Game.

At this time, the station will fill the remainder with syndicated programming, dropping CBS Sports Radio and adding ESPN Radio. This does mean that Mike & Mike will air live in the market from 3 to 6 AM.

CHICAGO: WMVP ESPN 1000 will air a special live broadcast with University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh next Wednesday (7/27) from 2:00 to 3:00 PM CT, which will also stream. It will come from a Chicago restaurant, where Tom Waddle, who was a teammate of Harbaugh's with the Chicago Bears, will co-host the broadcast.

The station, now without any play-by-play of the five major pro teams in town, has also expanded its Cubs coverage. Ace pitcher Jake Arrieta will make a weekly appearance with Waddle and Mark Silverman on their afternoon show, while Anthony Rizzo will appear on Tuesday afternoons (when the team's schedule permits) with host David Kaplan.

BIRMINGHAM: Still no replacement for the "Matt and Scot Show" for WJOX 94.5 as of press time. The station ended the show by releasing Matt McClearin and Scot Harrison from their 6:00 to 9:00 PM show. For now, the station is doing an instant replay of Paul Finebaum's show, which airs live from 3:00 until 6:00 PM.

Have to wonder if they are in a hurry to replace, thinking that Finebaum a second time might be a nice fit during the college football season.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Player Beats The Reporters To The Story

You wouldn't think that Richard Jefferson signing a two-year contract to return to the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers would be the leading sports media story of the past week, but there is good reason.

Those fans that actually care about the "who reported it first" derby have a one-time "winner" for this story and no other. Why?

Because the first to report it was none other than Richard Jefferson. The speculation had been that the veteran forward would likely retire after the just concluded season, but it appears that coming back as defending champion changed his mind.

Since this was not expected, Jefferson "beat" the sports media to the story, being the first to report it by way of his Snapchat account.

Here we have all of these "reporters" with their trade and signing rumors and speculation stories, along with what they consider "newsworthy" stories such as mock draft picks, looking at being the first to report on something. And now we have the subject of the story scooping all of them to "report" it.

There is reason to be concerned about this becoming a trend. Consider that several pro sports teams produce their own TV and radio content along with "exclusive" team news and features via their web sites.

It is not a good thing that sports fans wanting actual hard news may someday have to turn to a variety of team web sites and social media feeds from players to get actual news and information other than game results.

Still another tough week for Fox Sports since early ratings returns show that Tuesday's (7/12) MLB All-Star Game had an all-time ratings low among those games which Fox has televised.

Even the two hours of "America's Got Talent" on NBC outrated the telecast although it was a close and competitive game throughout. Of course, Fox doing all of its promotional spots for other shows and its heavy load of commercials made it a challenge for Joe Buck and John Smoltz to focus on the game itself.

Fox didn't even show the umpiring crew until the bottom of the first inning, and often didn't get to a new pitcher's season statistics until the first batter of the inning was finished. Although the replays and technical production of the game were solid, the busy and cluttered telecast took away from the enjoyment of the game.

The departure of Mike Torico from ESPN also left an opening for their play-by-play voice for ESPN Radio NBA broadcasts. No surprise that the network has named Marc Kestecher to the position starting with the upcoming season.

Kestecher already calls NFL and college hoops and football for ESPN Radio along with some broadcasts for ESPN on the TV side. Hubie Brown will continue as NBA analyst on radio for the more important games including playoffs.

Didn't think we would see this actually happen, but Fox Sports 1 is actually showing signs of progress in terms of increasing viewership. Nielsen research shows that for the first half of 2016 FS1 has grown more than ESPN and NBC Sports Network in both total and prime time viewership.

It appears that a lot of viewers have noticed how ESPN has severely reduced its overall MLB coverage, especially on days/nights when it does not air a live game. The lack of priority on SportsCenter and the burying of Baseball Tonight have many viewers,  used to significant coverage of baseball, looking for alternatives.

To that point, the biggest gain for FS1 is none other than its MLB Whiparound, which through the season's first half, showed a 54% increase in viewers over last season. Next in line is NASCAR Race Hub, which grew 7% over last year. While the NASCAR show growth is respectable, you can see how it pales in comparison with the MLB show numbers.

It will be interesting to see whether or not ESPN, which will likely make another exception this weekend and bring its total focus to the Yankees vs. Red Sox series as usual, realizes where it is losing viewers and starts to beef its MLB coverage back up.

Pac-12 Networks became the latest source to partner with Twitter for live streaming of selected sports events involving the member schools. Although there has been nothing yet about the mass appeal sports such as football and basketball, there will be some of the minor sports events and perhaps other school events available by streaming.  Many of these events, however, are already streamed via and/or the various university Athletic Department web sites.

DETROIT: University of Michigan sports will soon have an expanded presence in the market. While WWJ 950 remains the school's flagship station for football, top rated (and sister station) WYXT-FM The Ticket 97.1 will now air the Michigan football games it can air live without conflict. These will be games which do not conflict with Tigers and Red Wings broadcasts.  In addition, Coach Jim Harbaugh will participate in a weekly coaches show on The Ticket starting this season.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN ESPN 710 will soon need a new co-host for its local morning show to replace Max Kellerman on what is now the "Max & Marcellus Show". Kellerman is not being sent packing due to low ratings, however.

The move is because ESPN has decided that Kellerman will be more valuable on ESPN2's "First Take", which he will begin co-hosting the week of July 25th, along with Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim.

BALTIMORE: Sorry to learn of the passing last week of veteran sportscaster Tom Marr at the age of 73. Known more around the country for his occasional work on Orioles broadcasts, his time in Baltimore began with WFBR in 1967 and then with WMAR-TV. In 1988 he joined WCBM Radio and expanded his duties to much more than sports. He will be missed.