Monday, April 9, 2018

Let The Yankees - Red Sox Hype Begin

Many of us often joke about how the baseball media seems to stop the world every single time the Yankees and Red Sox play, no matter what the circumstances. It already seems as though every one of these meetings must, by law, be nationally televised. If ESPN, Fox, or TBS don't have the game, MLB Network takes it and makes it one of their showcase games they produce.

As ESPN thinks that every baseball fan has Tuesday (4/10) on their calendar as being the much anticipated date of the first regular season matchup of these two teams, they have taken this to an even higher level.

This is so unbelievable that it almost bears watching just to see if ESPN is serious about their plan. They issued a Press Release about their pre-game coverage. So help me, they did. For an April weeknight meeting two weeks into the season.

Get this. From 4:00 until 5:00 ET, ESPN2 shows Intentional Talk with Chris Rose and Kevin Millar (in conjunction with MLB Network) and air some of batting practice of the upcoming Yankees vs. Red Sox game. And there is more.....

At 5:00 ET, ESPN2 follows with "Around The Cage". This one hour show will be hosted by Karl Ravech and include John Sciambi, Rick Sutcliffe, and Tim Kurkjian, promising manager and player interviews.

Of course, SportsCenter follows at 6 PM ET. The network assures us in this Press Release that there will be more live updates from Ravech and Kurkjian as the network leads into its live telecast at 7 PM.

After all, fans wouldn't want to miss out on seeing if the grounds crew finishes on time and the starting pitchers really do start warming up in the bullpen.

Seriously. ESPN issued a Press Release and promises hours of pre-game coverage for an early season baseball game. It's amazing that they allow other MLB teams to play their games at any point in that three hour window.

While this goes on, ESPN finally started their new morning show, the one that got delayed for three months, last week. The "Get Up" show came in with ratings down roughly 8% from the same week one year ago. No surprise here. They were so worried about having a new studio and other production issues addressed that they gave viewers and ESPN Radio listeners three months to sample other morning shows before finally starting this one.

Speaking of bizarre, NBC Sports offers a new twist on their expanded coverage of televising every NHL Playoff game again this season. They plan their usual excellent job of scheduling, calling upon sister channels such as CNBC to help with overflow coverage. This post-season, however, they are moving two telecasts to, of all places, The Golf Channel.

On April 18th, The Golf Channel airs the Devils vs. Lightning game, followed by the Ducks vs. Sharks, in what will be the first non-golf live event shown on that network. Since those are both Game 4 of the respective series, these telecasts will definitely occur.

It will be interesting to see how that fares. An interesting way for NBC to call attention to The Golf Channel, even if for one night.

Speaking of calling attention, it's hard to believe that ABC and NBC openly conceded the sports viewing audience to the final round of The Masters on Sunday (7/8). Both the NBA and NHL begin their playoffs this week, while both leagues have battles in the standings for playoff positions still very much in progress.

Yet, ABC did not have a Sunday afternoon telecast of an NBA game at all, while NBC did not air an NHL game. As we point out with baseball and even the NCAA Tournament, networks which televise them need a consistent presence during the regular season. Telling viewers their sport "can't compete with golf" seems absurd, especially with the millions of dollars they spend on rights fees.

At least NBA TV came through with a live quadruple header of games on Sunday, although chances are not enough viewers were aware. This came after ABC had very strong ratings from its Saturday night (4/7) NBA telecast.

SAN DIEGO: Next up on the "bizarre" list is the situation with the Padres and 97.3 The Machine. As of press time, there has still been no word from the Padres about the rumored possibility the team would pull the team broadcasts off this rock station after the social media controversy last week.

So far, no sign of Kevin Klein on the morning show. Now it has been discovered that Entercom, which owns the station, has registered three web sites including "". The station also just added Dan Sileo to its midday lineup, acting as if the controversial host would not necessarily focus on sports.

The only other full time sports station in San Diego is XEPRS The Mighty 1090. This all raises the possibility that the 97.3 could go as far as to remove Klein, and the rock music format, and go all sports in support of its Padres contract.

Since there has been no action (again, as of press time) taken by the Padres about their broadcasts, it would lend credence to this possibility.

SAN FRANCISCO: Now that KGMZ 95.7 The Game has finally developed some traction in the ratings, the station has given a multi-year extension to Damon Bruce, host of afternoon drive. Bruce has been with the station since 2014.

HOUSTON: SportsMap 94.1, among the sports stations struggling for ratings, has added Stephen A Smith from ESPN Radio to its midday schedule, airing after local programming with Charlie Pallilo.

CHICAGO: In an amazing twist, Dan McNeill is off the air after just two weeks since returning to WSCR 670 The Score afternoon drive. McNeill revealed that a medical procedure left him with a paralyzed right vocal cord. There is no set recovery time. The station is currently rotating among its other hosts and anchors to work along side co-host Danny Parkins.

Finally, a sad note. The sports media lost Joe McConnell, most recently the voice of Purdue football prior to his full retirement in 2009, at the age of 79. McConnell is known for having called NFL post-season on Westwood One in the 80's, and play-by-play stints with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. He also called baseball for the White Sox radio and TV from 1980-84 after a couple of seasons calling Twins games. Before that, he called the Indiana Pacers on radio in the late 70's.

Personally, I consider McConnell to have been the greatest football announcer I ever heard. He had a genuine enthusiasm for whatever team he was calling. I can't believe he didn't get more opportunities at the national level. However, from knowing him and getting the privilege to work with him (I did statistics for him on most Bears broadcasts during the 1980 season), I had a hunch that he preferred the simple midwest to the spotlight of the national media.

We'll miss you, Joe!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

If You Show The Games, They Will Come

No surprise here that the NCAA Tournament Championship game suffered a 30% drop in the audience compared with last year and more than 10% less than the 2016 game. Just like with its baseball package, Turner Sports keeps forgetting that people don't know to look to them.

After four months of seemingly thousands of college basketball telecasts on numerous local stations along with regional and national networks, Turner Sports does not have any sort of package, even with a weaker conference, but expects millions of casual fans to somehow know that they had the Final Four this season.

While TBS, TNT, and TRU aired regional games, the casual fans could find telecasts on CBS at the same time.

Granted, it's hard to completely fault Turner Sports. You would think that for the many millions of dollars they pay to the NCAA just for the Tournament package they share with CBS that they would be entitled to some degree of a regular season presence.

Speaking being entitled, baseball fans are entitled to have their local teams available via their regular TV outlet for games which Facebook streams around the country each Wednesday afternoon this season. We understand that Facebook spent millions of dollars with MLB for this package, which includes MLB itself producing each telecast and providing the announcers and staff.

However, MLB and Facebook need to understand that most fans are paying more for their respective cable/satellite package every month because of the presence of these regional sports networks which air the games. This past Wednesday (4/4), the complete exclusivity that Facebook has prevented the Mets from airing on SNY and the Phillies from airing on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

That meant two large markets having no direct local telecast. With many of the fans at work and unable to watch a stream, they were deprived of a chance to see their local team. Those NYC and Phillies fans that were able to watch the stream of the game may have preferred something other than a phone or other small screen.

It would have been interesting to be able to compare local team viewership between the regular telecast ratings and how many more picked up the telecast on Facebook given both options.

Instead, it wasn't until the morning of the game before SNY showed alerts that it could not show this game. The NBC Sports Philadelphia web site had a blank spot on their schedule that morning, showing their schedule before 1:00 and nothing until after 4:30 for the afternoon.

Because of the fan backlash, teams which have upcoming Wednesday afternoon Facebook telecasts are now taking the lead and alerting their fans early that the games will not be shown locally. The impact is even larger throughout Canada where many of the Blue Jays games are shown regionally or nationally via SportsNet. The network has put out social media alerts telling fans that the scheduled Blue Jays streams on Facebook on April 18th and May 24th will not be available for telecasts, but will be airing on the SportsNet Radio Network.

Facebook did report rougly 4,300,000 views "of at least three seconds" of the Phillies vs. Mets stream with 1,200,000 "reactions" on the platform. One good thing for those watching is that, at least this time, there were no actual commercials, with between innings filled with game related content. Next Wednesday (4/11) it will be the Brewers vs. Cardinals, with the Blue Jays vs. Royals on April 18th.

Sorry, but we should all click on the "dislike" button unless they keep local team telecasts.

BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON D.C.: Baseball fans throughout the region that can't afford cable/satellite and/or have already cut the cord can forget about seeing either the Orioles or Nationals this entire season. MASN, in separate statements, clarified that MASN and MASN2 will be the "exclusive" channels for each team's games throughout the season. None of their games will appear on a local over the air channel, other than any of the few Saturdays when Fox Sports airs one of the teams on a regional basis.

SAN DIEGO: Still no word as of press time regarding the fate of Padres broadcasts on 97.3 even though the Padres' first home stand of the young season just concluded. Kevin Klein, hired as morning man and taken off the air following his controversial "Jump" social media campaign which completely backfired.

Klein has still not gone on the air (as of press time) for the morning show, yet has yet to be terminated from the station. The possibility still remains that the Padres will attempt to revoke the contract with the rock music station and quickly move to another local radio station.

CHICAGO: Former Cubs outfielder and ESPN analyst Doug Glanville has joined NBC Sports Chicago. Although not an actual part of the network's pre and post-game programming, he is already a part of other Cubs related programming along with providing web site content about the team.

ALBANY: Although the local Mets radio affiliate changed starting this season (as we reported a couple weeks ago), the local Red Sox affiliate stays in tact. Fox Sports 980 has extended its affiliate contract through the 2020 season. The station has aired the games since the start of the 2012 season.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Baseball Telecasts In Full Swing

Play ball! We will know in just a couple of days how MLB's experiment of having all 30 teams open on the same day and moving it to a Thursday will work in terms of audience draw.

As much as the Sunday triple header opening seemed a good idea and made for a holiday atmosphere, this move to an earlier Thursday is most likely MLB's way of getting out from under the shadow of Final Four weekend. By moving up to Thursday, MLB finally gets the full spotlight it deserves, ahead of the Final Four and The Masters as the lead story.

ESPN showing a total of nine live games over the first five days of the regular season is also cause for discussion. On one hand, the network could attract viewers for the games as fans tune in expecting to see Final Four coverage on Sunday and Monday. On the other hand, having the majority of these telecasts going up against a full load of local/regional telecasts on Thursday and then on Sunday afternoon, along with the NCAA Tournament Championship on Monday night could combine to make these games a ratings challenge.

It's nothing short of amazing that ESPN is allowed to show the Cardinals vs. Mets game in the early Sunday afternoon slot (separate from its Sunday Night Baseball opener of Giants vs. Dodgers). This shows how much TBS drops the ball, so to speak, by waiting and waiting until after the All-Star break to begin its Sunday afternoon telecasts, long after baseball fans are in the habit of looking elsewhere for their Sunday telecasts.

MLB Network chips in with one telecast on Friday night, two on Saturday (outside of the FS1 game times) and a west coast game on Sunday to provide viewers with a national tripleheader on Sunday.

The once per week live streams on Facebook begin on Weds. April 4th with the Phillies vs. Mets telecast, with Brewers vs. Cardinals scheduled for the same 1 PM ET spot the following Wednesday. Facebook will show one weekday afternoon game each week this season under its $30 million deal. They also unveiled a rights package of 10 football and 16 basketball games they will stream from Conference USA starting in September, although CBS has priority of which games it wants across its network.

Over at the NFL, officials have to be laughing behind closed doors at the hype over the NFL Draft having risen to even more epic proportions. Mock drafts being touted as if they are news stories for weeks leading in are now only a part of this. As if there isn't already enough "coverage", now it seems that Fox Sports will also air both the first and second days of coverage, with ABC taking on ESPN's coverage of Day 3.

Yes, this means that all of the mass hysteria over sixth and seventh round draft picks as they happen will have expanded live national coverage even for those who do not pay for cable or satellite. No telling what else will be happening with the coverage, since the Draft is still one month away as of press time.

At ESPN, it's time to change the name of its ESPNews Network to ESPN4 or ESPNRadioOnTV or something else. It was originally intended to be continuous 30 minute sportscasts, but that concept has long since disappeared. Now, the Network has decided to move its radio show simulcasts over there during the weekdays starting next week (4/2).

The 6 AM ET to 6 PM ET schedule on this channel will consist of simulcasts of Golic & Wingo, Dan LeBatard with Stugotz, and the Will Cain Show.

This coming Memorial Day weekend will mark the end of an era when ABC shows its final Indy 500 live after more than 50 years. NBC's new Indy Car deal includes the Indy 500 starting in 2019 in the first of three years under this new pact. NBC will air eight Indy Car races total, with the remainder in the package airing on NBC Sports Network. The timing appears to be good for NBC on this one, since Indy Car viewership has reportedly increased by more than 80% over the past four years.

NEW YORK: Even with the MLB Opener, The Final Four, and The Masters in the spotlight over the next week, the whereabouts of Mike Francesa will likely be in the news. It seems that his "retirement" from WFAN does not mean he will remain fully retired. Francesa's non-compete clause expires as of April 1st, with numerous reports claiming that he has been negotiating to return to work. The thinking is that either a podcast or satellite radio show would be next, as it is hard to imagine giving up a premier position on WFAN to move to another radio station.

HOUSTON: The Astros have increased their Spanish broadcast presence in time for the regular season, announcing a new multi-year agreement to have all 162 regular season games air on both LaRanchera Deportes stations, 850 and 101.7. Francisco Romero returns for his 11th season on play-by-play along with (former Astros catcher) Alex Trevino, who returns for his 23rd season as analyst.

SAN DIEGO: XPRS The Mighty 1090 has put the team of Ben Higgins and Steve Woods onto its morning show as of this week. Higgins will continue as Sports Director and nightly anchor on KGTV Channel 10 in addition. The duo replaces Dan Sileo.

ALBANY: The Mets broadcasts have moved over to WROW 590 and 100.5 effective immediately due to a change in format by WINU radio.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tournament Viewing Down Early

As we go into the 2nd week of the NCAA Tournament it will be interesting to see how the 'real' TV ratings go the rest of the way. The fact is that they were actually down from last year for the first weekend. It was only when viewers watching by way of streaming were included that the viewership actually rose above last season.

This is a significant development, if it continues. Sports fans know that the Tournament is appointment TV for a lot of fans, and advertisers know that people "watching" on their phones and tablets don't always pay attention when commercials are airing. It could be because of the upsets, such as top seeded Virginia losing in the opener, which cost some viewers.

One media storyline of this Tournament will be Loyola-Chicago for next season regardless of whether or not they advance past this coming Thursday. Their first NCAA Tournament wins since 1985 could be significant for the team's media presence within its local Chicago market.

Fans around the country are probably not aware that Loyola has not had so much as a local radio contract for many years. Only the limited power campus FM station has been airing the games for many years, while other Chicago schools such as DePaul and University of Illinois-Chicago have had some to all of their games aired on 50,000 watt AM stations. It will be interesting to see whether or not the school can pick up on this success and gain a radio deal starting next season.

The Nielsen radio ratings from February are coming out this week, and it's not generally not favorable for major sports stations (although the Boston ratings were not released as of press time).

The big story comes from New York, with WFAN now two months into the new year of having new shows in both its morning and afternoon drive time slots.

It seems that the air talent does make a difference in NYC sports radio. In morning drive, Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti ranked #6 in the market's morning show ratings, while WEPN ESPN came in 14th while airing its new ESPN national morning show.

Afternoons are a different story, especially for those who recall The Broadcast Booth's speculation last year that WFAN was going after Michael Kay's show from rival WEPN. For the just concluded ratings period, Kay's show, which was signed to a large contract extension prior to the WFAN selection of Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray, and Bart Scott for afternoons (replacing Mike Francesa), finished a full ratings point higher than WFAN's new show in the important males aged 25-54 demographic. (The full numbers were not available at press time.)

Overall, WFAN dropped .6 of a ratings point and is now only at #14 overall in the market, while WEPN rose .2 while finishing only at #22 overall.

In Philadelphia, despite dropping .8 of a ratings point, WIP-FM remained #1 in the market, while WPEN ESPN dropped .2 and came in at #16.

Chicago's sports stations both dropped, with WSCR The Score 670 dipping .2 and WMVP ESPN 1000 dipping by .1, with neither station making the market's top 20. This is a considerable dip for WSCR, which spent some of the past year in the market's top five stations. The station, as we mentioned last week, just made a lineup change for its midday and afternoon drive shows after this ratings book concluded.

All three of the Dallas sports stations dropped this time, while the gap widened. KTCK-AM The Ticket dropped .3 and finished at #13 overall, with over 30% more listeners than KRLD-FM and over triple the total audience of KESN-FM ESPN.

In San Francisco, KNBR saw its total audience dip by 10% from the month prior and is now at #10 overall, actually losing ground to KGMZ-FM The Game, which gained .4 of a ratings point during the same time.

Houston's three sports stations, which showed signs of life after the Astros championship last fall, are back to being completely out of the market's top 20 stations, as all three stations are at or under a 0.8 total rating.

Although the NFL schedule for the 2018 regular season won't be released until mid-April, the word is that NBC will hit the jackpot for its Thursday Night Football NFL Kickoff telecast to start the regular season. As much as we don't like to report speculation (like so many media members do and would), even the possibility that it really will be Minnesota at Philadelphia to open the season is worth talking about.

CBS Sports Network has expanded its deal with Conference USA, which includes airing nine football games along with the Conference Championship Game next season. In addition, this new deal will include the basketball semi-finals and championship games.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A True Head Turner

The continuing lack of awareness that Turner Sports has created over the years bit them still again this past Sunday (3/11), this time resulting in low ratings for its first ever telecast of the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

Some could make the point that Turner Sports was a victim of circumstance. Over the past couple of years CBS, which had aired the Selection Show for the previous 35 years, has come under fire for forcing viewers to wait for up to nearly two hours before revealing all of the pairings around the country. They could say that the lower ratings this year were due to fans simply not wanting to wait that long.

However, this is still another instance of Turner Sports expecting TV viewers to magically know when they have an important telecast for sports fans.

Granted, the ratings for the TNT telecasts of the NBA are relatively solid. This is the one series of telecasts for which Turner Sports is the most consistent. With its NBA package, the network begins with a couple of pre-season telecasts and gets rolling with an opening night doubleheader. Typically, TNT has a second doubleheader within the first four nights of the regular season.

Although they don't always stick to every Thursday night all season, eliminating some Thursdays and replacing them with other nights of the week, in this case the NBA has a clear presence on TNT from pre-season through the Conference finals. (TNT alternates showing either the East or West Conference championship series.)

When it comes to MLB, TBS dropped the ball (so to speak) a couple of years ago when it reduced its Sunday regular season telecasts from every Sunday to only for the second half of the season. In addition, the network has never had a consistent time for its Sunday games to begin. By the time they begin their Sunday telecasts (again this season), fans already have their Sunday viewing pattern of local or regional telecasts during the afternoon and/or Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

Since TBS does so little, outside of Turner regular programming, to promote their MLB telecasts, their Sunday regular season telecast ratings rarely score well. Our theory is that because of this, the more casual fan doesn't know to check TBS for its post-season telecasts either.

Just as fans don't think TBS for baseball, they don't think Turner Sports for the NCAA Selection Show. Why would they? Keep in mind that Turner Sports did not have so much as a regular season package of college hoops to promote their involvement. The feeling here is that literally millions of fans tuned to CBS this past Sunday and thought they missed the Selection Show. When they didn't find it, chances are they tuned over to ESPN, which shows seemingly thousands of college hoops games all season long, including those involving schools very few even care about.

Due to the contract with the NCAA, the Selection Show returns to CBS next March, and you can bet so will stronger ratings. Since CBS has a regular season contract which builds familiarity, it won't be an issue. A little consistency goes a long way.

A study by Media Post shows that for 2017, the NCAA tournament generated the second most national TV advertising revenue of any sport, second only to the NFL post-season which includes the Super Bowl. What this means is that this Tournament is considered more effective for national advertisers than either the NBA or MLB post-season telecasts - of which Turner Sports is a part.

Over the past five years, college football post season bowl game ratings have climbed 8.8%. ESPN has the majority of these telecasts, coming after televising numerous games every week of the entire season along with webcasts of many other games at the exact same times.

A little awareness goes a long way.

In the case of the upcoming NFL Draft, the awareness is again getting out of hand at ESPN. It is understandable that the network wants to hype its coverage of the Draft next month. Doing all of the speculation and mock drafting is perfectly fine. However, the recent trend of making predictions part of "Breaking News" or even the "Bottom Line" has become even more annoying already this year.

Mel Kiper or another of their experts changing or making a mere prediction about draft scenarios is simply NOT news in any way, shape, or form. ESPN should realize that some fans will watch a game or event they are not interested in so they can follow the scores and updates at the bottom which they are concerned about.

Too much clutter which is not related to actual results and news will send them to other sources to get the information they are seeking. The factual information, not merely a prediction.

ESPN has extended its agreement to carry Sun Belt Conference football for another eight seasons. The network will carry all games controlled by the Conference (home games, etc.) either on its family of networks, streaming, or on its upcoming additional pay tier.

CHICAGO: WSCR 670 The Score announced immediate changes this week to both its afternoon drive and midday shows, bringing back two co-hosts. Dan McNeil, one of the original hosts on the station in 1992, returns to the station as co-host of its afternoon show, with Danny Parkins remaining.

Dan Bernstein moves out of afternoons and into middays where he is now teamed with Connor McKnight, who returns to the station in a much more prominent role than previously. McKnight returns to The Score from WLS 890 within weeks of WLS losing the White Sox broadcasts to WGN 720 as of this season, after hosting the pre and post game shows for the previous two seasons.

As a result of these changes, hosts Jason Goff and Matt Spiegel are out of their weekday gigs, but as of press time are still with the station.

HOUSTON:  While the Rockets are enjoying what could be their best regular season ever, the local carriers and fans are not willing to pay up to enjoy it with them. AT&T SportsNet Southwest, which airs the majority of the telecasts, is still not carried by Dish, Suddenlink, and other providers which refuse to offer the $5 per month channel.

The recent Rockets telecasts on ABC (KTRK 13) have scored high local ratings, including last month's prime time game against Golden State which scored a local 8.1 rating. Their recent Wednesday night game against the L.A. Clippers and aired locally from ESPN scored more than one ratings point higher than the AT&T SportsNet local telecast.

While the regional network's ratings for the Rockets were down roughly 20% from last season as of the All-Star break, the NBA's local cable telecast ratings around the league were up 9% for the season during the same period.

LOS ANGELES: As the Dodgers face a situation like Houston's in which major carriers still have not picked up the Dodgers channel (SportsNet L.A.), there is a bit of relief in store for the early season. Once again the Dodgers want to sell tickets, so they have announced that KTLA Channel 5 will air at least five early regular season games as a simulcast, including an entire three game series against the rival San Francisco Giants.

BIRMINGHAM: WJOX has dropped its "Opening Drive" show, which was hosted by Jay Barker (former Alabama QB), Al Del Greco (former Auburn and NFL kicker) and Tony Kurre.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Don't Be First - Just Get It Right

As busy and significant of a week as this is for sports media, we should not overlook still another media speculation story going bad and the impact it has on sports fans trying to keep up with their favorite teams and leagues.

Earlier this week, we had another of those "It looks like a done deal" stories about the Chicago Bulls trading Niko Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans. A couple of usually trustworthy team reporters had enough details to put out the story that the deal was imminent, even naming the player and draft pick expected in return.

However, the deal did not take place until more than two days later, and with more players involved than originally speculated upon. What happened during those times was that some local sports reports gave the story that "The Bulls still have not traded Mirotic" as if this was still a news story instead of spinning the rumor mill.

The fact that the trade actually took place, eventually, should not have any bearing on how sorry this type of reporting has become and what a poor reflection it is on the sports media. By now, fans know the feeling of waiting on the decision of a replay of a call during a key spot in the game. As impatient as we may get, we have that feeling of how important it is to "get the call right".

We need to have the same feeling when it comes to reporting facts. It doesn't matter which reporter "was the first" to break a story, which now seems to happen on social media after a trade becomes official or an injury status is revealed. If it isn't official, don't make it appear to be imminent. Be ready to report it when it happens instead of potentially having to retract it.

It so happens that the Chicago Bulls also were part of a big media story this week as well. The possible bankruptcy of the parent company of WLS 890 has the station dropping its contract to air the Bulls games immediately. Within a matter of days, WSCR The Score 670 picked up the broadcast rights and starts this weekend (Saturday 2/3). WLS did their final Bulls broadcast on Weds. January 31st, with the next game on WSCR. Their broadcast team of Chuck Swirsky and Bill Wennington remains in place.

Although WSCR will air most of the Bulls games, it appears the broadcasts will be farmed out to WIND 560 in the spring since the Cubs broadcasts will have priority. No word, as of press time, on what will happen when the Bulls games conflict with DePaul and University of Illinois basketball broadcasts it also carries.

WLS is also dropping their White Sox broadcasts for the same reason. At press time, no word on a station. With the team expected to have another losing season in 2018, this could prove to be a challenge for the team.

As we enter the final days of the super hype for the Super Bowl, the bigger story in the media is Fox Sports getting a five year deal for Thursday Night Football. This contract struck a blow against NBC and CBS, while also including streaming rights to cable/satellite subscribers.

This also has to be a huge disappointment for Mike Torico. Now that NBC will only have Sunday Night Football, and with Al Michaels showing no signs of retirement, Torico's NFL opportunities are now more limited.

Even with NFL ratings down for the regular season, the Pro Bowl last Sunday (1/28) somehow had ratings which were roughly 15% higher than last year's game.

Only days after WEEI-FM Boston extended its Patriots related programming for five more years (as we commented on last week) came the suspension by WEEI-FM of host Alex Reimer for his remarks about Tom Brady's 5-year old daughter which caused Brady to cut short is "Kirk & Callahan Show" segment.

Brady did go on to say that he does not want to see Reimer lose his job with the station over the incident, even though the station suspended him from the airwaves. Reimer's remarks, as inappropriate as they were, were actually not made over the air, coming on a Facebook only segment.

WEEI-FM's Kirk & Callahan Show was voted the top major market sports talk show in a vote of 47 radio executives for the Barrett Sports Media Survey for 2017. WXOS St. Louis' Bernie Miklasz was the winner, actually a repeat winner, in the mid-market category.

NBA ratings continue to do well this season, with TNT showing that its viewership overall has increased roughly 21% over last season through last week.

NEW YORK: It's a mystery, as of press time, as to why three scheduled (remaining) telecasts of Fairfield University basketball games have vanished from the SNY schedule. The network will apparently not be airing the Feb. 5, 15, and 17 games against Siena, Marist, and Quinnipiac.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Not sure if it has anything to do with ESPN's morning show screw up of ending Mike & Mike or not, but WTEM 980 has stopped using its affiliation with ESPN on its station ID's and transitions. The station is now branding itself as "The Team". Thus far, every ESPN program it has carried continues to air as scheduled.

KNOXVILLE: WVLZ has just been sold, with no word yet if the new ownership will continue the sports talk format or not.

COLUMBIA MO: KTGR has begun airing The Will Cain Show from 2 to 4 PM on weekdays, replacing The Paul Finebaum Show, which it had aired for nearly five years.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Boston Sports Radio Stations Won't Stand Pat(s)

While the Patriots are preparing to defend their Super Bowl championship next week, the media battle continues among Boston's two big time sports radio stations. WBZ-FM Sports Hub is sure to benefit in the ratings from having the Patriots broadcasts, along with airing the Celtics and Bruins throughout the week.

With WEEI-FM and its Red Sox coverage in the off-season, WEEI Sports made it a point to make a bigger than usual splash about extending its Patriots related programming even though it does not air the games.

The station announced a multi-year extension of its "Patriots Monday" and "Patriots Friday" programs. QB Tom Brady will continue on the Monday show (presumably whether he retires or not after the big game), which airs during the Kirk & Callahan morning show. Coach Bill Belichick will appear on the Monday afternoon Dale & Holley Show. The Friday show will continue to feature a variety of Patriots players.

Even without the play-by-play, WEEI-FM has done well with their Patriots programming, especially since it was expanded back in 2008. The station and team have partnered on team programming since 1995. As the flagship station, WBZ-FM also has special access to Patriots personnel for its coverage.

Both stations continue to be strong in the overall market ratings as our regular readers know.

Coincidentally, the mid-December to mid-January ratings will be announced shortly after the Super Bowl.

BOSTON: Congratulations to WBZ-TV sports anchor Dan Roche on being named Massachusetts Sportscaster of the Year. Roche, who has been with WBZ-TV since 1999, also won this Award in 2014.

BANGOR: WEZQ 92.9 The Ticket has just taken over Red Sox broadcasts with a new three year deal starting next month with spring training broadcasts. As a result, The Ticket now airs play-by-play for all four major Boston teams, already airing the Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins. This takes the baseball broadcasts away from WZON 620, which had been airing the games in Bangor since 1994. WZON happens to be owned by author Stephen King.

CHICAGO: It's now one month from start of exhibition baseball, and it is now uncertain (as of press time) whether or not the White Sox have a radio station to broadcast their games this season. WLS 890 is owned by Cumulus, which is financially strapped and reportedly doing everything it can to cancel its contract to air both the White Sox and Bulls (NBA) broadcasts.

For this weekend (1/27 and 1/28), WLS has coverage of the White Sox fan fest (SoxFest) on its broadcast schedule. With the team looking at another 90+ loss season, if WLS gets out of the contract it could lead to the team buying time and producing its own broadcasts at least for this season.

There are examples of large market teams being on school or community stations over the years, including the Oakland A's and N.Y. Islanders.

DETROIT: It's nice to see some media attention to this week being what would have been the 100th birthday of Tigers broadcast legend Ernie Harwell.

DAYTON: It's not official yet (as of press time) but it looks like Justin Kinner will officially become host of WING 1410's "Dayton Sports Scene" from 4 to 6 PM on weekdays. Kinner has the difficult task of replacing Mark Neal, who left the station after having hosted the show since 2003.