Thursday, October 12, 2017

Big Deal For Boston Sports Radio

It's looking more and more like the proposed merger between CBS Radio and Entercom could actually happen, and it could very well be approved within the next six months.

As part of the process, Entercom will need to divest itself of several large radio stations due to ownership restrictions in some key markets. For sports radio, there is no radio market matching the significance of Boston, which has had fierce competition between its two sports stations, WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM. Both stations have consistently finished in the top 10 overall in the market, giving Boston the largest sports talk radio combined audience in the country.

This merger would mean that Entercom would then own both of those stations in Boston. Our thinking was that Entercom would choose between keeping them both in place as a means to prevent any serious competition, or perhaps roll one into a local sports powerhouse while putting national sports feeds on the other. This is already the case as WEEI-AM 850 is primarily ESPN Radio.

However, as a means to assure approval of the merger, Entercom has determined that its best course of action is to get rid of "overflow" stations in several markets. Part of that decision is to plan to sell off WBZ-FM Sports Hub in Boston.

WBZ-FM is the flagship station of the Patriots and Bruins. Usually the contract to broadcast a team is with the broadcast ownership group and not the station. This "merger", which is more like a takeover of CBS Radio by Entercom, is being reviewed and eventually approved by the FCC. No word yet as to whether or not Entercom would also assume the Patriots and Bruins contracts and be able to move those broadcasts to another of its Boston stations or if these contracts will be part of the sale.

What happens with those contracts, either way, will have a huge impact on Boston radio.

In the event that the buyer of WBZ-FM also receives the Patriots and Bruins contracts, the stage is set for that buyer to maintain the large sports talk audience and play-by-play and remain as direct competition for WEEI-FM. If the team contracts are not included, continuing as a sports station becomes less appealing but still possible.

If the new owners decide to go with a different format, then it would mean that WEEI-FM could gain as much as double its current audience. Even if it doesn't gain very much, it will have wiped out its strong competitor.

Entercom has other sports stations shown within its list of tentative stations around the country to divest, including KFNQ-AM Seattle and KHTK Sacramento, which could impact sports radio in those two markets. The difference is that no other market has two sports stations as strong as the pair in Boston, nor are other markets involving the possibility of single ownership of more than one sports station.

As we prepare for the MLB League Championship Series in both leagues, it's worthy of note that Fox Sports continues to shaft their telecasts, putting the majority of them on Fox Sports 1 and depriving many fans around the country the opportunity to see these post-season games.

At press time, the only one of the first five ALCS games scheduled for Fox Sports is Game 2 on Saturday (10/14), which is a late afternoon game (4 PM ET) going up against a ton of college football games. Worse yet, Fox still does not allow its over the air stations in New York and Houston to show the games, leaving a lot of fans unable to find or watch these games.

Sure, it's the same with TBS and many casual fans not knowing where to find the National League games. That's the fault of MLB for allowing this to happen.

The report earlier this week from Forbes Magazine shows that local MLB telecasts did well overall this season. Nielsen Media reports show that 12 of the regional sports networks which air MLB teams finished #1 in their respective markets on game nights. Along with those 12 teams, the Mets and the Angels finished #2 in their respective markets only because the Yankees and Dodgers were in the top spot.

This, despite a 38% ratings decline for Detroit Tigers telecasts as a result of their poor season. Fox Sports' regional networks benefitted the most, since they coincidentally own the rights for the Indians (defending American League champs), as well as the Twins, Brewers, and Diamondbacks, each of whom had much better than expected seasons.

We'll sit back and wait for Fox Sports to twist that into how their regional networks did all of those great things and not make it look like the teams' play had anything to do with it.

A couple of surprising announcements from ESPN this week. Looks even their staple of college hoops is being impacted by their financial cutbacks. This college basketball season will start without their usual 24 hour marathon of games.

Granted, scheduling games that start at 1 AM or even 7 AM local time is an inconvenience to the ticket holding fans as well as local broadcast outlets, but clearly there are schools willing to do so in order to gain the added exposure and be a part of this. That will be the reason for doing this, but it's curious that this happens after all these years during a time when the network is making financial cutbacks.

At the same time, the network hired away NHL expert Greg Wyshynski to increase its NHL coverage, adding fuel to the speculation that ESPN wants the NHL back after all these years. Doing so would mean less time for college basketball (see above paragraph), and dropping MLB in return would (eventually) leave ESPN with nothing from mid-June (NBA and NHL finals) until late August college football games.

CHICAGO: Even though WGN 720 just lost out in its bid to recapture the Bears broadcasts, the station plans to continue its Bears related programming. In addition to continuing its post-game call-in show (even though it doesn't broadcast the games), the station has added Mike Ditka as a Bears analyst during its morning and afternoon shows (not sports specific) on Mondays and Fridays, even including the post-season.

NEW YORK: Even though the games will be bumped for the Yankees post-season, the New Jersey Devils have just started their 13th season on WFAN, adding to stream the radio broadcasts. Play-by-play voice Matt Loughlin will be joined by Glenn 'Chico' Resch as the new analyst (replacing Sherry Ross).

CLEVELAND: As the NBA regular season begins next week, the Cavaliers broadcasts are now simulcast on both WTAM 1100 and WMMS-FM, with John Michael and Jim Chones beginning their 7th season as the broadcast team. In addition, both home and road games will be broadcast on in Spanish on a different station.

PHILADELPHIA: SportsRadio 94 WIP is planning to broadcast a high school football game on Thanksgiving Day, with midday hosts Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie on the call and none other than Howard Eskin acting as sideline reporter. The station is letting the listeners determine which of seven area games to broadcast, with voting taking place through October 31st.

ROCHESTER: WRSB 97.5 The Team is disbanding after this week. Starting next Monday (10/16) the station will become a Spanish music station.

Friday, October 6, 2017

All Week It's A Numbers Game

A lot of ratings and audience numbers to examine this week. Hard to tell if it was because of the Yankees being in it or if the Wild Card game ratings are rising in general, but it was no surprise to see the higher audience levels (58% increase) for Tuesday (10/3) night's telecast of the Yankees vs. Twins in the American League game on ESPN.

We do wonder, however, how much having the game shown on ESPN factored in. Too many casual fans still have no idea to check TBS, especially since they no longer show games every Sunday afternoon during the regular season. And, FS1 doesn't have enough of a "carry over" audience, like ESPN does, for its programming.

Having the Yankees in the ALDS with most of the games merely on FS1 will give us an indication. Hard to believe that, with the possibility of ESPN not retaining its MLB package moving forward, the Fox continues to keep MLB in the background until the World Series. The Yankees vs. Indians should be a huge draw, but may not be. At the same time, it is astounding that Fox does not, at the very least, allow the local Fox stations in the participating teams' markets to also air the games. That's a lot of New York and Cleveland households that won't know where to find the games.

On the NFL side, we checked the Los Angeles market ratings for this past Sunday (10/1) and, sure enough, the Oakland at Denver doubleheader game on CBS had nearly three times the audience rating and share that the Los Angeles Chargers game against Philadelphia did on Channel 13. In fact, of the 6 NFL games televised live in L.A. on Sunday, only the Miami vs. New Orleans telecast from London, which kicked off at 6:30 AM local time, had a lower audience than the "local" Chargers did.

It was the Rams game from Dallas on Fox Channel 11 which more than doubled the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore game on CBS in the regular "early games" slot. NBC's Sunday Night Football telecast with Indianapolis vs. Seattle was actually the ratings winner for the entire day.

This coming Sunday (10/8), the L.A. market again gets a full doubleheader from both Fox and CBS and the NFL seems to be letting L.A. ignore the market rules it still enforces in New York City.

It so happens that the Rams game at home against Seattle has been flexed over to CBS, which means that CBS in L.A. gets a Chargers and then Rams doubleheader. The Chargers early game will actually air on sister station KCAL Channel 9 at 10 AM with the Rams game on KCBS Channel 2 at 1:25 PM.

Although some fans think that the Chargers are being demoted because this will be the second consecutive Sunday that they will appear on a "second" local channel, it is really due to contractual obligations.

With the Rams and the Chargers each home teams, Fox and CBS are contractually obligated to show both games in their entirety. Using another channel prevents a situation where a weather delay and/or overtime could have the first game run over past the start of the second game.

For this Sunday, while CBS in L.A. brings the Chargers and Rams doubleheader (although on separate channels), Fox will still get to air two games in the market, going with Carolina at Detroit (instead of Arizona vs. Philadelphia) first and then the national doubleheader game of Green Bay and Dallas. Joe Buck will call that game. While it's not a surprise he calls that NFL game in particular, it does not speak well for Fox Sports that Buck is not calling the Yankees vs. Indians game on FS1 on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, the mid-August to mid-September Nielsen radio ratings have been released. Let's look at a few of the key bigger markets.

In New York, WFAN AM-FM The Fan went up .5 in the ratings, finishing at #7 overall in the market. Certainly an expected rise with being #1 at night with Yankees broadcasts and the curiosity surrounding the resignation of Craig Carton from the morning show. The two Boston sports stations remain strong, as expected, with both WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub showing half point increases in overall audience. WEEI-FM came in #4 in the market with WBZ-FM at #8. Both stations should stay strong as the Red Sox begin the post-season and the Patriots season is in full swing.

The Chicago Cubs are making winners out of WSCR The Score 670 again, with the station showing up at #4 in the market for its best ever showing and showing three times the overall audience of WMVP ESPN 1000. That figures to rise during the current ratings period as the Cubs (for which WSCR is the flagship station) begin their post-season run.

You can tell its Cowboys season by the sports radio ratings for Dallas, as all three stations went up during the month. KTCK-AM The Ticket leads the three, coming in at #14 in the market this time. In Atlanta, WZGC-FM The Game rose an impressive .7 of a ratings point to #16 overall. The Eagles season getting underway has impacted Philadelphia's stations, as WIP-FM rose 1.1 ratings points (and 1.9 ratings points from two months prior) to #5 overall in the market. At the same time, WPEN-FM ESPN rose .3 finishing at #18.

The Twins run to the post-season and the Vikings starting helped KFXN The Fan rise to #2 in the morning and placed the station in the top five in the Twin Cities with a .6 of a ratings point rise. Baltimore's WJZ-FM rose 1.3 ratings points and into the top five stations there.

Although not a full-time sports station, Cleveland's WTAM 1100 benefitted big time from the Indians broadcasts. The 1.3 ratings points rise includes them being the #1 station during both afternoons and evenings.

Perhaps the biggest shocker is the San Diego sports station ratings, considering that the Chargers are gone and the Padres were seemingly eliminated months ago. Yet, both XPRS-AM and KLSD-AM both rose .3 of a ratings point. Even though neither station so much as cracked the top 20 in the market, this is still a surprise.

In other ratings news, it's interesting that ESPN Sunday Night Baseball was up roughly 8% this season compared with the 2016 season.

Meanwhile, ESPN continues to get ready for the upcoming NBA season. With Doris Burke moving into a game analyst role, the network has added Paul Pierce to its roster of studio analysts as a result of his work on their NBA Finals coverage the past two years.

ESPN also regained the rights to Formula 1 racing with a new multi-year deal which begins in 2018. The family of networks will air all 21 races, with the majority slotted in for Sunday mornings on ESPN2. Two of the races will air on ABC. This deal is a blow to NBCSN, which retains NASCAR and Indy Car affiliations.

The hunch from here is that these networks will be locking horns again when both the NHL and MLB contracts are in negotiations. ESPN appears to be not overly interested in retaining MLB and could wind up indirectly trading places with NBC by giving up baseball and regaining hockey.

It is very interesting that ESPN sent out an e-mail blast on Thursday (10/5) promoting NHL.TV and the hockey package, given that it has been years since they lost the NHL rights to NBC and didn't seem to care.

The saddest sports media news is the passing of long time NHL voice Dave Strader this past weekend at the age of 62. The highly regarded Strader called games for NBC and NBCSN in addition to having been the voice of the Dallas Stars. He will be missed.

BOSTON: After a long interview process with more than 200 applicants, the Bruins waited until the last minute to select Judd Sirott from Chicago as their new radio play-by-play voice. Sirott replaces Dave Goucher who left the Bruins after 17 seasons to become the TV voice of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The 48 year-old Sirott comes from WGN Radio Chicago where he has handled studio coverage (and occasional filling in on play-by-play) for Blackhawks games as well as having been on the Cubs broadcast team several years ago when they had the broadcast rights.

The Bruins had auditioned four candidates during the exhibition season before making their choice. Ironically, Sirott's Bruins play-by-play debut for the team's opener on Thursday (10/5) was moved to WZLX 100.7 because of the Patriots game airing on The Sports Hub 98.5.

CHICAGO: The move of Judd Sirott from WGN Radio to the Bruins play-by-play role resulted in WGN bringing in Chris Boden to handle its studio coverage for its Blackhawks broadcasts. Boden had handled much of CSN Chicago's (now NBC Sports Chicago) Blackhawks studio hosting during his 10 years with the network which ended suddenly in August. Look for Boden to eventually get a more expanded role at WGN.

WASHINGTON D.C.: After struggling to get sufficient coverage for its broadcasts last season, the Capitals and WJFK-FM The Fan have made amends just in time for this season and have resumed airing the games. John Wlaaton returns for his 7th season on play-by-play with Ken Sabourin starting his 15th season as analyst. The games will continue to be broadcast on WFED 1500, which aired the games with little fanfare and a low signal all of last season.

LOS ANGELES: The Clippers have hired Bruce Bowen as their TV analyst to work along side Ralph Lawler this season, replacing Michael Smith who had been doing TV and radio for the previous 19 seasons. No word (as of press time) as to whether or not Bowen would be able to continue as a studio analyst with ESPN.

St. LOUIS: KFNS 590 and morning show co-host Jim The Cat Hayes have made amends days after Hayes was reported to have left the station. Hayes also continues his role with Fox Sports Midwest.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Two NFL Teams Means Four NFL Telecasts For L.A.

While NFL fans in Los Angeles don't yet seem to be taking having two home teams as a big deal, the TV networks certainly are. So much for the NFL "rule" about markets having a maximum of 3 telecasts on days when a local team is home. At least for L.A.

This Sunday the Rams play Dallas an the early primary regional game for Fox, with Chris Myers on play-by-play. Since CBS has the doubleheader this week, that would be the lone Fox telecast in Los Angeles. However, the Chargers are at home, and hosting the Eagles, which is also a Fox telecast. KCBS-TV has the doubleheader, to which it is entitled, with Pittsburgh at Baltimore followed by the Oakland at Denver telecast.

Thus, the NFL is scheduled (as of press time) to break their rule and air the Chargers telecast, but it will air locally on KCOP-TV Channel 13, which is a MY TV affiliate owned by Fox Channel 11. Unless the NFL manages to stop KCBS from airing the CBS doubleheader game of Oakland at Denver, it means having four over the air games available in the market, even though one of the local teams is home. This is a scenario which has not taken place in the New York City market over the years regarding the Giants and Jets. Very interesting.

Ironically, Fox in San Diego will air the Chargers vs. Eagles as its lone telecast of the day, while the CBS affiliate shows the Raiders at Denver game up against it. Can't wait to see the local ratings during those games.

Fox Sports got caught up in a nightmare this past Saturday (9/23) when their early afternoon MLB telecast between the Cubs and Brewers ran long and then went extra innings. The national network was scheduled to air the Michigan vs. Purdue football game, and delayed the start of the football game a few minutes in hopes the baseball game would be over in time.

The baseball game ran longer, which caused Fox to air the start of the football game on Fox Business Network. This, understandably, sent many viewers scrambling to find that channel. Fox affiliates in Michigan and Indiana did pull out of the baseball telecast early to carry the entire football game.

Even though it was not the fault of Fox Sports that the baseball game ran over, it should be pointed out that Fox no longer airs an MLB game every Saturday, especially in the afternoon. Other than their prime-time telecasts, which are mostly prior to the All-Star Game, their national games air on FS1 with little fanfare or promotion. Yet, they choose one of their few Saturday afternoon telecasts (for Fox Sports) on a day in which they have only a three hour window before their heavily promoted football telecast, and it backfires.

As ESPN gets ready for the upcoming NBA season, they have promoted Doris Burke into a regular in-game analyst role for several of the ESPN and ABC telecasts. She will also continue her sideline reporting role for other telecasts including the NBA Finals. Although she is quite knowledgeable and does a decent job, it is ironic considering how many former NBA players are used in studio analyst roles.

Burke replaces Doug Collins in that role, with Collins having officially left ESPN after taking on a management role with the Chicago Bulls.

Congrats to Jason Benetti for his 'three games in two cities in 23 hours' broadcasting accomplishment last Saturday. Benetti originally had the day off from ESPN due to his commitment to do play-by-play of the Chicago White Sox telecasts against Kansas City on Friday and Saturday nights from Chicago. However, ESPN had an opening for the Florida State vs. N.C. State telecast from Tallahassee when Beth Mowins (originally scheduled to call that game) was tapped by CBS to call the Indianapolis vs. Cleveland NFL game on Sunday (9/24).

Benetti left Chicago after 10:30 on Friday night following the White Sox telecast for Midway Airport to fly to Tallahassee, and called the football game for ESPN as planned along with Anthony Becht in what turned out to be an upset win for N.C. State. After that telecast, he hurried to the local airport, flew back to Chicago, and with a police escort made it to the White Sox telecast during the second inning and called the remainder of the game. He then wrapped up his weekend by calling the White Sox vs. Royals game on Sunday afternoon. He will be calling the North Carolina vs. GA Tech telecast on ESPN2 this coming Saturday (9/30).

NEW YORK CITY: You had better believe that WEPN ESPN 98.7 was concerned about the possibility of afternoon host Michael Kay jumping over to WFAN as the replacement for Mike Francesa (who leaves after Dec. 15th). WEPN has signed Kay to what was announced as a "multi-year extension", which also given to co-host Don LaGreca.

The station clearly saw how devastating it would have been to lose Kay to The Fan and took swift action. In addition, the show is also adding Peter Rosenberg, morning man at sister station WQHT Hot 97, to be a "regular contributor" to Kay's show. The Michael Kay Show celebrates 15 years on the station this fall.

At the same time, it brings back the mystery as to what WFAN will do to replace Francesa by the first of the year.

PHILADELPHIA: WPEN The Fanatic has made it official that Bob Cooney is the co-host of the morning show along with Anthony Gargano. In addition Cooney, the long-time beat reporter for the Sixers for the Daily News, will also be a part of WPEN's expanded coverage of the Sixers. WPEN also just extended its multi-year agreement to continue as the Sixers flagship station.

CHICAGO: Speaking of extending a multi-year agreement, WBBM 780 and WCFS 105.9 have officially re-upped for what was announced as "at least three more seasons" as the flagship station for the Bears broadcasts which they have held since 2000. The stations will air the games through (at least) the 2020 season.

This is a significant extension for the CBS stations, given the possible merger approval of CBS and Entercom Radio during 2018 which would give the new group the broadcast rights to 45 pro sports teams. In addition. WGN Radio, which airs the Blackhawks and Northwestern University football and basketball, reportedly made a strong bid for the Bears broadcasts.

Monday October 9th could be an interesting day for Chicago TV viewers. We now know that the Cubs are scheduled to host the Nationals in Game 4 of the NLDS (on TBS) on a day which could feature up to four MLB playoff games. However, Monday Night Football will originate from Chicago with the Bears against the Vikings at 7:30 PM CT. At this time, it is also possible that, if Minnesota wins its Wild Card playoff game against the Yankees next week, that the Twins could also host Game 4 at a time to be determined that same day. Depending on game times, it could be some interesting viewer choices that night.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Ooops" Week In Sports Media

It's been a week of "ooops" moments at both the national and local level.

There was one such event which couldn't be helped. The lightning delay of Fox's doubleheader game telecast of Dallas at Denver this past Sunday (9/17) caused the telecast to run so late that the end overlapped the start of Sunday Night Football on NBC. As a result, the NFL addicts on Sunday actually did have 10 1/2 hours of non-stop game action, instead of roughly an hour in between the late afternoon game and the Sunday night game.

Last Thursday (9/14), KPRC-TV Channel 2 in Houston was so anxious to get into their local news at the end of its local showing of the Texans win over Cincinnati that it cut out of the NFL Network telecast prior to the final play of the game. The final play was set up by a penalty flag on the previous play, but that didn't stop KPRC from whipping right out of the telecast.

That last play resulted in the Bengals being stopped. However, it was possible that they could have scored a touchdown on that play which would have won the game. And KPRC would have missed it.
Even though this is an isolated incident, many stations and networks make it appear this could happen more often. ESPN is setting a possible horrible trend by making the end of seemingly every game they show be dominated with their "SportsCenter is next" announcement instead of the scores and info from The Bottom Line. They spend millions and millions of dollars, raising our monthly prices for cable/satellite, to show these games, and then convince viewers that they simply can't wait until they are over.

And it's only so they can jump around from one sport to the next every ten seconds to show highlights of games which have been over for hours.

Because of this, we now have some local stations and other networks doing the same thing. If they won't spend any time recapping the game they just showed, that would seem to diminish the value of showing recaps of other games instead.

While the controversy continues about the comments made by ESPN's Jemele Hill and her public comments about President Trump, there has been no suspension or disciplinary action taken as of press time. The "oooops" part of this is the fact that WLS-TV Chicago's sportscaster Mark Giangreco was suspended for two weeks without pay this past February after Tweeting negative comments about Trump. The significance? WLS-TV is ABC-TV, which is the same company which owns ESPN. Not exactly a consistent pattern here.

Also on WLS-TV Chicago, sportscaster Jim Rose made the same mistake that many did last Friday (9/15) when he mentioned on his late afternoon sports segment that "the Brewers play AT Miami tonight". We could understand people that do not follow baseball closely making that mistake, given that the game (and entire three game series was moved to Milwaukee due to the aftermath of Irma).

What makes this significant is that Jim Rose has been a sportscaster at WLS-TV for a total of 35 years. The Brewers are trying to catch the Cubs for the National League Central Division lead. And, even more significantly, this newscast on which Rose made that error followed the WLS-TV telecast of the Cubs vs. Cardinals game which ended minutes earlier.

At least the station didn't cut away from the final out in order to start the newscast.

Later that same night (9/15), it was another of those Ken Harrelson moments on the White Sox telecast from Detroit on CSN Chicago. During that game, the Indians were going for their incredible 23rd win in a row. Harrelson was clearly watching the last couple of innings on that telecast on either a computer or phone in the booth, and providing updates.

With two out in the 9th, the Indians were down by one run to Kansas City. The previous night, Cleveland had rallied with two out in the 9th to tie and eventually win that game to extend their streak. On Friday night, with two out and a runner on, the Cleveland telecast, understandably, chose to replay the game tying double from the previous night, clearly showing "LAST NIGHT" on the screen at the start of that replay.

Harrelson was paying attention to the White Sox game (although some would debate that at times), and clearly did not see the "LAST NIGHT" on the screen. As one who seemingly never waits for a definitive decision, he said on the air that "Cleveland has done it again - tying it with two out in the 9th!!". And then, seconds later, says something like "Oh, wait, that was a replay".

No apology. No further mention other than giving the final score when the third out was made and the Indians winning streak came to an end. Makes us pray that his pending retirement announcement really was accurate.

ESPN's Ryen Russillo has paid a $250 fine from the incident which resulted in his arrest on August 23 in Wyoming, which caused ESPN to suspend him until September 5th. Everyone has moved on.

So much for "ooops" week.

Fox Sports is going to make their October 1st regional telecast of the N Y Giants vs. Tampa game a three person effort, but with reason. Sensing the possibilities since Tiki Barber has often been critical of Giants QB Eli Manning (on his CBS Sports Radio Show), and with twin brother Ronde Barber scheduled to work as analyst along side Kenny Albert, Fox has scheduled the Barber brothers as booth analysts.

NHL Network has added to its roster of studio hosts in time for the upcoming regular season. Ken Daneyko (a three time Stanley Cup champion) and 14 year league veteran Stu Grimson join as analysts. The newest studio host will be Jackie Redmond, brought in from SportsNet Canada, where she has hosted several shows over the past six years.

NEW YORK: WFAN has officially changed its morning show to "The Morning Show With Boomer". Thus far, Boomer Esiason has worked with co-hosts including Phil Simms, Brandon Tierney, and Jerry Recco. No word, as of press time, as to if or when a regular co-host will be named.
YES Network has announced that Sarah Kustok moves over from sideline reporter on its Nets telecasts to actual game analyst starting this season on an undisclosed number of telecasts. She will share the analyst role (one per game) with Jim Spanarkel.

Long time analyst Mike Fratello will move over to become studio analyst. Kustok knows basketball, having been a standout college player. However, game analyst is a role which should be held by a former NBA player. It's possible that Fratello no longer wants to travel and go through the grind. However, you would think that a former NBA player that can analyze the games wouldn't be that hard to find for the NYC area.

This is, however, a nice break for Michael Grady. The sports talk host from WFNI 1070 and 107.5 Indianapolis will act as sideline reporter for the YES telecasts of the Nets, while continuing his Indy sports show as his schedule now permits. Grady will be giving up his role as Public Address announcer for the Pacers.

CLEVELAND: The Indians' winning streak came at the same that flagship station WTAM 1100 continued theirs. The station has extended its contract with the Indians for another six seasons. In addition, what is called "the majority" of the games will also be simulcast on WMMS 100.7. WMMS had aired a selected number of games in recent years.

HOUSTON: KGOW 1560, the rarely listened to sports station, is hoping that a move to the FM dial and a better frequency will make a difference. Starting October 1st, the station will switch to SportsMap 94.1.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rough Week For Sports Media

This is the roughest week in sports media of any during the nine years of producing this blog. Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to those in the south whose lives are uprooted by Irma and Harvey.

In recent years, Miami area sports talk radio has not done all that well in terms of total audience. As of press time, there is no audience for it, but now with good reason. WAXY 790 The Ticket remained off the air (at press time). WINZ 940 remained on the air because its transmitter is located on higher ground. Ownership made the (understandable) decision to move WIOD 610 news/talk programming over to 940 indefinitely, thus bouncing WINZ's sports programming. As a result, Miami goes from two sports stations to none for the moment.

In addition to that story, we have the story (which broke moments after we posted last week) about WFAN host Craig Carton having been charged with fraud and taken off his morning show with Boomer Esiason. Instead of publicly talking about this on WFAN, Esiason instead went on WBZ-FM Boston's morning show (Toucher & Rich) to voice his support of Carton and admit the heartbreak of this unfortunate development.

Also within the past week, the sports world lost legendary producer and director Don Ohlmeyer at the age of 72. Ohlmeyer became a household name among sports fans with ABC in the 1970's when his credits included the 1972 Munich Olympics and becoming Producer of Monday Night Football during the era of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell.

Too many people have forgotten what might be his biggest contribution to televised sports. After he joined NBC in the late 70's, he was the first to provide fans with "in game" updates during NFL telecasts, as well as innovating the whiparound coverage of the NCAA Tournament. (Many younger fans don't realize that for many years local stations would air the most appropriate games for the market only.) It was also Ohlmeyer who ended the delayed telecast of the Wimbledon tournament by creating "Breakfast at Wimbledon".

Enough of the unfortunate stories for one week.

Week 2 of the NFL season brings Los Angeles viewers only one "non Los Angeles" telecast on Sunday. The market gets both local teams during the late game slot, with the Chargers on CBS and the Rams as the Fox telecast. As a result, the only early game available over the air in L.A. will be the Fox primary regional telecast of Philadelphia at Kansas City. The market does not get to see the Dallas at Denver doubleheader game matchup.

What will be more interesting will be the ratings in San Diego for the NFL late games. Fox in San Diego will carry the Dallas at Denver game, which goes up against the departed Chargers game against Miami on the CBS affiliate at the same time.

There is some great media news for football fans everywhere. Coach John Madden is feeling better going into this season, and after a year off due to health concerns, has returned to San Francisco's KCBS 740 and KFRC 106.9. His NFL analysis is, once again, airing several times a day. Even though he is only heard in the one market, it's wonderful that he is back on the media scene.

St. LOUIS: Going by the name of Frank O. Pinion, he will move from KTRS after nearly 20 years over to KFNS 590 starting on October 2nd. Pinion has a new deal which allows him a large percentage of advertisers he is bringing to the KFNS. As it goes in radio these days, it's the money and not the content. It seems that Pinion publicly admitted that he is not very knowledgeable about sports. His new contract reportedly runs though 2020, and forces Cam Janssen and T.J. Moe to move from 3 to 6 PM up to the 1 to 3 PM slot in the process. As of press time, there is a likely possibility of more changes to the weekday schedule.

It was also revealed that KFNS plans to run 16 minutes of commercials each hour during Pinion's show. Even if Pinion did know enough about sports to legitimately host an afternoon drive sports show, there wouldn't be much time for comments anyway.

NEW ORLEANS: Just as the season opener did not go well for the Saints on Monday (9/11) night, the same can be said for WDSU-TV, the station which has former Saints coach Jim Mora as a post-game analyst. During the loss, studio host Scott Walker made the off-air comment about Mora growing impatient as the evening got later. Host Fletcher Mackel told Mora about this on camera, to which Mora reacted, "He's full of s#@$". Mora did not realize that he was live the on the air when he said it.

When the others on set reacted and told him, Mora still didn't believe they were on the air. But it was there for all to see.

MADISON: WTSO The Big 1070 got a bit bigger, adding a new local midday show, "The Rundown with Jon Arias" starting at 11 AM. This show now serves as the lead in for The Drew Olson show which the station brings in from nearby WOKY Milwaukee. Arias replaces Fox's Rich Eisen program, allowing the station to focus more on Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers football.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Times They Should Be Changing

Always interesting when one form of sports media makes a bit of news directly because of another form of sports media. Such was the case in Seattle late last week.

The Seattle Times announced, publicly, that it has decided "to prohibit" its sports writers from appearing on local radio and television, including commitments already in place. KJR 950, one of the two local sports stations, had regular segments with Times reporter Bob Condotta, who covers the Seahawks, Ryan Divish, who covers the Mariners, along with Adam Jude, who covers Washington football.

This "prohibit" announcement, while intended to cover all radio and TV stations, including KIRO 710, just happened to come on the heels of Times editorials against the proposed new arena for Seattle. KJR, on the other hand, has been expressing opinions very much in favor of the new arena.

Yet, shortly after the initial announcement was made, the Times actually issued a statement which singled out KJR Radio as the main reason for this boycott. It will be interesting to see whether or not KJR's owners decide to pursue legal action. Either way, this one falls on the newspaper, which loses out on the favorable publicity from a radio station making their reporters look like experts throughout the broadcast day. As if newspapers haven't done enough to shoot themselves in the foot in the past few years.

Here we are about to begin the NFL regular season, which, unfortunately, begins without the Miami vs. Tampa game on Sunday (9/10) due to Irma. This Sunday, with Fox having the doubleheader, could be the debut of Fox showing paid advertisements for ads which are officially six seconds in length. The network claims it has research showing that :15 commercials were roughly two-thirds as effective as :30 commercials, and is allowing select advertisers to purchase the six second commercials. These also fit in with the NFL plan of reducing the number of commercial breaks this year for all of its network coverage. Fox is also expected to have these short ads running on its MLB post-season coverage.

With the Tampa vs. Miami game coming off of Week 1, those Florida markets will get the primary national games on Sunday. Both markets will get Atlanta at Chicago and the Seattle vs. Green Bay openers on Fox, as will the entire state of Florida. From CBS, both Miami and Tampa will get the CBS late game telecast of Indianapolis at the L.A. Rams, while most of the remainder of Florida gets the Jacksonville at Houston game.

Los Angeles, back to having two NFL teams, gets the Rams vs. Indy telecast as its only CBS offering, while Fox offers Philadelphia vs. Washington and then Seattle vs. Green Bay. San Diego, in its first Sunday without an NFL team, is going to get the Oakland at Tennessee early matchup from CBS instead of the Rams vs. Indy late. (The L.A. Chargers play on Monday night, shown everywhere.)

The Nielsen radio ratings for mid-July to mid-August were released earlier this week. This is the period which included the three days when ESPN Radio spent most of a week to try out the upcoming morning show with Trey Wingo and Don Golic, who are still scheduled to replace the long successful Mike & Mike show.

Think what you will of this, but in New York WFAN FM-AM rose again and is a solid #1 at night with Yankees baseball. WEPN, the ESPN station for NYC, dropped still again and now has less than 30% of the overall audience of WFAN. In Chicago, while WSCR The Score 670 finished #7 overall with a nice rise in their ratings, WMVP ESPN 1000 dipped for the third consecutive month and now has one-third of the total audience of The Score.

In Dallas, KTCK-AM The Ticket dropped .4 of a ratings point for the month, but still leads the sports station battle over KRLD-FM. The Cowboys flagship rose .3 of a point overall, which is expected with the arrival of Cowboys pre-season camp. However, KESN-FM ESPN dipped .4 of a ratings point, and now has less than half of the total audience of both KRLD-FM and KTCK-AM.

The sports station in race in Boston is heading back up, which is expected with the Red Sox charging toward the post-season and the Patriots starting their season. Both WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub rose at least one-half point for the month, with WEEI-FM at #6 overall and WBZ-FM at #10.

Perhaps the biggest large market surprise came from Philadelphia, where WIP-FM rose .8 of a ratings point during this one month period, including finishing #3 at night. This despite a horrible season by the Phillies (flagship station) and uncertainty about the city's winter sports teams.

CHICAGO: WSCR The Score 670 evening host Laurence Holmes has been named as host of Comcast SportsNet Chicago's host of its Bears pre-game and post-game coverage shows, starting this Sunday (9/10). The analysts for the one hour shows will continue to be former Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller, and Alex Brown.

SAN ANTONIO: KTKR The Ticket 760 has started airing "The Sports Grind" with Calvin Casey, Rudy J, and Salami, which is produced by SB Nation. Can't help but wonder if "Salami" will be sandwiched in.

WINSTON-SALEM: WSJS 600 became the latest station to move to all sports as a cost cutting measure. To the point of this being the very first time in the 87 year history of the station that there is no local morning show. There is now only one true local show, which will be an afternoon show hosted by Kyle Schassburger. The station will continue to carry David Glenn, a regional sports talk show from Noon to 3 PM as well.

However, mornings and time not devoted to play-by-play will be Fox Sports radio. The WSJS Sports Group also includes WMFR 1230 and 104.9 High Point; WCOG 1320 and 93.7 Greensboro; and WSML 1200 and 104.5 Graham. The station(s) will air high school sports, NASCAR, and area college football including Appalachian State.

MYRTLE BEACH: WRNN 1450 and 105.5 has dumped ESPN Radio and undergoing a complete format change. It's unknown if this was planned prior to ESPN Radio stopping Mike & Mike.

AMARILLO: With KTNZ 1010 having (also) dropped ESPN Radio, KGNC 710 and 97.5 have picked up ESPN, but on a limited basis. KGNC will air ESPN Radio only from 6 PM to 5 AM weekdays and on weekends. Interesting that they stop ESPN at 5 AM CT on weekdays, which is when their national morning show begins. The station carries extensive play-by-play including Rangers baseball and Cowboys football.

TERRE HAUTE: WFNF 1130 and 99.5 has dropped ESPN Radio completely and has gone to a music format for both stations under new call letters WAMB. Yet, as WAMB, the station will air Indiana Pacers games and remains, at least for now, a Cincinnati Reds affiliate.

Finally, our thoughts and prayers to everyone in Florida and points beyond in the path of Irma. Thinking of them, along with Texas and Louisiana, as the nation recovers from this devastation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When Sportscasters Take Over

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the residents and business owners in the Houston area, as well as the other areas of Texas and Louisiana which have been devastated by Harvey over the past few days. The true impact of this is not always being felt as it should by people around the country because Houston is not a tourist town.

Local media coverage is extremely important to a lot of people, and it's good to know that Sports Radio KBME 790 took a leadership role in the local coverage. Matt Thomas quickly went from sports talk host to a lead anchor of the stations coverage, which was shared among each of the other Houston stations owned by iHeart.

Thomas reportedly averaged more than eight hours per day from this past Friday through Monday as overnight host, keeping listeners updated and handling phone calls like the true pro he is.

The Houston CBS stations also joined forces, with KILT 610 Sports Radio hosts Mike Meltser, Paul Gallant, and Sean Pendergast each contributing full hosting shifts as part of a five-station simulcast (along with TV Channel 2 providing audio at times) among the groups. Due to the emergency conditions, KILT is allowed to broadcast 24 hours a day instead of being a daytime only signal.

For as much as we question the need for multiple sports stations in Houston based on how the three of them struggle for overall ratings, it was wonderful to see them come through when needed the most.

On the other hand, there were a couple of sports reporters and bloggers who disgraced themselves indirectly because of this disaster. The Astros and MLB were forced to quickly decide on an alternate location for the current series between the Astros and Rangers which was scheduled for this week in Houston.

The Rangers had valid reasons to not switch home series on less than 24 hours notice, such as not wanting to lose ticket revenue by hosting games weeks earlier than scheduled while inconveniencing many of their fans in the process. The Astros did not want to have "home" games be in a place where the rival crowd would be cheering against them. (As you probably know, the games were moved to Tampa Bay.)

Yet, some writers took the opportunity to bash the Rangers organization, even as the Rangers announced plans to raise and donate thousands of dollars to help out with victims of Harvey in the Houston area. Those that publicly criticized during this time - instead of trying to help those in need - are a disgrace to sports media everywhere. There is a time and a place to criticize, especially in sports. In the midst of a disaster with a short window of time is certainly not one of them.

The NFL continues to embrace social media, only this time it is about streaming its telecasts into China in a big way, starting with the upcoming season. Tencent Sports has a new three year contract to stream all Sunday, Monday, and Thursday night telecasts during the regular season, plus all post-season including the Super Bowl to its various platforms which total more than 960 million active users. The partnership also includes coverage of upcoming NFL Drafts and the NFL Combine. reports that the streamed games in China will be free. Financial terms were not disclosed, with the NFL and its teams expected to benefit from the additional push of merchandise.

Even though it's only for Fox Sports Radio, it's hard to overlook their hiring of Las Vegas sports betting expert R. J. Bell to host two shows for the network which will focus on betting odds and sports stories which relate to the Vegas sports book scene. Named "Straight Outta Vegas", the show debuts this Friday, and will air (live) on Fox Sports Radio Fridays from 8 until 9:00 PM ET and on Saturdays from 7 until 9:00 PM ET. While it's doubtful this show will garner much of an audience, especially with the number of affiliates which air play-by-play at that time on Saturdays, Bell will be a part of the network. In addition to this show, he is also expected to appear on other shows on the network.

It will be most interesting to see whether or not Bell talks about the NHL during his show or on any others he guests on, since the Las Vegas Golden Knights will become the NHL's newest team starting with late September exhibition games.

Former QB Phil Simms is adding to his CBS analyst duties, joining SiriusXM for a one hour NFL preview show. His segment will air initially on the Mad Dog Sports Channel on Thursday from 4 until 5:00 PM ET.

College football fans will be happy to know that TuneIn has announced an expansion of its college football broadcasts being made available for this season. Plans are underway for the App to carry both home and away calls for at least 140 schools. Best of all, this will be on the free service, and not restricted to its monthly fee premium package used for many pro sports.

PITTSBURGH: WXDX 105.9 The X will continue to be the flagship station for the current Stanley Cup Champion Penguins as the result of a contract extension through the 2020-21 season. The alternative music station has served as flagship since 2003, and will continue with a one hour pre-game show and extended post-game show as usual.

BALTIMORE: WBAL / WIVY are adding a second analyst for their regular season Ravens broadcasts to work along with Gerry Sandusky and Stan White. In a unique twist, the stations (and the Ravens radio network) have hired four analysts to each work four broadcasts this season. They are former Ravens Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta, Jarret Johnson, and Justin Forsett. No word as to whether or not this is something they would continue for coming seasons, or if they would choose the best one to join the broadcast team ongoing for the future.

TAMPA: Sports WDAE 620 is about to bail on the upcoming new "Golic & Wingo" ESPN Radio morning show before it officially starts. It appears they aren't taking any chances. The station is going to switch its current and local midday team of Ronnie Night Train Lane and Tom Krasniqi ("T Kras") into its 6 to 9 AM slot. To replace the ESPN morning show, WDAE will air The Dan Patrick Show from 9 AM to Noon.

In a reportedly unrelated move, Darek Sharp has left WDAE to join the University of South Florida and head up the school's new broadcasting venture. "USF Bills Unlimited" will be available as an App and 24 hour digital radio station. Sharp will also host the game day coverage (football and basketball) which will air on WWBA 820 starting this Saturday (9/2) with the USF vs. San Jose State broadcast.

LOS ANGELES: With attendance already a concern for the Chargers games, CBS is looking to spur more interest in the local NFL scene. News station KNX 1070 is adding a daily "Pro Football Insiders Report" each weekday with a different analyst each day. They will be former NFL standouts Dan Fouts, Jackie Slater, and Vince Ferragamo (each of whom played on a southern California NFL team), as well as broadcasters Chris Myers and Andrew Siciliano. No word yet as to whether or not other CBS stations in the California/Nevada region will carry the feature.

NASHVILLE: A change in the broadcast team for the Predators on WPRT 102.5 The Game starting with the coming season, with Brent Peterson moving from the analyst role to pre and post-game host. Former Preds defenseman Hal Gill will be the new game analyst, working with returning play-by-play voice Pete Weber.

FRESNO: KALZ 1400 and 96.7 has decided to become a Los Angeles Chargers affiliate and will air the game broadcasts this season.

CENTERVILLE IA: KCOG 1400 is looking (at press time) for a new play-by-play voice for its weekly high school football broadcasts starting next week. But it's not for the usual reason. It's not one of those radio stories where someone left suddenly or was dismissed. Mike O'Connor, who once owned the station more than 40 years ago, is running for Mayor.

As a result, if he continued to call the games, the station would be required to provide equal time to other candidates. And, darn it, the station could not force other candidates to each call a different football game for them. Have to wonder if whoever gets the play-by-play job will campaign for O'Connor to win and serve a long term as Mayor so he can retain the role for as long as he wants.