Thursday, June 22, 2017

Not Exactly "Open" For Business With Final Round Ratings

It's still hard to say if the noticeable decline in the ratings for last weekend's U.S. Open was because of the lack of the biggest names such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods or because Fox had the telecasts. It could well be a combination of both factors.

The overall ratings for the Sunday final round on Fox were the 2nd lowest ever for the U.S. Open (any network) and clearly the lowest of the three years in which Fox has been the televising network. (The lowest final round was NBC's last one in 2014.) On the other hand, the case could be made that this was the first U.S. Open without both Woods and Mickelson since 1994.

Casual golf fans may still not be aware that Fox airs the Open, while Fox acts as though FS1 and FS2 are sufficient as promotional vehicles.

Over on the NFL side, Fox announced that former linebacker Ray Lewis has officially joined Fox Sports as an NFL analyst. Word is that Lewis will be used only in the studio, and likely spread across the various NFL related programming on all of its networks for the coming season.

Although it may not have been for the originally intended reasons, last week's Congressional Baseball Game for Charity, which followed the unfortunate shooting incident in Alexandria VA, drew an extremely large audience for the streamed telecast. A political publication (The Hill) was able to stream the game via Facebook Live, reporting that the live and on demand feed of the game attracted more than five million views along with more than 13,000 shares.

Meanwhile, still more advertising will be visible to viewers of certain NBA teams next season, whether watching on local or national telecasts. The two most recently announced deals will have the Orlando Magic wearing the Disney Logo for the next three seasons, while the Minnesota Timberwolves have just signed a three-year deal to promote a fitness device on their uniforms.

This means still more clutter for viewers to go along with the courtside tables and ads on the basket supports.

NEW YORK: We all have one more week to think about how exactly 30 years ago none of us were sure that a radio station could make it as an all sports station. A few were attempted, with XTRA 690 in San Diego having been among the first such station in a major league market.

July 1st marks the 30th anniversary of WFAN 660 turning all sports. Of course, if a New York radio station could do it, so could a station in another market. And the trend began.

WFAN wanted to celebrate the occasion. However, as it goes in the world of corporate radio these days, the station realized that the exact anniversary date of July 1st falls on a Saturday. Instead of keeping that date, the station has already (more than one week ahead of time) done their on-air celebration of 30 years.

On Thursday (6/22), WFAN had its Boomer & Carton morning show, the Joe Benigno & Evan Roberts midday show, and Mike Francesa's afternoon show all broadcast live from Grand Central Station in Manhattan. A nice gesture to observe a significant anniversary with the fans. But more than a full week ahead of time?

And to think that 30 years ago this week, a radio station's weekend programming and offerings were considered important to keep serving the listening audience.

HOUSTON: We now have the reason that KBME let Lance Zierlein go from its morning show earlier this month. It was to clear the way for moving Josh Innes from afternoons to mornings, where he will take over starting on July 17th. Innes will be the primary host, as remaining co-host Matt Thomas is being moved to the Noon to 3 PM spot.

Innes joined KBME The Fan 790 within the past year from Philadelphia with his "love him or hate him" style. Innes' ratings during the afternoon grew to the station's highest rated, prompting this move.

SACRAMENTO: Sports talk KHTK is changing its Program Director. Kevin Sherrets, who held the position since summer of 2015, is out since his contract was not renewed. No replacement named as of press time.

CHICAGO: The Cubs have shown signs of putting a string of victories together after a sluggish start in 2017, and the fans are taking notice. The two Comcast SportsNet Chicago telecasts of the Cubs against the Padres on Monday and Tuesday nights earlier this week, turned out to be the two highest rated Cubs telecasts on CSN thus far for the 2017 season.

The incredibly long (4 hour 50 minute) rain delay prior to the start of Thursday's (6/22) White Sox vs. Minnesota telecast on CSN wreaked havoc on the CSN Chicago schedule. The regional network had been scheduled to air the White Sox game at Noon CT and later have the Cubs at Miami at 6:00 CT.

However, the White Sox game did not begin until roughly 5:00, forcing CSN to begin its Cubs vs. Marlins telecast on CSN+ (which not all systems receive), with main CSN joining late in the game following the White Sox postgame show. The network had already scheduled replays of both games.

VERMONT: Those who recall the former voice of NASCAR, Ken Squier, will be amazed to know that he is still doing well at the age of 82. Squier, believed to be the inspiration behind putting a camera in a Daytona race car in the early 90's, has decided to sell his family's Vermont radio station WDEV Waterbury 550 and 96.3. The stations have been in his family since his late father Lloyd purchased the AM station back in 1931. Squier told the local newspaper that his hope is to sell the stations to a local group. Here's hoping he is not in a race to get rid of them, and will be able to find the local support.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How The Games Impact The Ratings

The fans were definitely interested in the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland, evidenced by the highest rated Finals series since Michael Jordan's last time there back in 1998.

Coincidentally, the NHL season ended the night before (6/11) with Pittsburgh winning in Game 6, which was, understandably, the highest rated Stanley Cup Finals telecast. It still hurt the NHL that all of its biggest market teams were long gone. Even though this year's Finals were up roughly 19% over last year's (which Pittsburgh also won), the fact remains that on Sunday night Celebrity Family Feud on ABC had more total viewers, whereas the NBA finale easily won the night's total national viewing.

BOSTON: The sports radio competition remains tight through the just released May Nielsen ratings. WEEI-FM is the #7 most listened to station overall as the Red Sox flagship, while rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub came in just behind at #8. To show how close these stations are in audience, WBZ-FM Sports Hub finished #1 between 7 PM and Midnight, which most of the Red Sox games are being played, with WEEI-FM at #3 at night.

NEW YORK: Baseball makes the difference in the May ratings with WFAN holding steady vs. the April ratings book but finishing #1 at night as Yankees flagship. WOR-AM, the Mets flagship, has now risen .7 since the March ratings to what is its largest audience share since fall of 2010.

PHILADELPHIA: WIP-FM has jumped up .7 of a ratings point for the second consecutive ratings period which amounts to an overall audience increase of more than 25% during that time. Now the #6 most listened to station, this is WIP's best share since late 2013, when it was airing Eagles broadcasts. At the same time, WPEN-FM held steady and is #19 in the market.

DALLAS: KTCK The Ticket has increased its margin to more than 33% higher overall than KRLD-FM The Fan with a .4 increase for May. This is even though The Fan is the Rangers flagship station.

PITTSBURGH: The sports impact is felt in the May ratings book, as WXDX, the alternative music station which airs the Stanley Cup champion Penguins, finished #1 at night and rose one full ratings point from April. KDKA-FM The Fan, also the flagship station for the Pirates, showed a full ratings point increase over the month.

CLEVELAND: Similar to Pittsburgh, where Indians flagship WTAM is a dominant #1 at night, while WMMS (a rock station) went up to #4 at night with its Cavaliers broadcasts.

HOUSTON: It's likely that won't know the real story for some time, but Lance Zierlein is officially "leaving" the KBME morning show, which he has been co-hosting with Matt Thomas, "later this year". Zierlein has been doing outside work as an NFL draft analyst but not with any other radio or TV stations. We will have a better idea of whose decision this really was by which announcement comes first between a new gig for Zierlein or a new host or co-host for KBME's morning show.

Sports radio in Houston continues to lag behind most other top markets, as KBME came in at #23 overall, which is higher than the other two sports stations. Although Josh Innes' afternoon show remains the highest rated show on the station, it actually trails Rich Lord, Sean Pendergast, and Ted Johnson on KILT.

After months of having the AT&T Logo as a part of the Astros and Rockets Root Sports telecasts, the network will make it official and become AT&T SportsNet Houston next month. With the Denver and Pittsburgh systems having made this change, it will leave only the Seattle system using the Root Sports name.

LOS ANGELES: Sports radio stations continue to struggle even with baseball season in full swing, as both again came in at less than 1.0 rating. Even with the Dodgers broadcasts, KLAC 570 came in #17 at night. And KLAC edged out KSPN, which shares Angels broadcasts with even lower rated KLAA, for overall audience.

Meanwhile, NFL Network has announced that it will again air every exhibition game this August, including 16 live game telecasts:

(All Times Eastern)
Week 1
Wednesday, August 9
7:30 PM – Houston Texans vs. Carolina Panthers
Thursday, August 10
8:00 PM – Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears
Friday, August 11
7:00 PM – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants
10:00 PM – San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (joined live in progress)
Saturday, August 12
9:00 PM – Dallas Cowboys vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, August 13
1:30 PM – Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts
8:00 PM – Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Week 2
Friday, August 18
10:00 PM – Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, August 19
3:00 PM – Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans
7:00 PM – Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys
10:00 PM – Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, August 20
4:00 PM – Atlanta Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
8:00 PM – New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Week 3
Thursday, August 24
7:00 PM – Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Week 4
Thursday, August 31
7:00 PM – Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Jets 
10:00 PM – Seattle Seahawks vs. Oakland Raiders

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fewer People Watching More and More Sports

It looks as though we are getting more proof of the impact that live sports has on television viewing all year round. Moffett Nathanson Research has completed its examination of the 2016-17 TV season. Among the information it shows is that, among the 18 to 49 age group (male and female), that live sports programming had a 37% share of the daily Nielsen ratings audience. The share of the audience viewing live sports has now increased for the fifth consecutive year.

As impressive as it is for the most recent TV season, there is one more element which makes this even more noteworthy. For the first part of the most recent TV "season", live political programming surrounding the November election also accounted for a large percentage of the audience for obvious reasons.

This trend of sports viewing on the rise will most likely continue for the near future. Why?

More and more consumers are cutting the cord and getting rid of cable and satellite, fed up with rising costs and dwindling quality program options. A good percentage of those who continue to pay the high monthly fees do so because of the amount of pro and college games on cable. Thus, if it is the sports fans who continue to be the ones watching, it would figure that the percentage of sports telecasts viewed on a daily basis will rise.

However, we now have ESPN making significant cutbacks on their programming which is not live games, while other regional and national networks continue to bring radio programs over to TV. We also have ESPN ending its long running "Mike & Mike" morning show later this year which has done so well for their radio and TV sides over the years. Another example of not offering the same quality as before.

It remains to be seen (literally) whether or not some sports fans will grow wary of the high cost of sports programming, especially when the non-game hours are not the same quality.

Having the same teams back in the NBA Finals is turning out to be a big positive for ABC after all. Through the first three games (as of press time), the TV ratings are up more than 12% compared with last year's games. That's even more impressive when you realize that Game 2 was not close for most of the second half.

The word "sorry" applies to the story of Red Sox TV analyst Jerry Remy and his comment about Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka having a translator also come out to the mound for a conference during the game. Not because Remy had to apologize for his comments. Remy said he doesn't like that teams have permission from MLB to bring a translator to the mound during game action. This while we have new rules in place by MLB to supposedly speed up the game.

Remy did not say anything negative about Tanaka or his English speaking ability. He gave an opinion. Yet, because a few people posted negatively about it on social media, it turned into a news story resulting in an on-air apology. So now analysts are even more restricted about what they can say. It's bad enough that the networks have no problem putting seemingly hundreds of analysts on their studio segments for the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL coverage, and give four people 20 seconds instead of one analyst getting a full minute to truly analyze a play or a segment of the game.

Now, anytime someone makes a comment that a few people don't like, it becomes a big deal and requires an apology. On the same day, Phillies analyst Mike Schmidt made the comment on the air that Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera's language "barrier" would make it difficult for him to be a team leader. We know about this comment for the same reason. A few people took offense, when the analyst was simply giving an opinion and not making a personal attack or meaning to offend.

BALTIMORE: Best wishes to Fred Manfra, whose health issues caused him to do his final Orioles radio broadcast this past Sunday (6/4). Manfra faces knee surgery (both knees) in the near future after having had both hips replaced in addition to back surgery. He received a well deserved standing ovation from the Orioles fans. Manfra had been in the Orioles booth since 1993, which was back when the Cal Ripken consecutive game streak was back in the 1,800's.

What made him so special as an Orioles broadcaster is that he is from the area and worked there for so many years, which means he understood being an Orioles fan and what the broadcasts mean to them. Personally, I had many conversations about baseball with Manfra when I was a correspondent for Associated Press radio in the late 70's when Manfra handled their afternoon sportscasts. A class act who deserved a lot better from a health standpoint. He will be missed.

LOS ANGELES: It's still another step to remove any connection to San Diego by the Los Angeles Chargers. The team has forced a change of its radio play-by-play voice starting with the coming season, letting go of Josh Lewin. With KFI 640 taking over as the team's new flagship station, the Chargers will have Matt 'Money' Smith call their games. Smith is co-host of sister station KLAC 570's afternoon drive "Petros & Money Show". At least the team is keeping former Charger Nick Hardwick as the analyst.

Lewin, in addition to his N.Y. Mets play-by-play, will continue to have a Los Angeles presence, as he will remain as radio play-by-play voice for UCLA.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ 95.7 The Game is keeping up the struggle to gain a bigger share of the sports radio audience by giving host Greg Papa an expanded deal for his Noon to 3 PM weekday show. Papa will also participate "on a frequent basis" on the station's morning show with Joe Fortenbaugh, Lorenzo Neal, and Dan Dibley. KGMZ lags well behind KNBR 680 in the overall ratings.

The former voice of the Warriors will also continue his current role of hosting the studio portion of Warriors coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area (formerly CSN Bay Area).

NEW YORK: The great start by the Yankees is paying off for YES Network. Through April and May the Yankees telecast ratings are up by more than 50% over last year's (for the same period), while YES prime time telecasts came in at #1 in the New York cable market, their best showing since the 2012 season.

At the same time, the YES Network simulcast of the Michael Kay radio show in the afternoons during April and May came in as their highest rated radio simulcast since Mike & Mad Dog back in 2004. The Kay Show ratings were more than double (for the YES Network portion) of what they were for April and May 2016.

LAS VEGAS: Although the Raiders are scheduled to stay in Oakland through the 2019 season before moving to Vegas, the team has changed radio stations effective with the coming season and staying in place after the move. KDWN 720 and WCYE 102.7 The Coyote will air the broadcasts. This will be the Raiders broadcasts as they currently air on KGMZ San Jose (San Francisco), with the aforementioned Greg Papa staying in his long time play-by-play role and 'coach" Tom Flores as the analyst. KVVU Channel 5 will air the team's available exhibition game telecasts.

By the way, there is an additional Raiders to connection to the Vegas station move. Those who remember David Humm, who was the Raiders backup QB during the Ken Stabler era, will be interested to know that his brother, Tom Humm, is in management for the radio group which now has the local broadcast rights.

DETROIT: WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket is making the effort to stay on top of the market. Starting on Monday (6/12) "The Jamey and Stoney Show" adds WWJ-TV's Heather Park to the show. Park is also known as a host at Comerica Park at Tigers games.

In addition, Kyle Bogenschutz has been added as a co-host of the evening show (on those rare nights without play-by-play) along with Bob Wojnowski. This forms the "Wojo & Bogey Show". Bogenschutz will also take over as host of "Pistons Weekly" which airs on Thursday nights. Bogey has been with the Ticket since 2014.

WASHINGTON D.C.: No surprise that CBS Sports Radio is pulling the plug on WJFK 1580. The station will become the flagship for a broadcast which caters to military veterans and will probably be available online in the near future.

PORTLAND: KXTG 750 / 102.9 The Game has brought in Dino Costa for its afternoon drive show as of this week. Costa has hosted on satellite radio and the Radio Colorado Network in the past.

PENSACOLA: WBSR dropped its ESPN affiliation and ended its sports programming completely after six years. Reports are, as happens in radio, that the staff was not told until the very last day, which was May 31st.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

MLB Telecasts In Virtual Reality Become A Reality

Hard as it may seem to believe, Fox Sports 1 is actually making progress with its MLB telecasts this season. Even putting Alex Rodriguez in the booth as a game analyst has made a difference in viewership, with the recent Yankees vs. Royals (May 18) prime time telecast (his debut in the booth) finishing as FS1's highest rated regular season telecast ever.

Factoring in the Saturday telecasts, FS1 has roughly 17% higher ratings compared with the first two months of the 2016 season, and more than 20% higher than the same point in 2014.

As much as some fans would like to think this is due to Fox finally having a consistent time for its Saturday games (mostly at 4:00 ET), it seems that A-Rod is part of the impact. Especially for Yankees fans. It seems that the prime-time telecast against the Royals on FS1 in the New York market had ratings more than 15% higher than the season average for the Yankees telecasts on YES Network.

And, as we continue to point out, it's not as though FS1 has any rhyme or reason to when it airs a prime-time MLB telecast. Now, if FS1 can come up with a more consistent time to air MLB Whiparound on weeknights, it would have a better chance to build a steady audience, especially with the demise of ESPN Baseball Tonight.

Although the Stanley Cup Finals may not be attractive outside of Pittsburgh and Nashville, NBC got some attention from its Game 1 telecast on Monday (5/29) when it allowed the f-word to air in prime time.

Penguins coach Peter Laviollette was shown giving his pre-game talk to the team, and somehow the word was not bleeped out. It even took until late in the first period for Doc Emrick to acknowledge what had happened and issue an on-air apology.

NBC did get the blessing of the NFL to put Mike Torico on play-by-play for its Thursday Night Football package starting this fall, rather than having Al Michaels doing both their Thursday and Sunday games.

Sorry to learn of the passing of Frank Deford at the age of 78. Deford represented old school sports journalism as well as anybody going back to the 1970's when Sports Illustrated was truly a factor in the sports media. Many fans became aware of his personality when he began appearing on CNN in the 80's, back when CNN covered sports on a regular basis. (Younger fans find it hard to believe that CNN used to do at least two half hour sports shows every day in competition with SportsCenter.)

His distinct sports commentaries also appeared on NPR since the early 80's on "Morning Edition", from which he retired earlier this year.

In addition, DeFord was an Editor for "The National", a daily national all sports newspaper which published for around two years from 1989 to 1991. The National was an awesome sports publication, serving hard core sports fans prior to the internet coming along. It so happens that its last edition was on June 13, 1991, the morning after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA Championship.

Sports took a back seat for a few minutes on a riveting segment of Mike Francesa's show on Tuesday (5/30) on WFAN. Caller "Mike from Yonkers" got on the air to praise Francesa about helping save his (caller) life last summer. The caller had gone on the air then while suffering from serious injuries from an accident and had thoughts of suicide, crediting Francesa's show for helping to save his life.

To his credit, Francesa took the high road, saying "You don't owe me anything" and letting Mike from Yonkers know that "I'm glad you got through it".

MLB is about to begin participating in an experiment which will be watched closely in more ways than one. Those with the Intel True Virtual Reality app (from the Oculus Store) will be able to watch a live stream each week during June of entire games in virtual reality along with up to the moment player and team statistics and exclusive commentary.

The "Intel True VR Game of the Week" begins on Tuesday June 6th with the Cleveland vs. Colorado game, followed on June 13th by Kansas City at San Francisco. This app will also provide post-game highlights and on-demand replays. No info was available, as of press time, regarding any rights fees.

SEATTLE: KIRO 710 ESPN has confirmed that John Clayton will continue his 10 AM to Noon weekday show on the station despite having been released from his ESPN duties in late April as one of the mass firings. The difference maker is that KIRO is an ESPN affiliate and not a station owned by ESPN.

CHICAGO: Although reaction is somewhat mixed among the fan base, it is great news that Ken Harrelson is finally closer to going away from the White Sox TV booth. Harrelson announced on Wednesday (5/31) that he is cutting back next season to only 20 telecasts (less than one per week) and that 2018 will, finally, be his last one as a broadcaster.

It's not only the constant repeating of expressions which don't make sense or the unreasonable rooting for the home team. It's not only the constant criticism of the umpires and coming up with excuses every time something goes wrong for the White Sox.

Professional broadcasters know to never speculate on an injured player on the field, never to leave the booth during a game broadcast, and to report rather than simply react. Somehow, Harrelson managed to keep his job even after events such as having been called by then Commissioner Bud Selig about staunch criticism of umpires, telling a female reporter on the air, "Thanks honey!", and referring to the actions of this "Japanese pitcher" all in recent years.

And, of course, a professional broadcaster knows to let other members of the broadcast team have their chance to voice an opinion or start a conversation, as well as jump in to tell fans what is actually going on in the game they are trying to watch.

It was so fitting that in each of the last two seasons, Harrelson finished at #32 in a national poll of MLB television announcers. Quite the accomplishment since there are 30 teams.

Congratulations to Jason Benetti, who has been given a multi-year contract to lead the White Sox TV team. He doesn't have to be as good as he is at calling games to be such a welcome addition.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Feels Like The First Time In Nashville

The excitement in Nashville about the Predators making it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history also makes a positive story about the significance of a team's games airing on an all sports station.

The Game 102.5 has the time and ability to provide the extensive and expanded coverage that fits the circumstances. The station aired the Game 7 between Pittsburgh and Ottawa which set the finals between the Penguins and Predators (which begin on Monday May 29th). This is in addition to being able to focus on the Finals throughout its local talk shows. As an ESPN affiliate, the station will air NBA Finals games which, obviously, do not conflict with the NHL, along with Sunday Night Baseball and other ESPN Radio play-by-play.

On the national level, ESPN has extended the contract of Dick Vitale to continue as the lead college basketball analyst through the 2019-20 season, which will be his 41st season with the network.
Also, after cutting some of its NFL analysts, ESPN has added coach Chip Kelly as, according to the announcement, both a college and NFL analyst.

DETROIT: The Pistons have realized their mistake and are moving their radio broadcasts back to the highly rated WXYT-FM 97.1 The TIcket starting with the 2017-18 NBA season. They want to sell more tickets, since the team moves into its new arena as well. This comes after four seasons on WMGC-FM 105.1, which was "The Game" sports radio when the Pistons first moved there.

However, The Game never put a dent into The Ticket and eventually bagged the sports format in favor of hip-hop while continuing to air the Pistons. With the move back to 97.1 The Ticket, it puts the team back in the radio spotlight. However, the Pistons are now the low team on the pole, as they will lose out on the many conflicts The Ticket has with airing the Tigers and Red Wings as well.

On a positive note, the conflicting games will air on WWJ 950, which is a sister station with excellent ratings, and which has carried local play-by-play over the years. In fact, WWJ and WXYT-FM were the market's top two rated radio stations during the most recent Nielsen ratings for April 2017. It will be a much better situation than being stuck on WXYT-AM 1270 which barely shows up the ratings.

Also in Detroit, the sad news is that Wayne Walker, the former all-pro with the Lions and long time broadcaster, passed away this week at the age of 80. In addition to his analyst role for CBS, Walker also served as Sports Director of KPIX San Francisco from 1979 to 1994.

LAS VEGAS: The new Golden Knights have arranged for every game to be televised from the beginning of the franchise with a new agreement for ROOT Sports to air the games. A big part of the reason for going with ROOT Sports is the regional network opportunity which includes parts of Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and sections of Arizona and Colorado which are considered broadcast territory by the NHL.

However, ROOT is currently not available on Cox Cable or CenturyLink. The team says it is already in negotiations with those and other systems to get the games shown. ROOT Sports will be able to air every game it can, other than any on NBC or exclusively on NBCSN.

We expect the team's first home game to air on NBCSN, although the schedule won't be available for several weeks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Turning Off The Mike On Morning Radio

As we touched on last week, the many changes at ESPN are much more than the staff reductions and the impact that has on its coverage of the various major sports. This week we learn officially that management is going a step further, messing with their radio bread & butter.

Mike & Mike, the staple of the ESPN Radio Network, will see the long time team of Greenberg and Golic broken up sometime before the end of the year. After all these years together, this show has been the one that some of the stations around the country have often made a major effort to carry, often in place of a local morning show.

It will soon become "Mike & Trey" as Mike Golic will be joined by Trey Wingo for the three hour show. Mike Golic Jr., who hosts the 4 AM to 6 AM ET spot, will stay on to participate with his father (and Wingo) for the first hour each morning.

Incredibly, the "Mike & Trey Show" will also be coming off the long standing (Mike & Mike) simulcast on ESPN2, which takes away an anchor morning show from the TV side. The simulcast won't completely vanish, although moving it to the lesser viewed ESPNU is not likely to spark an audience increase, especially with new co-hosts.

Instead, ESPN will debut a so-called "new" show in early January which will air from 7 AM to 10 AM ET and be hosted by Mike Greenberg, with SportsCenter moving to ESPN2. If you consider ESPNU in the morning as an option, it means that from 8 AM to 10 AM ET on weekdays, TV viewers would now have choices "between" Mike & Mike instead of the staple program which successfully ran for years.

Combine this change with the significant reduction of Baseball Tonight (from seven nights to one) and this is what the paying subscribers (who have not cut the cord) get for their increasing monthly fees. And, we still don't know what ESPN might be thinking for its expanded NFL and NBA coverage shows yet.

Meanwhile, while ESPN reduces its TV baseball coverage, the radio ratings for the month of April show how much baseball means to the ratings.

In Boston, the two sports stations came in at #5 and #6 overall in the market. WEEI-FM jumped back up .6 to a 4.8, while WBZ-FM Sports Hub held steady right behind with a 4.7 Nielsen rating for the month.

The Yankees helped New York's WFAN-FM jump up to #9 overall (including #1 at night) with its Yankees broadcasts, while Mets flagship WOR jumped .5 overall for the month.

Chicago Cubs broadcasts helped WSCR The Score 670 to jump more than 40% from March to April into the top 10 after being just 21st overall for March. This while WMVP ESPN 1000, now without any major local play-by-play, dropped .4 to its lowest rating of 2017 despite strong midday numbers.

San Francisco's KNBR 680 rose more than one full ratings point and back into the top five in the market, while KGMZ-FM The Game dipped slightly from March.

Philadelphia's WIP-FM with the Phillies broadcasts rose another .7 to be at #7 overall in the market during April, while WPEN-FM dropped one-half point during the same period.

In Detroit, WXYT-FM The Ticket rose more than 30% from the previous month and is now at #2 in total listeners, while Baltimore's WJZ-FM rose another 1.4 ratings points in one month and is now at #5 in the market.

Pittsburgh's KDKA-FM showed a rise of 1.8 to the #6 overall position, while St. Louis saw KMOX with its Cardinals broadcasts finish #1 in the market for the first time since 2015 with a rise of more than two full ratings points.

However, the markets which always struggle with sports stations still did not show gains, even with baseball (in some instances). Both Los Angeles sports stations, even with airing Dodgers (KLAC 570)  and Angels (KSPN 710) games, failed to crack the top 30 in the market while showing overall ratings of under one rating point.

Houston's three sports stations each failed to crack the top 20, even though KBME-AM showed a nice increase of .6 of a ratings point to edge out KILT-AM, which doubled up on KFNC-FM. San Diego's XPRS-AM dropped while KLSD-AM showed a slight increase, but neither registered more than a 0.8 overall.

Fox Sports continues to increase the role for Alex Rodriguez as he makes his game analyst debut this week. He will be the analyst on Thursday (5/18) when Fox Sports 1 airs the Yankees vs. Royals game in prime time. The fact is that if Rodriguez wasn't going to be making his debut in the booth, we might not have even known that FS1 is airing this game nationally.

Then, on Saturday (5/20), Rodriguez will team with Joe Buck for the Fox Sports prime time regional telecast of the Mets vs. the Angels. Most of the Midwest as well as northern California and surrounding areas will get the Giants vs. Cardinals telecast which will have A.J. Pierzynski as the analyst while Joe Davis does the play-by-play.

Compass Media Networks has announced its radio broadcast schedule of 72 NFL and major college football games for the 2017 season. On the NFL side, they will provide national coverage of the Dallas Cowboys along with regional coverage of Oakland Raiders games.

ATLANTA: Recently retired outfielder Jeff Francoeur has joined the Braves TV crew as an analyst for some of the upcoming telecasts on Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast. Francoeur will make his debut on June 5th when the Braves host the Phillies.

PEORIA: It will play in Peoria. Sports radio, that is. WNGY 95.9 The Sports Nut is, at least for now, airing Fox Sports Radio programming.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Coverage Cutbacks Are "Off Base"

It's not just personnel changes that are resulting from the financial concerns at ESPN. Unfortunately, we are already seeing how their coverage is also being negatively impacted.

Baseball is the first of the major sports to feel the crunch. Letting several baseball analysts go was bad enough. Since that time, the staple Baseball Tonight show is now gone from the weeknight schedule during the show's 27th season. Granted, it had aired at inconsistent times and on ESPN or ESPN2, making it hard to find, but it was always there.

Now, the show only airs on Sunday nights as a lead in to Sunday Night Baseball telecasts, and already has become more of a pre-game show (along the lines of NFL Countdown) than the true highlights and updates show it had been.

The network and some fans will respond by saying that SportsCenter shows all of the highlights. It always has. However, many baseball (and fans of other sports) agree that the format of jumping around from one sport to another and adding more feature stories has made SportsCenter too tough to deal with in terms of wanting scores and highlights - it's original purpose.

We don't know yet whether or not ESPN will start similar reductions toward its NFL and NBA related programming.

However, the network fails to recognize that the fans (and even the non-fans) are still being charged the same high monthly fees to receive ESPN. This is not the way to serve a customer base. Not adding or improving is one thing, but cutting back on existing programming is another. More reasons for consumers to cut the cord.

Meanwhile, ESPN Cleveland has taken the network's money grab to another level. At least consumers have a choice with this one, but the trend is dangerous if people actually do sign up.
WKNR ESPN 850 has taken to offering podcast versions of station programming without commercials on a paid subscription basis at $85 per year or $8.50 per month starting this month.

If people actually do start paying out of pocket to hear "Steve from Akron" comment on how few games the Browns will win this coming season, and other such delights, this sends the wrong message to the industry.

By promoting these paid podcasts, the station is in effect telling its audience that advertisements are bad, along with taking away from the audience those very same advertisers are paying to reach. They seem to have forgotten that the hardcore fans who might actually pay for this content are the ones the advertisers want to reach the most!

Now we have a network wanting people to pay more to hear opinions without commercials instead of watching the reduced coverage on the TV network. There is one positive to this, at least to this point.
Our monthly phone bills aren't being raised to support the ESPN App we are forced to carry.

Speaking of the money grab, there is the NFL taking in $21 million for streaming rights to ONE regular season game. For whatever reason, Verizon thinks it is worth that much money to stream the Sept. 24th game in London between Baltimore and Jacksonville on its various platforms. One game. I have a hunch there will be more than a few commercials for one product during the streamed telecast.

They must have overlooked that the game will be over the air in both local markets and available as usual to those who have Sunday Ticket.

If only they had asked me. I would have pointed out how that $21 million could have sponsored Baseball Tonight on ESPN seven nights a week and maintained the coverage we have enjoyed all these years - at no extra cost to the consumer.

Over at CBS, the newest addition to the Sunday NFL Today show is Nate Burleson, who has been named to replace Bart Scott. Although there has been no announcement (as of press time), Scott could be moved to a lesser role on the CBS Sports Network Sunday NFL pre-game show.

In a surprisingly quiet development, Solomon Wilcots is out after 16 seasons as an NFL game analyst, with no explanation as of press time.

CHICAGO: It appears that WSCR 670 The Score's decision to add Ryne Sandberg to its roster for the Cubs post-season run last season proved a popular one. Sandberg has been brought back to be a part of the team's post-game coverage for all remaining home games this season, being teamed with host Mark Grote.

HOUSTON: Although many other MLB markets have streaming for cable/satellite subscribers for local telecasts, it's a slow road in Houston. Now, as of this week, Root Sports subscribers can stream their Astors telecasts, with a "coming soon" for AT&T subscribers. No word yet on any of the other cable services being able to offer this.

DALLAS: KRLD has decided to pick up The Joe Pags Show for nights, taking Joe Pagliarulo's show live from WOAI San Antonio. Pags now airs in the majority of Texas markets.

SAN DIEGO: San Diego State University has finally gotten a nice radio deal for both its football and basketball games starting in the fall. KSLD 1360 will air every game it can, while play-by-play conflicts will send some broadcasts over to classic rock KGB-FM. In addition, KTDD Fox Sports 1350 Riverside will also carry the broadcasts.