Friday, July 21, 2017

Why These Three Days for ESPN Radio?

It is most curious that ESPN Radio picked this week (three days of it) to "preview" its upcoming revised morning show with Trey Wingo replacing Mike Greenberg co-hosting its national morning show with Mike Golic. The Golic & Wingo Show is scheduled to launch on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.

Since Golic's expertise is, understandably, more on the football side, and since there are still more than four months before the revised show begins, doing this prior to NFL camps opening is a surprise. Yet, there is one more element that makes this so interesting. It would have been simple had Greenberg been on vacation, but he clearly was not.

Mike Greenberg spent his three days away from Golic and the morning show on the air in New York City, hosting afternoons on WEPN, the ESPN owned station, filling in for Michael Kay. Is there more to this?

The Broadcast Booth happens to think there is a lot more to this, as in this being more than "filling in". Perhaps ESPN wants to gauge how Greenberg would come across to just the New York audience in addition to his upcoming ESPN national TV show.

This may not be a coincidence that Greenberg filled in during afternoon drive, since it would not conflict with his upcoming new morning show. What about Michael Kay?

If that question has you wondering, keep in mind that WFAN is supposedly searching for its next afternoon drive host in order to replace Mike Francesa after his contract runs out late this year. WFAN is now the flagship station for the Yankees, for which Kay is the lead TV play-by-play voice. Bringing Kay over to WFAN for afternoons would solidify their Yankees coverage and presence, and do so at a time when young players such as Judge, Sanchez, and Frazier are showing promise for the near future.

WEPN would then bring in Greenberg to handle its afternoon drive, perhaps shortening the show by an hour to help Greenberg's schedule and help him to maintain a strong radio presence. This makes sense for WEPN, and would help to explain why ESPN Radio (national) would do such an odd move in the middle of July.

On the TV side, having a Sunday Night Baseball game between the Yankees and Red Sox last week (7/16) which mattered did make a ratings difference. The ratings were up 13% from the same matchup at the same time last season. This past Saturday (7/15), it was not Fox Sports' fault that they only aired one MLB game instead of a doubleheader. The Yankees vs. Red Sox game that went 16 innings ran all the way through its scheduled Texas vs. K.C. game on FS1. Had Fox Sports aired the game over the air (like it should), the game would have run all the way through their prime time that night.

PHILADELPHIA: Still no replacement (as of press time) for WPEN-FM's co-host for its 10 AM to Noon show to work along with Harry Mayes. This could mean that, since this is only a two hour block, Mayes will continue to host it solo and that this is still another cost cutting measure by ESPN. Rob Ellis, who continues with CSN Philadelphia, had been co-hosting the show through last week when his contract ran out.

SAN FRANCISCO: KGMZ 95.7 The Game is changing its 10 AM to Noon show, although it remains to be seen (or heard, as we should say) whether or not it will continue to be a local show. As the station continues its struggle for ratings against the mighty KNBR, it is ending its local show with J.T. The Brick, which it has been airing since last September. This has no impact on Brick's nationally syndicated show.

BOSTON: The fierce ratings battle between WEEI-FM and WBZ-FM Sports Hub continues with the June ratings having been unveiled. For overall audience, WEEI-FM finished #6 in the market with its highest rating in three months, while WBZ-FM dropped one full ratings point from the previous month to #11 overall.

While many point to the Red Sox being in first place as the reason (WEEI is their flagship), it is significant that the Kirk & Callahan morning show finished ahead of WBZ-FM's Toucher & Rich for the first time in three years. This despite WBZ-FM's Felger & Massarotti finishing ahead of WEEI's Dale & Holley and what is often the Red Sox pre-game show during afternoon drive.

NASHVILLE: WSM 650 is, surprisingly, adding a sports show in time for NFL season. In an obvious effort to revise interest in the AM station, the station is going to give long time play-by-play voice and local sportscaster George Plaster a show. Plans are to make the announcement next week at a local restaurant event for what will likely be a weekly football preview show. Plaster will continue as Associate Athletics Director at Belmont.

DETROIT: WXYT-FM The Ticket has no reason to panic even though the latest ratings show the station dropping to #5 overall. Not that there is anything wrong with a sports station being in the top 5. It is clearly because the Tigers are having a bad season and the winter teams are in their off season. It certainly isn't because of WDFN, since that station literally came in with a 0.0 overall rating for the same period.

The Ticket will have a new host for its Pistons broadcasts which it resumes this fall. Although Jake Champman, who hosted when the team was on 105.1, is going to replaced, he will continue to work for

Neal Ruhl has been signed to continue for what will be a fifth season calling Oakland University basketball.

CHARLOTTE: Let's keep an ear on this one. It is interesting enough that the Carolina Panthers have brought back former General Manager Marty Hurney as their "interim General Manager" to replace Dave Gettleman. But it's what made him so easily available that is worth monitoring. Hurney is now owner and manager of WZGV ESPN Charlotte. It will be most interesting to compare that station's coverage of the Panthers against the local competition.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tough Ratings & Revenue For TV Networks

This is far from an All-Star week when it comes to ratings and revenue news for the major networks, especially Fox. You could say that the revenue part is a bitter pill to swallow for Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN.

Due to circumstances out of their control, those networks which televise the NFL, face the loss of a major advertiser for at least the coming season. In fact, (which publishes ad spending data) claims that the advertiser spent more than $30 million on NFL telecasts on those networks during the 2016 season alone. (The advertiser is Pfizer, which manufactures Viagra. Advertising has been stopped on that product because of a legal patent issue and the onset of at least one generic drug product.)

It is too early to gauge the impact, since we don't know if or when those millions in revenue would be replaced by other advertisers.

Baseball's All-Star Game made for a most interesting twist in the TV ratings, since the Home Run Derby came in with a more positive return than the actual game telecast.

For all of the complaining among fans that the All-Star Game determining the league home advantage for the World Series, which is no longer the case, the Fox telecast held steady with the 2016 record lows. This year's game was also down roughly 20% in total viewers from 2015, while NBC's "America's Got Talent" show held steady from the previous week's ratings but had millions more viewers than Fox did.

This is another reason for Fox to be very concerned. Many fans don't seem to be aware of the games every Saturday on FS1, while Fox Sports only shows a few Saturday prime time games during the weeks prior to the game. FS1 and FS2 continue to struggle for viewers. They can't say fans were not aware of the All-Star Game either.

Even the Home Run Derby, which aired the night before (7/10) on ESPN, showed a nice ratings increase, being up by more than 35% from last year. Even though the New York market ratings for the Derby were the highest ever (with Aaron Judge competing and winning), they can't use that as the argument, since the Kansas City market had even higher ratings on Monday.

When a batting practice event outshines the actual game telecast, it is cause for concern.

As the games resume on Friday, as it goes, the networks think that everything stops because the Red Sox and Yankees are matched up. However, this time, and perhaps for the remainder of the season, this series actually means something. What's even more amazing is that each of the four games of the series will be shown on a different national network.

The Friday game is on MLB Network, with Saturday's on FS1. (While Fox wonders what's wrong, but puts a showcase game on FS1 instead of Fox Sports on a Saturday.) The Sunday day-night doubleheader will have the afternoon game on TBS, while, of course, on the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game.

Over at Fox Sports, they have added Mark Schlereth as an NFL analyst. No word, as of press time, as to if Schlereth will be used as a game analyst or only in the studio.

With college football only a few weeks away, the SEC Network has finally named its new lead broadcast team. As expected, Tom Hart moves up into the lead play-by-play role. He will now be joined by former QB Jordan Rodgers and lineman Cole Cubelic. This team replaces the retired Brent Musburger and moves analyst Jesse Palmer to another role, possibly with ESPN, for the coming season.

Looks like the boxing people are taking note as to the high monthly costs that millions of sports fans continue to pay just for their cable/satellite service, and overlooking the amount of cord cutting.

Those interested in the upcoming Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight are facing a live pay-per-view cost of at least $89.95. The HD version is reportedly set at $99.95.

Although this price will likely make the PPV telecast a financial success, these prices make it less likely for the sport to attract new fans.

SAN DIEGO: The Hacksaw is on the block, so to speak. XETV Channel 6 has eliminated its news operation completely, which put an end to Lee 'Hacksaw' Hamilton as the primary sports anchor there. Hamilton has been a fixture since the mid-80's when he seemingly built XTRA The Mighty 690 as one of the first major market all sports stations.

NEW ORLEANS: WODT 1280 is significantly expanding its "local" programming for weekdays, even though it will have a definite Houston and 'outsider' flavor. Josh Innes, recently moved up to mornings at Houston's KBME, will take over the Noon to 2 PM spot, while KBME's Assistant Program Director, Chris Gordy will take over from 8 to 10 AM. The station is also bringing in Jordy Hultberg (known from his days at LSU and his sideline reporting) for 2 to 4 PM, although Hultberg continues to be based at KLWB 103.7 Lafayette. Now you know why the "local programming" is in quotes. Six hours per weekday with hosts working from another market.

TUSCALOOSA: WFFN 95.3 has a new seven year extension to remain as flagship station for Alabama football and basketball games, as well as the Nick Saban Show and the "Hey Coach" Show.

BLOOMINGTON/NORMAL: WJBC 1230 and 93.7 have a new five year extension to remain the flagship for Illinois State University football and basketball.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Guest Does Not Equal Co-Host

Having a state Governor as a guest co-host on a sports talk show is a nice novelty idea, but going as far as to consider it as a possible audition is another.

WFAN 101.9 and 660 has been the big sports station in the biggest radio market for literally 30 years, setting the stage for sports talk as a format throughout the country.

By way of background, long time afternoon host (or co-host) Mike Francesa is leaving the station late this year, with a lot of attention being paid to who will take over that coveted spot. This coming Monday (7/10) and Tuesday (7/11), with Francesa off, the station plans to have midday co-host Evan Roberts paired with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to co-host the afternoon show.

This is an interesting idea, for a day or two. The problem is that WFAN Program Director Mark Chernoff was quoted (in the story) as saying this is being considered as an on-air audition for Christie for after his term as Governor is over.

Why is this a "problem"?

The problem is the message such a hiring would send to the listening consumers. There are (or should be) plenty of professional broadcasters out there with 10 years, 20 years, or even more of on air experience doing a successful sports talk show and knowing what it takes to build and engage a large audience day after day. They have learned their craft with an eye toward working their way up to one of the top three sports stations in the country, which WFAN clearly is.

To put it another way, WFAN should be looking to bring in its pick of any established sports talk host in the country to take over its second most important property (afternoon drive).

Bringing in someone who does not have a track record as a sportscaster (or even as a former pro athlete turned analyst) tells the audience that "anyone" can do this, and reduces the importance of the hosts and the program.

We have plenty of known sportscasters and prominent former athletes doing podcasts, many on a daily basis. A prominent New York station is not the place for a former Governor to learn his craft.

This is more than just the threat of WFAN's audience switching over to The Michael Kay Show on WEPN if they don't like who WFAN replaces Francesa with by New Year's. Listeners might just go with podcasts and/or the many TV sports talk and opinion shows available on a daily basis instead.

Those are reasons not to bother with radio, which is a lot more serious than merely not sticking with a particular station. This is not to say that we would expect Christie to not do a good job or be knowledgeable. But without a track record in that area, this would be a huge risk for WFAN to take.

It's bad enough that many sports stations around the country do not consistently give out of town scores and information, thinking that fans go to their phones "anyway" for such info. If the stations gave all of the information they should, and did the job they used to on keeping people informed, listeners wouldn't need alternative sources of information.

And now if that content may not be as effective as it has been in the past, management will be providing its listeners with still another reason not to bother.

DETROIT: Another sign of WDFN 1130 losing the sports talk battle to WXYT The Ticket. Gregg Henson, who began as an original staff member when WDFN became a sports station back in 1994, is now gone from the station as of late last week. Although the afternoon show is still co-hosted by Drew McCarthy and Jim Costa, this remains the only locally originated show on the station. 

While it would make logistical sense for Henson to go (of the three hosts), because Henson actually did the show from a studio in the Pittsburgh area, this is really more of a cost cutting move. This move happened at the same time that Henson also lost his gig as Program Director of ESPN Pittsburgh.

WEST PALM BEACH: WMEN 640 Sports has added Miami University Hurricanes broadcasts to its lineup, and in honor of that has taken on the nickname of "Hurricane 640". The station will continue to air Panthers hockey and New York Yankees baseball, along with mostly Fox Sports Radio programming.

HAWAII: The "big island" has lost its local sports station as a result of KHLO 850 and KKON 790 Kailua-Kona shutting down on July 1st. This move leaves University of Hawaii-Hilo without a broadcast outlet. In addition, it means that St. Louis Cardinals games are no longer broadcast on the island. (The Cards' Kolten Wong is from the area.) The stations also carried an NFL package.

Honolulu's ESPN 1420 remains in place as usual, but without much local programming. And select NFL games will air again this coming season on KPUA 670 in Hilo, which also airs San Francisco Giants games.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: One owner, two stations, and as of now, no more sports programming. Both WGHM 900 Nashua and WGAM Manchester 1250 have dropped "ESPN New Hampshire" and switched to a music format. The stations had simulcast sports programming going back to 2006, including having had local programming from Noon to 6 PM on weekdays.

PORTLAND ME: Finally, an added sports station. Big Jab sports adds a third smaller signal to its Portland area coverage, adding 92.3 to also carry WRED 1440 from Westbrook. They also air on WJJB 96.3 from Gray.

NEW CASTLE PA: Sorry to report the passing of sportscaster Mark Shaas of WKST 1200, who died in a multi-vehicle pile up last week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sports Viewers Feeling A Draft

We are seeing more proof that the major pro sports leagues and the TV networks which cover them are making plenty of progress when it comes to their respective player drafts. After all the years where the NFL Draft was the only one that viewers paid attention to, MLB, NBA, and NHL are also gaining traction.

The hype surrounding the drafts and the related coverage, which includes team press conferences to introduce top picks to the fans, are starting to pay off in terms of viewership.

Earlier this week, the College World Series Finals on ESPN showed a ratings increase from last year of more than 70%. The Tuesday (6/27) early overnight ratings were the best for a CWS Finals since 2011.

The local New Orleans TV ratings lead the way on this, which is not surprising when you realize that LSU has led college baseball attendance every season going back to the mid-90's. That market showed higher ratings this week for baseball than for most of the college football games shown locally on ESPN during the 2016 season.

Of course, many of the top MLB Draft picks are showcased in the CWS, prompting fans of the teams with high picks that are participating to tune in.

This impact of fans now wanting a glance at their favorite team's high draft picks carries over to the NBA, which is ready. Starting this coming Saturday (7/1), NBA-TV will be airing a total of 60 live Summer League telecasts over the next two weeks from three League locations, Orlando, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas.

NBA-TV has assigned Matt Winer, Rick Kamla, Joel Meyers, and Casey Stern to play-by-play, along with its regular analysts such as Brent Barry, Rip Hamilton, Isiah Thomas, Kenny Smith, and Steve Smith.

In addition, the Network is also going to offer up live studio programming surrounding its coverage with game highlights and analysis.

All of this shows the power of league marketing and social media. Some fans simply want to get a look at the top picks, while others want to make observations before upcoming fantasy league drafts.

Meanwhile, while it's not the same as NBC having the Notre Dame football contract, ESPN has extended its Brigham Young University home game coverage through the 2019 season. This deal gives ESPN first right of selection for all home games except one each season, with the one game to air on BYU's TV network. ESPN will also air available road games when it has agreements with "host" teams or their conferences to air games. Their first telecast will be on August 26th against Portland State.

Cumulus Media will syndicate Air Force football and basketball broadcasts with a new multi-year deal, with Jim Arthur continuing as play-by-play voice. KVOR Colorado Springs will continue as the flagship station.

BOSTON: WBZ-FM 98.5 Sports Hub has extended its agreement with a multi-year deal to continue as flagship station for Bruins broadcasts. This deal also includes a weekly two hour weekly Bruins program, along with 30 minute pre and post-game shows. The Sports Hub has aired the Bruins since its inception back in 2009.

ALBANY: WRBG-TV Channel 6 will continue to have two sports anchors after the recent hiring of Chet Davis. It turns out that Jason Lewis has announced he will be leaving WRBG-TV, after roughly two years, in mid-July.

At the same time, this week is the final one for Josh Rutlenberg, who departs from WTEN-TV Channel 10 after this week (June 30th) because his contract was not renewed.

As of press time, no word as to whether or not Lewis' departure has anything to do with the opening at WTEN-TV.

DECATUR: WSOY 1340/103.3 has extended its contract to air University of Illinois football and basketball to run through the 2021 season.

PANAMA CITY: WGSX 104.3, which was under call letters WBYW until a few weeks ago, has become the local ESPN Radio affiliate. The market had been without a local ESPN station since 2014. As much as we like to see local programming during weekday hours, in this case the decision to carry Paul Finebaum during afternoon drive makes sense, given his knowledge and emphasis on SEC Football.

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.