Thursday, May 26, 2016

Opposing Team Exec Interrupts Telecast

This may be well be the first time that a team executive has interrupted another team's broadcast, but AZ Diamondbacks executive Tony LaRussa did just that on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. The Pirates and Diamondbacks were continuing their series which has included players being hit by pitches and taking some "very" inside as well.

On the Pirates telecast on ROOT Sports on Tuesday (5/24) night, they aired a series of "highlights" which showed the times that both teams appeared to be throwing pitches at each other. Play-by-play voice Greg Brown said on the air that LaRussa "has a history of retaliation", even though LaRussa is not the current manager of the Diamondbacks, but is in attendance for this road series.

Then, on Wednesday (5/25) night, LaRussa went as far as to enter the Pirates' TV booth to confront Brown about his comments, literally keeping Brown off the air during part of an inning.

On Thursday (5/26), Brown spent the majority of the 4th inning of the telecast (which, significantly, also aired nationally on MLB Network) talking about what happened. Brown explained how LaRussa kept him from his broadcast responsibilities while taking issue with his (Brown's) on air comments.

To his credit, Brown said that he did not intend to create anything controversial, and added that he "stands behind" his remarks.

While LaRussa has every right to defend direct criticism, even after all of these years he does not have the right to a direct confrontation in an attempt to provoke the other party. This is far from his first time doing this, or trying to do this, to a member of the media.

When he was managing the White Sox, TV analyst Jimmie Piersall, the former controversial partner with Harry Caray, was often critical of LaRussa's managing during his studio analysis during and after certain games. One night in late July 1982, LaRussa and (then) 3rd base coach Jim Leyland both went to the TV studio (in downtown Chicago - not at the ballpark) to confront Piersall following the broadcast about his remarks. Accounts of the incident varied as to whether or not there was any physical contact.

Years later, when LaRussa was managing the A's, there was a game in Chicago during which A's catcher Terry Steinbach was injured from being hit by a pitch followed by what appeared to be some retaliation pitches.

Following that game, Associated Press reporter Bob Glass was the victim of a verbal outburst by LaRussa after asking questions about the incident. This incident was recorded on audio tape.
This makes a total of three such instances of LaRussa provoking a member of the media doing his job - that we know of.

Whether you agree with him or not, good job by Greg Brown of standing his ground against LaRussa's own "pitch" of retaliation.

This coming Sunday's Indy 500 will make history. But not because of anything that may happen within the race itself. For the first time ever, the Speedway has announced a "sellout" of all tickets, with this being the 100th running of the race.

As a result, the race will be shown live in the Indianapolis market for the first time ever. It has been shown on delay previously.

The coincidence of the NHL not having any of its Canadian teams go as far as round two of the playoffs and the NBA Toronto Raptors advancing to round three has had quite the ratings impact. Never thought we would see the day when NBA television ratings are higher in Canada than Stanley Cup Playoff telecasts, but it happened twice last weekend when the Raptors were playing at the same time.

In fact, the Monday (5/24) telecast of the Raptors Game 4 vs. Cleveland set an all-time basketball viewership record for TSN's national (Canada) telecast.

HOUSTON: KILT 610 starts a new morning show on Tuesday (5/31). Actually, they are moving the successful midday show with Mike Meltser and Seth Payne into the morning spot.

John Lopez and Marc Vandermeer will move into the midday slot, and will be jointed by former Texas A&M and NFL receiver and return man Dante Hall.

BUFFALO: It's a good thing when a team official knows to publicly clarify a comment made which didn't come out as intended. Such was the case for Bills GM Doug Whaley. While appearing on WGR Radio on Tuesday morning, Whaley, when talking about concerns over serious injuries, made a comment to the effect of "humans are supposed to play".

Realizing later that the comment did not come out as he intended, he issued an apology. However, it wasn't by calling back to or going on WGR again to do so. Instead, the apology was issued by way of the Bills' team Twitter account.

From here, he should issue an apology to WGR and its audience by not directly apologizing to them. Social media has its place, but it should not be a place to hide behind.

CHICAGO: A bizarre set of circumstances made for a rough stretch on Monday (5/24) night for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The regional sports network had the entire White Sox vs. Indians doubleheader on its main channel as well as the Cubs vs. Cardinals on its "Plus" channel.

For nearly an hour, only Comcast Cable subscribers were unable to receive the feed of either game. Ironically, it meant that DirecTV and other carrier subscribers were able to see the Comcast SportsNet feeds as usual, while Comcast's own subscribers could not.

ALLENTOWN: It's another of those "only in radio" stories for WSAN 1470. The station has dropped Fox Sports Radio as well as English language regular programming. At least most of it. As of this week, WSAN now airs ESPN Deportes, the Spanish sports network.

However, the station intends to continue airing Phillies baseball and Eagles football - in English.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dallas Viewers Not Reaching For The Stars

Local TV ratings are not often a source of market research, but in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area, recent sports telecast ratings do not bode well for the NHL and the Dallas Stars these days. While the team draws well, it looks as though the majority of the fan base attends the games.

During the first round of the NBA and NHL playoffs last month, we noticed that the NBA Mavericks showed a much larger local viewing audience than the Stars, even though the Mavs were given little chance to advance, which they did not. Although the Stars did not advance, they were favored to defeat the St. Louis Blues in that opening round series.

Forward ahead to this week. On Monday (5/16), the local ratings for Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals between Golden State and Oklahoma City was 2.5 ratings points above the (local team) Rangers vs. Oakland A's baseball telecast, which is also a nice reflection of the market's interest in the NBA. At the same time, the NBCSN telecast of the NHL East Finals between Pittsburgh and Tampa drew only a .4.

Then on Wednesday (5/18), the Dallas / Ft. Worth ratings for Game 2 of the Golden State vs. Oklahoma City series drew a rating which was THREE and one-half rating points higher than the Rangers vs. Oakland game, and five full ratings points behind the NHL telecast.

On a national level, the Friday (5/13) telecast of Game 1 of the Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay series finished as NBCSN's most viewed Conference Final opening game in the network's history, and that's without any help from the large Dallas market.

Another week and another loss of talent from ESPN. Longtime college football analyst Chris Spielman has jumped over to Fox Sports, starting with the coming season. Spielman didn't stick around long enough to find out who he would have been paired with on the primary telecasts this coming season, since Sean McDonough will be moving up to Monday Night Football.

The strides made over the past couple of years by league originated channels MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, and NHL Network are being noticed by the PGA. Sports Business Daily reports that PGA officials are exploring the possibility of forming their own network, which could result in using their opt-out of their CBS and NBC deals in 2018.

Although the PGA contract with The Golf Channel is locked until 2021, The Golf Channel does not air much of the late in the day third and final round coverage of the most important tournaments.

NEW YORK: While it's understandable that Howie Rose would want to decrease his play-by-play schedule after 30 years, it's a sad day for Islanders fans. Rose, who has called the Islanders games since 1995, announced that he is leaving their broadcast booth in order to ease back on what has been a constant year round schedule. Howie will continue to call the Mets games on WFAN 660, as he has done since the mid-80's.

MIAMI: Hard to believe it had been seven seasons since the Dolphins broadcasts aired on WQAM 560, but the Dolphins are returning to the station as part of a new long term deal which will also include the game broadcasts being simulcast on WKIS Kiss Country 99.9.

WQAM will air expanded pre and postgame shows, along with new head coach Adam Gase's Monday (or day after) press conferences and a "Dolphins Friday" extended interview show.

This ends what had been a six season run on WBGG 105.9.

FARGO: Jeff Culhane has been chosen as the new radio play-by-play voice of the North Dakota State University (defending national champion) football team starting with the upcoming season. In addition, Culhane was named as Sports Director for KQWB Bison 1660.

TULLAHOMA TN: WHMT 740 has just dropped its sports format and has joined its sister FM station in airing country music. The station, serving much of the area between Nashville and Chattanooga, plans to continue to air local high school football play-by-play.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baseball Rules Radio Ratings

This year is no exception when it comes to the baseball impact on the radio ratings in many of the 'major league' markets, already showing in the latest Nielsen reports covering late March through April 20th.

Days after WEEI-FM extended its Red Sox contract, the station added another half point to its rating (over the previous month) and finished #5 overall in Boston. Just behind at #6 is rival WBZ-FM Sports Hub, which showed a slight audience increase itself.

San Francisco's KNBR 680, helped by being the Giants' flagship station, rose more than a full ratings point and finished #1 overall in the market. This while the A's flagship KGMZ The Game held steady and again did not make the market's top 20 ratings.

In Chicago, the first three weeks of being the Cubs radio flagship helped WSCR The Score 670 to jump .7 of a ratings point in one month and finish in the top ten overall (#10). This showing put some distance between The Score and WMVP ESPN 1000, which lost .6 of a ratings point over the same month.

WFAN The Fan 660, a sister station to WSCR Chicago, also went up to #10 overall in the NYC market as the Yankees flagship, despite the team's relatively poor start. The "baseball difference" in New York is even more evident when you realize that WOR-AM, a news/talk station which remains as the Mets flagship station, already showed a .4 ratings increase from the previous month, and is now nearly one full ratings point ahead of WESPN ESPN Radio.

An improving Tigers team helped WXYT-FM The Ticket rise back to #1 overall (from #7 earlier this year) in the Detroit market. This, in turn, hurt WMGC 105.1, the sports station which dipped again in the overall ratings despite an improved season from the Pistons (for which they are the flagship).

WMGC has already released Dave Shore from his Program Director duties as well as from his co-host role in afternoon drive. Co-host Lindsey Hunter (the former Piston) will remain on the show, with Rob Pascoe and Jake Chapman of the station sharing the co-host role until or unless a replacement is named.

Dallas' KTCK-AM The Ticket has put some breathing room into what has been a close race among the three sports stations, finishing #13 overall up to a 2.9 rating. KRLD-FM increased its audience by 10% over the previous month's ratings, and is now a full ratings point head of KESN-FM ESPN.

Even with the horrendous start by the Twins this season, alternative music station KTWN-FM actually gained .6 of a ratings point from March, finishing at #18 overall. That's slightly ahead of all sports KSTP-AM, although both trail KXFN-FM The Fan which came in an impressive #8 overall in the Minneapolis - St. Paul market.

As always with a new baseball season, WLW Cincinnati kicked butt with the Reds broadcasts back, while KMOX St. Louis went from 5th overall to #2 overall from March to April. Neither station is all sports.

Baltimore's WJZ-FM 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles flagship, rose 1.6 rating points in one month and shows its best numbers since June 2015. Seattle's KIRO ESPN 710 went up .6 from March as the Mariners station, Tampa's WDAE Sports Animal went up .8 with the new season of Rays broadcasts. Washington D.C.'s WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan also went up .6 as the Nationals got off to one of the best season starts in franchise history.

Even Los Angeles radio listeners showed an interest in the baseball season. KLAC 570, the Dodgers flagship, literally doubled its ratings from the previous month. However, the station still has onlyh a 1.0 rating and is not near the market's top 25 stations. KSPN 710 and KLAA 830, which share the Angels broadcasts, remain below a 1 rating.

Elsewhere, ESPN continues to battle to protect its empire. ESPN and Verizon announced a settlement from a lawsuit filed to attempt to prevent Verizon from allowing its customers to choose whether or not to receive certain channels and groups. Verizon, had, understandably, created a price point for its customers which did not include the expensive monthly ESPN package.

For those who asked, Saturday May 21st is the day that will have Dick Enberg guest announcing on the Detroit Tigers telecast of its home game against Tampa. Enberg continues in his final season of play-by-play calling the Padres games for San Diego TV, but is fulfilling his dream of calling a game from Detroit. However, the Fox Sports Detroit telecast will not be carried on FS1 (which has another game scheduled for 4:10 ET that afternoon), nor on Fox Sports, which begins its prime time Saturday series with regional telecasts that evening.

DALLAS: The successful season for the Stars has not had the desired impact on the TV ratings during the team's playoff run. You may recall that we recently pointed out how the Mavericks (already eliminated) NBA playoff run was drawing higher ratings than the Stars telecasts, even though the Stars advanced. Now it seems that, though the first five games of the seven game series against the St. Louis Blues, had literally more than five times the ratings points for the telecasts in St. Louis than for the same games being shown in Dallas.

CHICAGO: The month of April, understandably, brought huge ratings success to Comcast SportsNet Chicago, making it the highest rated Chicago area station or network among male viewers (age 18 to 54), even including over-the-air broadcast TV. Having its highest rated Blackhawks telecast ever (Game 7 vs. St. Louis), combined with the excellent starts of both the White Sox and Cubs, went on to generate more than 5,500,000 households tuning in.

SAN FRANCISCO: CSN Bay Area also had reason to boast, as this past weekend's Giants telecasts, in which they swept Colorado in a series, had that regional network ranked as the #1 viewed show during the time period of each of the games.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why Padres Are Moving To An FM Music Station

Boston continues to be the big leader in sports radio listenership around the country, which makes WEEI extending its Red Sox play-by-play contract for seven additional seasons an even bigger deal in its battle against WBZ-FM Sports Hub.

WEEI, which has aired the Red Sox since 1995, now retains the rights through the 2023 season. This season is the 33rd for Joe Castiglione calling the games.

The parent company, Entercom, likes having baseball so much that it coincidentally secured the radio rights to the San Diego Padres starting next year, entering a five-year agreement. What makes this move even more shocking is that the games will air on KBZT 94.9, which is expected to remain under its alternative rock music format.

This gives Entercom the ability to further gauge the music format until next March. What makes this even more curious is that the Padres had the option to remain on (current flagship) XEPRS Mighty 1090 through the 2017 season but declined in favor of this new five year deal. Since the team is off to another poor start this season, they probably preferred to be locked in longer term to a radio deal.

A key factor for KBZT is that the majority of weekday road games begin airing during afternoon drive, which would take away an important daypart for a music station. This is much different than an east coast station doing this when the majority of the games air during the night hours.

Keep in mind that the NFL Chargers are not definite to remain in San Diego long term, as they are rumored to be looking to relocate slightly north to the L.A. area. If that happens, the Padres become the only major pro team in town. We can clearly see what Entercom wanted to lock them up.

The shuffle continues as ESPN. After also losing MLB analyst Curt Schilling last week, this week brings the departure of football analyst Robert Smith who had been with ESPN since 2005.
Smith has already joined Fox Sports and will be a studio analyst for Big Ten Network and Fox Sports college football telecasts starting in August.

It still won't be easy to find the national radio broadcast of the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals (at least without satellite radio), as NBC Sports Radio will once again air the games. Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti will call the games for those that can find them.

Even with no Canadian teams still alive in the NHL Playoffs, and this is only the second round, the NHL continues to rule the ratings roost in Canada. This past weekend had national TV coverage of the Toronto Raptors Game 7 vs. Indiana in the NBA Playoffs, the Blue Jays vs. Tampa MLB games, and the NHL draft lottery. Which do you think drew the biggest audience?

The Raptors win over the Pacers finished as the most watched Raptors game EVER in Canada with an average of 1.53 million viewers. The Saturday Blue Jays vs. Rays game averaged 1.1 million viewers.

And the NHL coverage? The 2nd round telecasts of the Pittsburgh vs. Washington series are, so far, averaging about 1.5 million viewers. And, Saturday's (4/30) NHL Draft Lottery telecast averaged, are you ready, 1.57 million viewers, the most viewers of any of these.

KANSAS CITY: Interesting concept from KCSP 610 Sports Radio following the Chief's drafting of Tyreek Hill who had earlier pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge. Co-hosts Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison launched a fund raising page for a local center for domestic abuse victims via The pair was critical of the selection, and decided on the air to do something about it. To their credit, more than $7,000 in donations were generated within the first eight hours of its existence.

NASHVILLE: It seems that both sides did not agree on the reason for the firing of Dan Phillips from his sports anchor role at WZTV Channel 17 last week.

Word is that the station was upset when WZTV reporter Meagan O'Halloran, conducting a live broadcast only on Facebook, went into Phillips' office to have him pull a listener question out of a fishbowl when Phillips went into a profanity filled tirade which went out live.

Phillips, however, claimed, on Facebook of all places, that he was dismissed because of what turned out to be his final sportscast being filled with Prince references following the performer's untimely death.

SYRACUSE: WTLA 1200 and 97.7 have added Dan D'Uva to their weekday lineup from 2 to 4 PM. D'Uva continues as play-by-play voice for the Syracuse Crunch minor league hockey team.

DOTHAN AL: Sister stations WULA 1240 and WYDK 97.9 are changing music formats this month but will continue their play-by-play affiliations. WULA will air Auburn football and basketball as well as most NASCAR broadcasts. WYDK will air University of Alabama football, along with some of their basketball games, plus originate some local high school game broadcasts.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Week ESPN Would Love To Forget

They won't admit it, but this week figures to go down as one of the worst weeks for ESPN over the past 37 years. Now it is even more than contributing to the number of consumers who are 'cutting the cord' over the high monthly fees which ESPN has forced on consumers by way of all of the cable and satellite providers.

Even the NFL Draft, which ESPN clearly pioneered for live national coverage years ago, produced Round 1 overnight ratings nearly one-half of a ratings point below last year's coverage. They can't simply claim there isn't as much interest, considering that large markets Los Angeles and Philadelphia had the first two picks of the entire draft. Add to it that the ratings on the NFL Network, which provides separate live coverage, showed a ratings increase of more than 20% over last season, although it still trails ESPN in total audience.

Ohio State fans were clearly the most interested, as the major market analysis (for Round 1 only) showed Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton as three of the top five markets for viewers.
Also this week, ESPN lost its voice of Monday Night Football and #2 voice for its NBA telecasts with the resignation of Mike Tirico after 25 years with the network. This move comes as a huge surprise.

At this point in time, there is no other network which can offer Torico a similar opportunity in terms of both NFL and NBA.

Daytime show host Skip Bayless is also leaving ESPN, although this move appears to be the Network's idea. ESPN has determined they will not renew his contract, which technically expires at the end of August. His final day on the air will be in late June on the day after the NBA Finals come to an end.

This past Sunday (4/24), ABC had a problem, although not the fault of ABC/ESPN, when its San Antonio at Memphis NBA Playoffs telecast was interrupted by the power surge which stopped the game for nearly 30 minutes. This forced studio analysts Jalen Rose and Doug Collins to fill the time with an extended analysis of the various playoff series.

Again, this is all from within the past week. However, I'm sure that everything there has come to a complete stop for this weekend. After all, the Yankees and Red Sox are playing, so everything stops until after Sunday Night Baseball.

The Golden State Warriors' regular season made history on the court, but also in terms of TV ratings. Their historic 73rd win on the last night of the regular season finished as the highest regular season rating for an NBA telecast on ANY regional sports network in the nation. The season produced the three highest telecasts ever for CSN Bay Area (any sport).

This season also made it six consecutive seasons during which the Warriors ratings have gone up overall. Sports Business Journal reported that it marks the first time this has happened for an NBA team, and has not happened for any MLB or NHL teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers telecasts finished with the highest regular season ratings in team history, while the San Antonio Spurs telecasts also finished strong in the top three for the Association.

At the same time, the NBA's three largest markets produced poor ratings for at least one of the two local teams. Brooklyn Nets telecasts on YES Network finished as the lowest rated team in the league for the 7th time in nine seasons.

Even Kobe Bryant's final season didn't help the Lakers' ratings on TWC SportsNet, as ratings dropped about 3% while setting an historic low for the team's telecasts.

In Chicago, where the only team there is the Bulls, their ratings on CSN Chicago dropped more than 35% from the prior season, although the team failed to make the post-season for the first time since 2008.

NEW YORK: Russ Salzberg is reducing his duties with Fox TV after this week, with Friday (4/29) being his last scheduled night as sports anchor on Channel 5.

After more than 28 years anchoring sports in NYC, Salzberg will continue his role hosting Giants pre and post game shows on the local Fox stations in the fall.

LOS ANGELES: The Dodgers will finally take a 49% equity of their flagship radio station KLAC 570 by year's end, as the arrangement has now been filed with the FCC. The irony in all of this is that even though roughly 70% of the market cannot get the Dodgers games on TV (due to the high monthly fees demanded by Time Warner Cable), KLAC continues to average less than one ratings point overall each month.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Now It Really Is A Mock Draft

While I understand that various sports media outlets are positioning to be the "go to" outlet for football fans on NFL Draft days, the use, or as I should say, overuse, of the 'mock draft' has been growing out of control over the past couple of years.

It used to be that a couple of days before Round 1, some of the football reporters would publish a mock draft, often pointing toward how they think the needs of one or two specific teams will go. No problem with that.

However, it has become numerous media outlets publishing a mock draft with WEEKS to go before the actual draft. That's fine, for those fans who want to invest the time on checking them out. What bothers me even more this year is how these 'expert' mock drafts are suddenly being treated as if they are "news" stories.

Within the past few weeks, it has gotten so bad that ESPN often uses its "Bottom Line" scroll during evening and weekend game times to show that day's "mock draft choices" as if there is some need to know this instantly and has some actual news value.

Sorry, but this is no reason to further delay the NHL scores (for example), which ESPN skips over much of the time because it is the only major sport they do not hold any telecast rights to. Even though ESPN televises the Draft and wants to steer fans away from the NFL Network's competing telecast, they should not be taking away from providing actual information and facts.

Even Fox Sports is among the other networks which seem to think that fans want to see mock drafts instead of current score updates.

I couldn't help but laugh after both of the Draft's top two overall picks were traded in surprise moves over the past couple of weeks. It means that the previous "news" of these mock drafts were rendered useless, as if they were useful before those trades.

In this age when too much of the sports media effort is used to report what some other source is reporting, we don't need any more pure speculation replacing time that should be devoted to factual information.

The Big Ten Conference is expected to be the next of the major conferences to announce its next big TV rights deal. With a package reportedly consisting of about 25 football and 50 basketball games available beginning with the 2017 football season, the word is that Fox Sports, Turner Sports, ESPN, and CBS Sports are all in the running for this "half package" of games.

Turner Sports may or may not win the bidding, but the feeling here is that Turner needs to increase its NCAA regular season coverage in order to set the table with viewers for its NCAA Basketball Tournament coverage each March.

NBC Sports is pleased with its NHL coverage ratings. The 94 games shown throughout the regular season on NBCSN produced the highest cable ratings over the course of a full NHL season, which goes back to 1994. Even with NBC only televising 11 regular season games nationally (with skipping Easter Sunday which had playoff positions on the line), they gained a 6% ratings increase over last season. Early playoff telecast ratings, which include NBC, NBCSN, along with CNBC and USA Network for the early rounds, are also strong. The remainder of the playoff ratings could well depend on how far Chicago, both New York teams, Philadelphia, and Detroit do or don't advance.

DENVER: Status quo for Rockies broadcasts, which have just been extended through the 2021 season with KOA 850 and 94.1. Jack Corrigan, now in his 14th season on play-by-play, continues in that role along with Jerry Schemmel.

SAN FRANCISCO: Status quo for the highly rated KNBR 680 morning show, "The Murph and Mac Show". The contracts of Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffery has been extended by the station as the show celebrates its tenth anniversary.

DALLAS: Mark Cuban should be pleased that his Mavericks are killing in the ratings ahead of the NHL Stars and early season Rangers games, even though the Stars would appear to have a much better chance of post-season success.

This past Monday (4/18) night, the Mavericks close victory over Oklahoma City nearly tripled in the TV ratings (if you combine the local Channel 21 and national TNT telecasts) over the Stars taking on Minnesota in that playoff game on Fox Sports Southwest.

Another very interesting aspect to this is that for Saturday's (4/17) Mavericks opening telecast the ratings for the competing national telecast on ESPN was nearly more than 30% higher than the Channel 21 local telecast.

DETROIT: This missed our column for last week. Sorry to learn of the passing, earlier this month, of longtime Tigers voice Paul Carey, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 88. Carey is best remembered for his 19 seasons in the booth along with Ernie Harwell, which included the 1968 World Series championship run.

Many have forgotten that Carey's long run on WJR also included stints as play-by-play voice of the Pistons as well as numerous high school football and basketball games.

MADISON: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will have a new basketball play-by-play voice for next season to replace Bill Johnson after 16 seasons on the job.

Actually "replacement" is probably not the most fitting term. It seems that Johnson took to social media to announce his resignation from the position. Why? Because he slammed the school administration, calling them "incompetent" and referring to Athletic Director Amanda Braun as "horribly under qualified" in his comments.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Final Four Telecasts Staying Put

A sports coincidence this week has a pair of "last time" games in Los Angeles this week, although neither figures to be a big ratings winner.

On Wednesday (4/13) night ESPN had Kobe Bryant's final NBA game. However, little did ESPN know months ago that it was scheduled for the same time as the Warriors going for the NBA all-time season record for victories.

In another great decision for NBA fans, ESPN showed both the Warriors and Lakers games on its networks head-to-head. In fact, time allowed for both ESPN channels to simulcast a portion of the pre-game ceremony for Kobe. As odd as that was to see, it added to the significance of the event.

To its credit ESPN/ABC did a similar thing this past Saturday (4/9), when the Warriors went for their 71st win against the rival San Antonio Spurs in prime time. ESPN added that game, and started it 30 minutes before its previously scheduled Cleveland at Chicago telecast, which aired on ABC.

Also to its credit, ABC/ESPN kept the score and time remaining of the opposite game in the upper right hand corner during most of the telecasts. The network knew that fans of the Chicago Bulls were interested in the Warriors' attempt to break the Bulls' all-time season victory record and would want that score.

On the other side, fans of the Warriors and Spurs were interested, although to a lesser extent, in whether or not Cleveland would clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference.

As great as it is that ESPN is doing the pair of games both nights as a service to the fans, it comes after the previous weekend (Easter Sunday) on which ABC did not show any games despite it being 10 days before the end of the season and playoff positions up for grabs.

NBC, on the other hand, continued to play hide and seek with the NHL this past weekend, following up their skipping an Easter Sunday with a quiet Saturday afternoon telecast of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia game. Go figure.

Back in Los Angeles, Tuesday (4/12) was the Dodgers home opener and the (expected) 67th and final home opener which Vin Scully described.

The Dodgers telecast, still only available to less than one-third of L.A. area cable subscribers, was picked up, thankfully, by MLB Network nationally.

When it was time for the opening pitch, MLB Network joined in, only to have nothing but crowd sounds through the leadoff batter.

It seems that Dodgers officials overlooked that Scully, at age 88, needed more time to return from the amazing on field ceremony for him back up to the booth. Vin came on at the start of the second batter, explained the situation, and took over as usual from there.

Even after lower ratings for the Final Four games on Turner Sports, having CBS and Turner alternate years of televising them will continue for many years. Turner Sports claims their revenue was up, even if the ratings were not, and was glad to join forces with CBS and expand the current contract through the 2032 Tournament.

From a revenue standpoint, there actually is a method to the madness for Turner Sports. This expanded deal gives Turner Sports additional digital rights to the entire tournament. They are well aware that a large number of fans stream the early round games (on weekday afternoons) because they are at work and not able to view on TV. That number doesn't figure to drop anytime soon, given the recent contracts for streaming of pro sports telecasts, including the NFL.

Next year's Final Four will air on CBS-TV.

Kudos to MLB Network for a nice innovation during the MLB Showcase telecasts (which the network originates). The idea of a "Scoring Update" on their bottom scroll to recap the scoring in the game they are showing is a nice touch. MLB Network is also experimenting with an additional graphic when batters come up to show how the defense is positioned. With so much more shifting of players these days, this could very well become an added part of baseball telecasts sooner rather than later.

The Nielsen radio ratings for the period of late February into late March are being released this week, with this period not being significant for sports stations.

Of course, the ratings battle in Boston is always significant, with the March ratings showing WBZ-FM Sports Hub now in an overall audience tie (for #6 in the market) with rival WEEI-FM. It seems that WBZ-FM has dropped the most since January although both stations are down since then.

In San Francisco, KNBR came in at #3 overall in the market, and this is before the Giants' regular season began, while KGMZ-FM The Game has dropped roughly 20% since January.

Washington D.C. finds WTEM-AM and WJFK-FM now in a ratings tie, although this is for #19 overall. What makes it interesting is that WTEM rose one-half of a ratings point from February to reach that tie.

In Los Angeles, the sports radio struggle continues across the board. During one of the busiest sports times of the entire year, none of the three sports stations could even muster a "1" rating.

DENVER: It's the end of an era for Denver sports fans and Mile High Radio with the retirement of Irv Brown after 40 years of hosting local sports talk shows at the age of 81. In a wonderful move, the final show aired live from a local restaurant, which drew a big crowd to watch Brown sign-off one final time last week, along with long time co-host Joe Williams.

WASHINGTON D.C.: Here we go again. WTEM ESPN 980 is going back to having a local morning show. Actually, that's a good thing, although other attempts in recent years have failed. Now, the "Morning Blitz" airs with Al Galdi from 5 to 7 AM with the newly teamed Chris Cooley (moved from afternoons) and Kevin Sheehan (moved from Noon to 2 PM) co-hosting from 7 to 11 AM.

The station is moving its afternoon drive show, known as "The Sports Reporters" airs from 4 to 7 PM and is co-hosted by Steve Czaban and Andy Pollin. These shows will also air on WWXT 92.7 Prince Frederick and WWXX Buckland (VA) 94.3.

NEW ORLEANS: Sorry to learn of the passing on Monday of Hokie Gajan, who was the Saints' radio analyst since 2000. The former LSU and Saints running back died of cancer at the age of 56.

CLEVELAND: The Fan 92.3 has officially terminated the contract of J.G. Spooner following his arrest last week and subsequent court appearance resulting from theft of several thousand dollars from a fund raising campaign he had helped to start. The station hopes to have a replacement within the next three weeks.

KANSAS CITY: In a nice touch, the Royals TV on Fox Sports has begun its Sunday home games segment of "Sundays With Denny", during which long time team voice Denny Matthews visits the booth for part of the telecasts. This past Sunday (4/10), Matthews joined Ryan Lefebvre and Rex Hudler during the 6th and 7th innings, including conversation and Royals trivia.

HOUSTON: In another nice touch to honor a long time broadcaster, the Astros held a ceremony to rename their Press Box in honor of the late Milo Hamilton, who, of course, broadcast the Astros on radio for 25 years and had passed away last fall.