Friday, June 20, 2008

Sports Media Report - June 20th Update.........

We are already on the edge of television sports rights packages including a lot more than just game telecasts. TNT's and ESPN's new deals with the NBA includes millions for online and other rights to games. NASCAR and golf's recent U.S. Open allow(ed) fans to go online and watch from a choice of individual participants in addition to or instead of the conventional live telecasts. Steve Bornstein, the NFL Executive Vice President of Media, recently stated that the NFL is exploring more ways to make their games available on a mobile service, perhaps in time for the upcoming season.

Satellite radio subscribers are able to hear every broadcast from the 4 major pro sports leagues, as well as auto racing, college football and basketball, and other major sports events. The pending merger between XM and Sirius will eventually bring sports fans everything under one roof.

Yet it continues to amaze me that over-the-air radio stations have been sitting still watching other media, and eventually advertising dollars, pass by. As I have said for the past 2 years, radio already has the answer, and it is HD Radio. Stations airing local team play-by-play should use an HD channel to replay their broadcasts. Those working unconventional hours would be able to hear "today's game" entirely at a more convenient time. Fans could hear the entire big inning or scoring drive as it unfolded hours later. But there could still be a lot more.

Spanish broadcasts continue to increase. For example, in Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers will be heard in Spanish on WNOW-AM, starting this fall .

Out of market sports broadcasts are important reasons for many to pay for satellite radio. The various pro and college out of market TV packages, such as the NFL Direct Ticket, continue to show increased sales. Now that HD Radio allows for narrowcasting like never before, the time has come for all sports stations and stations which carry local play-by-play to be able to carry related out of market games.

For example, a Tampa Rays fan is interested in how the Red Sox and Yankees games are going. Colorado Rockies fans want to know how the Arizona D-backs are doing. And so on. In football, Cowboys fans want to track the Giants games. On it goes.

Two weeks ago I read where Clear Channel reportedly spent over $760,000 to fight the XM / Sirius merger. Why not use that money toward HD rights to pro and major college sports for its stations HD channels? It boils down to, whether sports, news, or music programming, if over-the-air radio stations would have continued to deliver top quality programming and innovation, consumers wouldn't have to go elsewhere to get what they want. Radio doesn't have to wait for technology to be enhanced, invented, or perfected. It has brought the immediacy of live events to us for years. Long before satellite and mobile streaming and the internet. The advertisers will follow the listeners - when there is something worth listening to.

If you don't think that multimedia live sports is enough of a threat, consider this week's announcement about the University of Nebraska sports. The University just approved a 13-year "multimedia rights partnership" with IMG College reportedly guaranteed for at least $109 million, including sponsorship rights with the likes of Gatorade and Adidas. This deal includes coaches radio and TV shows, program and publishing printing rights, and game broadcast radio networks for football and basketball. A portion of this deal (and we're still talking millions) includes electronic signage at the school's sports venues. But it is the "multimedia" portion, including that which is quietly under development, that has added to the financial impact. How much, or should I say how little, of the next 13 years will be driven by over-the-air radio remains to be seen.

PHOENIX: XTRA Sports 910 has become the new flagship station for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes starting this coming season. Bob Heethuis and Louis DeBrusk will continue as the broadcast team. This deal ends a 12 season relationship with KDUS-AM, which had aired the games for the entire history of the team in Phoenix.

DENVER: KCKK 1510 adds market veteran Gil Whiteley to its weekday lineup starting at Noon as of this week.ATLANTA - 1340 WALR takes on Fox Sports Radio starting on Monday (June 23), including Steve Czaban from 6 - 9 AM, Jim Rome Noon - 3, and Chris Myers and Sean Farnham from 3 to 7 PM.

OKLAHOMA CITY - While the city gets ready for the likely addition of an NBA team (if the Seattle Supersonics move happens within the next 90 days), the "Sports Animal Radio Network" will be moving from 97.9 FM to 98.1 as of July 9th. This move is expected to more than triple the coverage area, and include the Sillwater and Shawnee areas. The Animal will also continue on WWLS 640 AM.

MEDFORD Oregon: After a 2 season abscence, Portland Trailblazers NBA broadcasts return to southern Oregon as KEZX 730 AM announced plans to air "at least" 75 of the 82 regular season games. The Fox Sports affiliate is also planning on carrying NFL football, with an announcement about which team expected by July 4th. The station is reportedly considering carrying the Seattle Seahawks, the Oakland Raiders, or the San Francisco 49ers games. If it were up to me, I would check the local TV schedule, and choose the broadcasts of whichever team is shown locally the least. If the fans can watch most of the games on TV when it is not a local team, it would reduce the potential radio audience.

MEANWHILE - How sad to lose not one but two sportscasting giants within a few days of each other. Jim McKay and Charlie Jones will both be missed. Even with all of the well deserved respect shown to McKay, I continue to wonder what might have been if McKay had been given more top assignments than the Olympics and a few special events. McKay shined as he did despite the limitations of hosting moose fishing, tiddly winks, or whatever it was on ABC Wide World of Sports. (Face it, the agony wasn't "defeat". It was the events McKay had to host.) This while the network innovated Monday Night Football, had MLB playoffs and World Series years, and exclusivity on major college football, during the 70's. Makes it more special for McKay to be remembered as he has by sports reporters and broadcasters everywhere.

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