Thursday, June 5, 2008


Still another instance where the financial pages impact the sports fans who have no control. The Associated Press reported that Clear Channel has spent over $760,000 lobbying against the merger of XM and Sirius Satellite. XM's deal with Major League Baseball could end up at risk as XM reportedly is now seeking the next $120 million to put in escrow toward that contract.

Meanwhile, ESPN Radio launches the ESPN HD Radio Network this coming weekend (June 7/8), including offering "custom" sports content to radio stations which have HD broadcasts. While initial play-by-play content for this month includes only the UEFA Euro Cup soccer tournament, stations will be able to to offer scoreboards and other options.

Put those stories together, and it shows that the terrestial broadcast community is doing what it can to hurt satellite radio and wipe out the "competition". Right now, XM offers its subscribers every MLB broadcast, while Sirius has all NFL, NBA, and NHL broadcasts. Each offers various college and other sports such as NASCAR and Indy Racing. The 'over-the-air' broadcast community sees this as taking away sports listeners, especially if the merger enables more than 17 million subscribers to eventually have access to all of the big 4 pro sports league broadcasts.It appears to me that ESPN's move toward HD is to set the stage for the play-by-play of all pro and most college sports toward HD, instead of satellite. I have said for the past couple of years that HD Radio should go heavy into sports and live events and live news programming. HD obviously isn't cutting it with their "Album Tracks from 1978" channels, or whatever music that they used to play but no longer do in favor of repeating the same 500 songs all month.

For the sports fans, it looks like we will have these choices to hear any and every pro and major college game live as it happens anywhere in the country. That is a good thing. But I wish that instead of spending millions of dollars to fight "the competition", the radio owners would start spending that on quality programming and expanding their reach. If the radio owners had continued to offer a solid enough product, nobody would care about satellite radio in the first place.

Sports broadcasting requires a lot of skills and ability. Now it seems to be acting as a qualification for broadcasters, and athletes and coaches turned broadcasters, to speak at college and university commencements. Within the past month, we have had:

Joe Buck, Saint Louis University (May 17);
Joe Garagiola Sr., St. Leo University (May 3);
Tommy Lasorda, Argosy University/Southern California (May 16);
Dan Marino, University of Pittsburgh (April 27);
Cal Ripken Jr, (now of TBS) University of Delaware (May 31);
Vin Scully, Pepperdine University (April 26);
ABC/ESPN broadcaster Robin Roberts, Miami University (May 10);
Dick Vermeil, (NFL coach then CBS-TV) University of New Haven (May 24);

Is HBO's loss Showtime's gain? "Inside the NFL" after 31 seasons on HBO during and surrounding each NFL season, has been picked up by rival Showtime and will debut there Wednesday Sept. 10 at 9 PM ET/PT. The show is already expected to benefit by Showtime being a sister company to CBS and the CBS access to live NFL telecasts and video.

At first, I thought this would prove a waste of money for Showtime. When "Inside" started on HBO in the 70's, there was no ESPN or NFL Network and the show was unique by being able to show extended highlights and present analysis about each game. Recently, like "This Week In Baseball", it seemed passed over by all of the daily complete highlights and analysis available to cable viewers. Upon further review, I realize that if Showtime utilizes the CBS-TV resources, they could produce a show that would rival any on ESPN or Fox Sports, with the benefit of no commercials and extended highlights. The talent may or may not come from CBS Sports, with an announcement not expected until July.

How about CBS Sports and adding a site devoted to fantasy sports? In-depth coverage to the point of including fantasy golf and auto racing information? Interesting that the announcement came a day after the Supreme Court refused to take a case in which Major League Baseball had argued that fantasy baseball providers should not be able to use the names or stats of MLB players without licensing agreements.

HOUSTON - KNTH 1070 announced it will carry the WNBA Houston Comets this season, including brief pre and post-game shows, except for 2 weekday games, even issuing a press release about it. Wait until they see the size of the audience for those games going up against a roster of sports talk shows on other Houston stations and some conflicts with Astros games elsewhere. So this is what AM Radio brings to sports fans while satellite offers every "major" pro sports broadcast every day?

Longtime Astros broadcaster Milo Hamilton will be presented with a University of Iowa Distinguished Alumni Award at a special luncheon this Saturday (June 7). This Award for Achievement is given for significant accomplishments in business or professional life, and in this instance, celebrates Milo's 50+ years broadcasting Major League Baseball.

DALLAS: Best wishes to Tom Grieve, now a Texas Rangers TV analyst, who begins a medical leave on Sunday to undergo prostate cancer surgery. Former pitcher Steve Busby will leave his FSN Southwest studio role to fill in, handling the Rangers' radio with Eric Nadel, with Victor Rojas replacing Grieve on television with Josh Lewin.

MILWAUKEE: With the Brewers in contention this season, and with WAUK 540-AM doing its own Brewers post-game coverage (without having the broadcasts) longtime flagship WTMJ 620 has begun "Extra Innings", its own one hour post-game show to follow the night game broadcasts and the existing 30 minute post-game programming. WTMJ's Dan O'Donnell will host, along with occasional rotating co-hosts including FSN Wisconsin's Davey Nelson and Craig Coshun. This is the first season of WTMJ's newest contract with the Brewers.

SAN DIEGO: Nielsen Media Research reports that Padres telecast ratings for the first 50 telecasts are almost 30% below last season's ratings. Even though last year's ratings were the highest overall since 1999, the Pardres' disappointing start seems to be impacting more than just the standings.

Much maligned Lee Hamilton will not return as San Diego State's football color analyst, as his contract was not renewed. Ted Leitner will remain on the game broadcasts on KOGO, which start again on August 30th. The "Hacksaw" was also kept off the recent local NFL draft coverage, supposedly based on his previous criticism of the Chargers.

MINNEAPOLIS: The Timerwolves are coming off a disaster of a season, but will have their game broadcasts for next season back on KFAN, returning for a new 3-year deal. KFAN was the voice of the Wolves for the team's first 17 seasons and picks up again after a 2 year abscence. No confirmation on a play-by-play voice yet, but analyst Billy McKinney will continue in that role, as he has been signed for the 3 years of this new agreement.

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