Monday, July 28, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 28th update

It may or may not be a coincidence that days after details emerge about Major League Baseball's upcoming TV channel and how much more easily and instantly it will be available to sports fans comes the word that the NFL is allowing NBC to stream its NFL telecasts starting in just a few weeks.

The NFL is allowing only NBC and not Fox and CBS-TV to do this, terming this "an experiment" for the coming season. There are a few factors which could be the true motivation for the NFL to do this. The streaming just happens to start about 10 weeks before the TNT deal with the NBA kicks in for the millions spent on TNT holding "online rights" in addition to its national telecasts.

It is likely that the NFL wants to show the potential for streaming and the likely interactive game features to the TV networks prior to the next round of negotiations. I'm sure the NFL realizes that shrinking advertising dollars in this economy could very well reduce the amounts the TV and cable networks will be willing to bid next time around. Developing another avenue for ad dollars could mean "keeping" those multi-multi-million dollar contracts for the next round.

This also may be an attempt to help smooth the public relations disaster regarding the NFL Network still not being carried on a large number of cable systems. Fans should keep in mind that this is an extension of showing games we can already see on over-the-air TV, which pales in comparison with not being able to see entire prime time regular season NFL games.

While the announcement is still fresh, I have yet to see anything about any repeat streaming. My belief is that there is an audience out there for fresh complete replays of sports telecasts and broadcasts. I would think this concept would be more successful if the same telecast could be seen either "on demand" online, or promoted as an online replay at whatever time(s). My idea is to replay these streams in full overnight, at say 2:00 AM each Monday morning, again on Monday afternoons (to end before the Monday Night Football telecasts), and I'd show it once more in prime time each Tuesday night.

Just as I have been commenting for months about how radio stations should use HD channels to replay sports broadcasts, this is another way the sports audience could be served. It is also good to know that the streamed games will be free, unlike, which charges for out of market games throughout the season only available online.

NEW YORK - Mornings on New York radio now only have Warner Wolf on one channel. As of this week, Wolf will "only" be heard on the Don Imus show, and no longer also heard separately on ESPN 1050. Wolf will remain with 1050 for his Saturday morning gig. Word is that Warner was given a choice of which weekday gig to keep.
College sports fans in and around the Big Apple will get their fill of Big East sports starting this coming football and basketball season. In addition to all available Rutgers football games, which move over to SportsNet New York from MSG Network, SNY will carry at least 16 Big East football games and more than 100 basketball games. SNY is also planning pre and post-game programming for its Big East content as part of a 5 year deal. ESPN/ABC-TV will continue to be able to choose games on a priority basis. For Big East basketball, MSG Network will still carry some basketball games, likely due to SNY programming conflicts, but still to be determined.

CHICAGO - The relative success of New York's WFAN's morning show with more of sports focus since the departure of Don Imus last year seems to have made a difference in CBS Radio's thinking for Chicago. After steering the Mike North Morning Show slightly away from sports and then not retaining North for its morning show, WSCR 670 The Score has named interim morning hosts Mike Mulligan and Bryan Hanley as the new morning team. Their show, which aired middays until the dismissal of North a month ago, will retain its sports focus upon moving to the 6 - 10 AM spot. My thinking is that if Boomer had been a ratings "bomber" in New York, The Score in Chicago would not have been 100% sports focused. WSCR now trails rival WMVP ESPN 1000 for overall audience according to the spring ratings book just released.

WSCR will continue to broadcast DePaul University basketball, extending an 8 year relationship another 3 seasons starting this November. This season, there will be less conflict due to the NHL Chicago Blackhawks moving from The Score to 50,000 watt WGN Radio. Zach Zaidman continues on play-by-play and former DePaul center and NBA player Dave Corzine continues as analyst.

WASHINGTON D.C. - John Riggin's run has ended. While it seems we rarely said that when Riggins carried the ball for the Redskins years ago, his radio talk show has ended on ESPN 1300. Anita Marks' show on 1300 has been extended until 6:30 PM when baseball programming ususally takes over. Anita's show is also shown on television via MASN, which will carry the extended show until 6:30, at least for the next few weeks. Marks also hosts some Baltimore Ravens related programming during the week during the NFL season.

SEATTLE - The Mariners made it official last week that they are switching radio homes beginning next spring. After six seasons at KOMO 1000, the Mariners broadcasts return to KIRO 710. The announcement came hours before longtime voice Dave Niehaus was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Niehaus, Dave Sims, Mike Blowers, and Rick Rizzs are all expected to return, although their contracts are up at the end of this season in conjunction with the radio pact. That turned out to be a wise move for the Mariners. The horrendous season the Mariners are having might normally open the doors for criticism of management and players by one or more local broadcasters. But with their contracts running out, I'd expect a continuing positive slant over the next 2 months. KIRO's new agreement includes pre and post-game programming, 20 spring training broadcasts, and runs for the next 3 seasons. Curiously, KIRO continues to also have Seahawks football, and the Seahawks will maintain priority even with this new baseball contract.

Speaking of Seattle, former SuperSonics broadcaster Kevin Calabro, who declined moving to Oklahoma City with the team after 21 seasons, will handle MLS Soccer telecasts for KING-TV. While that is certainly not the NBA, we look for Calabro to turn up on some ESPN Radio NBA broadcasts during the coming season.

DETROIT - WXYT's move to 97.1 FM, along with 1270 AM, has hit a home run among the Motor City's sports fans. The sports stations' morning show with Jay Towers and Bill McAllister reportedly ranks 8th in men, while its overall ranking of 11th overall in the market shows growth. The morning show ratings for men literally has tripled over a year ago when the FM station dumped Opie & Anthony.

St. LOUIS - It's not an old story. Howard Balzer has changed stations. Balzer has moved back to KFNS 590 AM and 100.7 FM. The 30-year market veteran does not have a regular gig as of now, but will be busy with fill-ins and steady coverage of the Rams including pre and post-game programming and weeknight shows from training camp. Then again, reports are that morning show hosts Brian McKenna and Joe DeNiro are not being renewed when their contacts expire in August, but have been asked to stay on indefinitely for the same pay.

SAN DIEGO - I have to wonder if Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton will lose out on more than the play-by-play and color gigs he missed out on. XTRA 1360 bottomed out in the just released market ratings. Hamilton's afternoon drive show did nothing, after his nearly 20 years in the market. Even Sports 570 from Los Angeles turned up with a higher overall audience, and that was less than a full ratings point overall. While XX Sports Radio, its competition, didn't fare all that well either, that can be attributed to the Padres' dismal season coming after high expectations. (XX Sports is the Padres flagship station and added hours of pre and post-game programming for this season.) In addition, XPRS-FM simulcasts the Padres games, breaking away from its classic rock format the rest of the day, and this is also impacting the XX Sports Radio audience.

SAN ANTONIO - Being over 3 hours from Dallas has a minimal impact on San Antonio coverage of the Cowboys as training camp is underway. While 2 of San Antonio's TV stations have sent sportscasters to California to report from camp, the radio beat is alive and well. KTKR 760 The Ticket will emphasize Cowboys talk during Mike Taylor's 3 - 6 PM local show, which will follow "Talking Cowboys" hosted by longtime Cowboys voice Brad Sham from 2 - 3 PM most weekdays (as the Cowboys schedule permits). ("Talking Cowboys" is not a local show, carried on the Cowboys Radio Network affiliates.) Sister station WOAI, which carries all Cowboys broadcasts locally, has regular Cowboys segements, including a show with team owner Jerry Jones and head coach Wade Phillips during the Charlie Parker morning show starting mid-August. In addition, KMYS-TV Channel 35 will air the pre-season games not carried on a national network. Again - this is for San Antonio which is more than 3 hours away from Dallas itself.

MELBOURNE - WIXC "Wixie" 1060 has decided to mix its extensive sports play-by-play lineup with classic country starting this Friday (Aug. 1). Although dropping its ESPN Radio programming including Mike & Mike, Wixie will continue to broadcast high school football, Florida State University, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Monday Night Football games as usual. Sister station WHOO 1080 in Kissimmee will continue to carry the ESPN Radio programming, but WHOO's signal does not cover the same territory as Wixie.

MINNEAPOLIS - Sorry to learn of the passing on Saturday of WCCO-TV sportscaster Bob Rainey. He was only 46 and was in his 5th year with the station.
BUFFALO - No more college football and basketball conflicts in the Buffalo market starting this season. The University of Buffalo's football and hoops broadcasts are moving from WGR to WECK Radio. And starting this season Syracuse University football and basketball will be carried on WWKB, also moving from WGR. The move of the Buffalo broadcasts also means that play-by-play voice Paul Beck will be reunited, and it's understood, with Steve Christie to handle color. Christie, the former Bills kicker, worked with Peck in the past on Channel 4.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 21st Update..........

It has been a number of years since MLB has done something to actually please the long-time traditional avid fans and purists. The new MLB cable TV network, on schedule to begin this coming January appears to be just the ticket.

They are not looking to let greed overshadow the way it did for NFL-TV and NBA-TV, leaving both of those either not available at all or only on additional pay tiers thus limiting their exposure to hard core fans.

The MLB channel is going to start out on digital basic via Comcast, Cablevision, and Time-Warner, which tranlates to more than 50,000,000 TV households and covers many of the larger markets. Still months from its debut, the households lined up already outnumber the NFL-TV by more than 10,000,000. Word is that Direct TV will also offer this channel as part of its basic fan, which adds a majority of "non-cable" TV households as well.

But the fans win with a lot more than just a large number of households. This new channel promises "at least 2 hours" of live studio coverage every night during the season, starting next April, with live cut-ins and updated scores and interviews. Simply put, ESPN's Baseball Tonight will have some competition. The network also plans to run a live game telecast each Saturday night, which will be a separate and non-conflicting package from ESPN's nights, Fox, or TBS. The MLB Network is still considering replaying entire games overnight and/or the following day in season, and using its vast library to show classic games and highlights.

It's about time! I have to believe national and regional advertisers will make this a success. More importantly for the fans, this is not about greed and having consumers pay extra for this channel even if they don't want it. I'm among the many who believe that the teams, leagues, and cable and satellite companies shouldn't get away with overlooking how people already pay for cable or satellite TV. Telecasts involving local teams should never be blacked out, let alone expecting fans to pay more to see "extra" games. After months of reading and writing about the battles surrounding NFL Network, Big Ten Network, and others, it's nice to have MLB doing it right with their new venture. Batter up.

This info came to the surface hours after the word that ESPN's coverage of the Home Run Derby has become the most watched program on "ad supported" cable TV in 2008, with a larger audience than even the CNN Democratic Debate in January.

Speaking of ESPN, NBA fans get an even bigger treat just before Halloween. Their first night of NBA on October 29 (after the TNT season opening doubleheader the night before) will bring an ESPN NBA triple-header. One east coast game will be moved to a 5:40 PM start, allowing ESPN a 5:30, 8:00, and 10:30 ET game telecast starts for the evening. Even though triple headers have been done during the playoffs, this will actually mark the first ever regular season triple-header. TNT makes history during the pre-season when they televise the first ever NBA outdoor game from California in October.

PHILADELPHIA: The excellent start by the Phillies is big news locally, but the folks at WIP Sports Radio aren't so sure. The latest monthly ratings show that WIP has lost almost half of its total overall listening audience from April into June. But the audience did not go to the sports competition either. WPEN 950 only showed a very slight increase but remains in the market's cellar through 2/3 of the spring ratings period.

PITTSBURGH - Paul Steigerwald has been signed for the next 2 seasons as the TV voice of the Penguins on FSN Pittsburgh. This announcement comes after rumors that Mike Lange, who called the Pen's games for 30 years, might return. Bob Errey continues as analyst. The pair will call the Penguins' season opening games from Sweeden against the Ottawa Senators as part of their 71 telecasts. Stegerwald has been with the Penguins since 1980 as a team official, radio analyst, and radio play-by-play before moving to the TV side. He also spent 10 years as a reporter on KDKA-TV.

SAN DIEGO - KOGO 600 will continue to have 2 broadcasters, rather than a play-by-play voice and analyst, on its San Diego State football broadcasts when their season starts in a few weeks. Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton, as we reported several weeks ago, is indeed out as the commentator. The replacement will be Chris Ello, midday host on XTRA 1360, has been named to the role. Ello did attend SDSU, but played baseball and not football while there. I'd sure like to think that someone played for SDSU and would be able to share his knowledge and experience on the school's broadcast, but it sure doesn't look like it. At the same time, XTRA 1360 now plans to air a national college football broadcast each Saturday, and will again carry NFL games on Sundays.

DENVER - Congrats to KOA's Alan Roach on being named as the new Public Address Announcer for the Broncos games beginning next month. Roach replaces 67 year-old Alan Cass, who held the post for the previous 20 seasons. Being at a Broncos home game will seem "In--Com--Plete" without Cass.

ATLANTA - Nice touch for FSN South and SportsSouth, adding injured pitcher John Smoltz to upcoming Sunday and Wednesday pre-game shows while he recovers. He officially joins former teammate Brian Jordan in this role.

DALLAS - Longtime Cowboys voice Brad Sham will briefly portray a reporter questioning star Josh Brolin during Brolin's portrayal of President Bush in the upcoming Oliver Stone movie, "W". It is believed that Sham having called Rangers games in the mid-90's during George W. Bush's ownership of the team helped him to land this role. They always used to say that the sportscaster was the most valuable and flexible position at radio stations, but this is quite the example.

HARTFORD - Congrats also go out to Arnie D'Angelo, known as Arnold Dean on WTIC-AM. The 78 year-old semi-retired Dean was saluted at a special dinner and ceremony in the Hartford suburb of South Windsor last week for his 60 years in broadcasting. Dean goes back to the days of doing whatever it took, including having hosted a cooking show prior to becoming Sports Director.

ALBANY - A strange twist for the upcoming NFL pre-season, as the Albany market might be able to see more N.Y. Jets exhibition games than those of the champion Giants. WRGB-TV will air the Jets' game vs. Washington and carry the CBS-TV telecast vs. the Giants, while sister station WCWN-TV will carry the Jets' 2 road telecasts. This while no local TV station has been announced to carry the 2 Giants' pre-season games not already scheduled for national TV.

PALM BEACH - Sometimes in sports the local audience isn't really local. Palm Beach's 760 ESPN Radio proves that, but the recent growth of the station (moving to a larger facility and adding more employees) shows that being different can mean being more successful, as the station celebrates its 5 year anniversary. Afternoon host Evan Cohen continues to regularly focus on New York and Boston sports, based on the large number of transplanted sports fans from those areas within the marketplace. Then most nights, the station brings play-by-play of each of the Miami area's pro sports teams. For the first quarter of 2008, 760-AM had better ratings in Palm Beach County than the strong WQAM Miami signal. The earlier part of the day, including morning drive, features the ESPN Radio lineup.

SPARTANBURG - The University of South Carolina football and basketball broadcasts will return to Spartanburg starting August 28th with the football game vs. N.C. State. ESPN 1400 will air all South Carolina football and basketball broadcasts which do not conflict with the station's established schedule for Wooford College broadcasts. No word yet as to whether conflicting games will be broadcast on tape delay or moved elsewhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 14th update

The financial "battle" for fans to be able to see their favorite team via their local cable system without having to keep on spending seems to continue even after some cable systems have worked things out.

Without any movement from Bright House Networks, an Orlando FL area cable TV provider, the Orlando Sentinel has published an editorial complaining on behalf of Magic fans. As things stand right now, FSN Florida remains on an "optional" (and of course, extra cost) sports tier, meaning that nearly half (35) of the Magic's games will not be seen by subscribers with only a basic cable package. The editorial urges FSN Florida and Bright House to get a deal together. I'll go one step further and put some blame on the Magic as well. The team approved this deal, and as it stands now, approved their games going to a much reduced audience. And if I had to pony up even more bucks for a cable sports package, it would come out of any money spent toward attending games in person. Even if it is not the Magic's fault that I'd be forced to pay several dollars each month to the cable company for religious, foreign language, and other cable channels I am forced to pay for and have zero interest in. (Nothing against those channels - but I don't know of anyone who practices multiple religions and multiple languages simultaneously.)

Yet, if I was in charge of the radio station which broadcasts all of the Magic games on "free" radio, I'd be sure to do some significant ticket giveaways during the broadcasts this season. Let the fans benefit financially (saving the hefty ticket prices) as a result of listening to the games instead of trying to find them or paying more for them on TV.

Speaking of "outside" dollars and sports, it is already time to wonder if or to what extent the international purchase of Busch will have on Budweiser's significant sports sponsorships. Bud is literally the local level sponsor of more than half of the big 4 pro sports broadcasts (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) around the country. If the new owners cut back on these, that would be a big pinch for radio and TV local telecasts everywhere before the next round of negotiations.

Meanwhile, after weeks of an anticipated announcement that the SEC would form its own TV network similar to the Big Ten, this possibility appears to have gone backward instead of forward. Fox Sun Sports has signed a $1 million+ per year deal with the University of Florida.

This is termed a "media rights" deal with the school, which has very recent football and basketball championships to run with into the upcoming seasons.

This deal will include football, including the Sunday morning replay of the previous day's (or most recent) game, men's and women's hoops, and baseball. Sun Sports already reaches over 6,000,000 Florida homes. When you consider that Tennessee, LSU, and Kentucky also generate significant local TV revenue, this Florida deal could be a temporary or even long-term set back for the SEC. Compared with the Orlando Magic story, this is somewhat of a "victory" for regional sports fans, who already have Sun Sports as opposed to now being asked to pay up. The SEC is now expected to announce new partnerships with CBS-TV and the ESPN Networks which will add to the increased Conference revenue. Word is that the new ESPN package would include rights to games previously used for game syndication. If that comes to pass, a SEC Network would then be highly unlikely.

No word yet about the extension of "Media Rights" such as how programs, stadium signage, and more, will be integrated for advertisers.

As we have been pointing out of late, the trend for pro teams to step in and work directly with large advertisers and sponsors continued again since our last writing. Now the NFL Indianapolis Colts, about to open their brand new stadium in a few weeks, have secured AdJuggler to use on the team's official web sites and to provide software to provide the team with additional reporting statistics used in conjunction with advertisers. Another team with one less weapon for radio sales concepts.

Speaking of pro teams and radio, The Cincinnati Enquirer confirmed in a report that the Reds have taken steps to slightly delay their Reds broadcasts in order to synchornize their play-by-play with the telecasts. The report says that the sponsors are happy with this, since it allows more fans to enjoy popular Reds broadcasters Marty and Thom Brennaman (father and son) while watching the picture. The Reds are not the only team to have this situation. There are other cities with radio broadcasts far more popular than TV, such as the Chicago White Sox where the TV voice Ken Harrelson is not popular.

However, fans at Reds home games, one of the few baseball parks where fans still bring a radio to listen, are disappointed when they see a play unfold to THEN hear the description after the fact.

As I have also been pointing out for months, here is another example of how HD Radio could be utilized and become attractive to the public. In this instance, WLW could air the game truly live on its main channel, with an HD Channel to carry the game synched up with each telecast, and make everyone happy. And, of course, it could then rebroadcast the games on that HD Channel, enabling shift workers and others to hear the games (and the commercials!) at their convenience while not distracting from current programming.

NEW YORK - Talk about putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to sports! Got to give credit to Greg Marotta. The 52 year-old Marotta has, as of this week, purchased 10 hours of air time, from 3 - 5 PM Monday through Friday, to literally do his own sports show on WVNJ 1160. The signal is known to cover NYC and into New Jersey, along with west Long Island and Westchester and Rockland. His purchase also includes steaming on Long ago, Marotta played football at Memphis State (now Memphis). He is not believed to be related to long time Los Angeles sportscaster Rich Marotta.

ALASKA - College hoops fans who have enjoyed the Great Alaska Shootout tourney each November may be stuck without it on the tube for the first time since 1985. The University of Alaska Anchorage Athletic Director has acknowledged that since ESPN has created a separate tourney on the same dates the Great Alaska Shootout has been shot out of the ESPN fold. The school may not have enough time to arrange for another national package in time for this year's tourney. So still another 20+ year sports tradition goes by the wayside. Kind of makes you wish ESPN would stay in the TV business rather than a creative one.

BOISE - Let me add one more set of congrats. After last week's announcement that Bob Behler becomes the new Idaho State play-by-play voice comes word that Jadon Dailey joins the crew as analyst. Dailey was a started in BSU's recent 2006-07 Fiesta Bowl bound team.

FRESNO - It's not exactly a Nebraska or Florida type package, but Fresno State University has extended its contract with KMJ Radio through 2013. The school reported chose to renew instead of going with a reportedly higher competitor offer based on KMJ's 50,000 watt signal and regional impact.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 9th Update

While many radio stations continue to anticipate the impact of the PPM's on the ratings, pro sports teams continue to embrace the concept as well. Now the Super Bowl champion New York Giants have contracted with Arbitron to use PPM's to compile research about the listening audience for game broadcasts. Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies have already invested in this form of team research. With more and more teams taking control of their radio packages, and in particular the broadcast advertising, I can't help but think there is more to it than the research showing when fans tend to tune in and tune out of broadcasts. Team officials receiving custom PPM reports will probably be able to provide potential broadcast advertisers with more specific targeting than the radio stations can or will. What I'm getting at is that some pro (and some major college) sports teams could actually be able to offer advertisers more bang for their buck than the station itself.

Having been on both sides of the fence during my career (selling and buying air time along with print and internet), I can easily see how this new technology which radio is embracing could actually take away some ad revenue from some stations. I'll use a baseball and a football example.Over the years, I have heard several baseball broadcasts which have one or more sponsors specific to pitching changes. But as a baseball fan, I realize that a spot during a pitching change in the 5th inning of a one-sided game won't have the same impact as running it while the closer comes in during the 8th or 9th inning with runners in scoring position. But now a MLB team selling its own time and producing its own broadcasts could sell spots for "pitching changes after the 7th inning". True, if the originating station carries the rights, so could they. But the team could also combine this buy with the rolling billboards behind home plate, stadium ads, program ads, promotional giveaways, and all of the other weapons a team now has to offer.

Carry that over to football, and the Giants could (for example) offer stadium advertising, game day program space, web site banners, and spots during Giants time outs during the 2nd half of their games, all for one price. That is most likely less than what the originating radio station could offer on its own for an advertiser specifically looking to reach Giants fans moreso than the demographics.

This technology, along with what I call "stadium technology" and team web sites and marketing promotions, is already allowing some teams to offer a lot to major advertisers. It will be interesting to see if the stations drop the ball come the next broadcast rights negotiation period.

Meanwhile, in addition to 3-person broadcast teams and an increasing amount of sideline reporters all over sports telecasts, NBC-TV is about to overcrowd the studio for its upcoming Sunday Night NFL. While its reuniting of Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann is welcome by many sports fans, this really means that Bob Costas and his role will allow for a lot of duplication. Personally, I enjoy all three of these reporters, but there is only so much air time available from the studio for these telecasts. Hopefully this can be worked out so that each has their air time and we can enjoy everyone.

As expected, Showtime's "Inside the NFL" will have a CBS Sports flavor when it debuts on its new home in a few weeks. James Brown, Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth will now host, with Brown and Simms continuing their CBS-TV roles each weekend.

Speaking of technology and sports broadcasting, the trend of expanding sports coverage beyond TV and radio continues with the announcement from Turner Broadcasting and the NBA earlier this week. Congrats to Bryan Perez, named as Senior V.P. and General Manager of NBA Digital. His responsibilities will include NBA-TV,, and the WNBA and Development League, and include operations, programming, and marketing.

While the SEC is still reportedly trying to form its own TV network, the conference's radio exposure increased with the announcement that all 12 SEC teams will have their broadcasts carried on XM starting this season. This is an increase from the 7 teams XM carried last year, adding Alabama, Auburn, Florida, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt. Along with the championship football game, XM will also carry the majority of men's basetball games, along with some women's hoops and a handful of SEC baseball games next spring. Again, while radio stations worry about people not taking to HD Radio, XM swoops up another delight for the college football fans.

NEW JERSEY - WCTC 1450 AM will continue to air Rutgers sports this fall even with the station's change this week from talk to "Good Time Oldies".

OKLAHOMA CITY - Now that the NBA team that played in Seattle is officially relocating to Oklahoma City, the broadcasting rights field is open and underway even before the team is re-named. (Legally, the Supersonics name and likeness remains in Seattle in hopes of landing a relocation or expansion franchise in a couple of years.) Word is that Matt Pinto, the radio voice of the team in Seattle this past season, will make the move along with the team. TV voice Kevin Calabro, after more than 20 seasons calling the action, is not expected to follow and will likely remain in Seattle. The 46 year-old Pinto was the voice of the Charlotte Hornets for 8 seasons, along with stins doing the Dallas Mavericks and L.A. Clippers. He worked the radio broadcasts solo in Seattle, but it's too early to tell if that will change in Oklahoma City. KTOK 1000 carried the New Orleans Hornets broadcasts 2 seasons ago when the team was forced to play most of its home games in OK City following Hurricane Katrina, and is believed to be a front-runner for the radio rights.

HOUSTON - The Astros are now expected to delay negotiations for their radio rights into August, after the exclusive negotiations period with KTRH 740 runs out at the end of July. Look for KGOW 1560 AM and KFNC 97.5 FM to enter the bidding war, unless KTRH and Clear Channel up the ante. KGOW is approaching its one year anniversary as another of Houston's sports radio stations.

ATLANTA - It looks like WCNN 680 The Fan's afternoon show with John Kincade and Buck Belue ("Buck & Kincade Show") will stay put in the 3 - 7 PM spot for at least 2 more years. Kincade reportedly was considering returning to his native Philadelphia and WIP, but is expected to sign again with The Fan by the end of this week.

SEATTLE - Moving past the loss of the NBA Sonics, the Mariners' radio picture for next year is still in the works. The Seattle Times reports that a team official said a final decision is still a few weeks away after rumors that KIRO had secured the rights away from KOMO were published.

SAN ANTONIO - This week it's not "Remember The Alamo". It is to remember Dan Cook who passed away last week at the age of 81 after a long illness. Cook was a sportscaster at KENS-TV from 1956 to 2000, in addition to being an award winning columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He is credited with being the first to use the saying "The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings" in 1978. (That phrase is often believed to have been debuted by then Washington Bullets coach Dick Motta but it started with Cook.) He will be missed.

SOUTH BEND - Maybe you can come home again. Notre Dame broadcasts will air locally on WSBT 960 AM this season, starting with the San Diego State game on September 6th. WSBT was the first radio station ever to broadcast Notre Dame football back in 1922 and has done so for more seasons than any other local station. The station signed a 6 year agreement which also will include men's basketball and hockey broadcasts, along with coaches shows and other related programming including a football post-game call-in show. Sunny 101.4 FM will also broadcast football. WSBT will also carry basketball, while hockey games will air on Cat Country 99.9 FM. Sunny and Cat Country will also be called upon during basketball season to carry Indiana University broadcasts when they conflict with Notre Dame games. The football broadcasts will be the national feed with Don Criqui and Allen Pinkett, while Jack Nolan and LaPhonso Ellis will call the men's hoops.

LOUISVILLE - The University of Louisville's coaches shows will have new but prominent local hosts starting this season. WHAS Radio and TV's Paul Rogers will host "Kickoff With Coach K" with footbal coach Steve Kragthorpe in addition to his play-by-play duties. Kyle Draper, recently named WHAS Sports Director, will host "Cards Big East Report" which airs monthly. WHAS Radio's afternoon drive talk show host Terry Meiners will now be the lone host of "Courtside with Rick Pitino" during basketball season. Meiners has been broadcasting in the region for more than 30 years, having begun his career at WKQQ-FM Lexington as a rock jock while Denny Crum was coaching at Louisville and Joe B. Hall at U. of Kentucky.

BOISE - Congrats to Bob Behler, signed last week to a 2 year deal to handle play-by-play for both football and basketball for Boise State broadcasts on KIDO 580.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sports Media Report - July 1st Update

With so little format competition on the local radio dial it seems newsworthy when one station goes after a competitor in the same market. As of this writing, one Chicago all sports radio station takes a poke at the other on Wednesday (July 2) afternoon. Mike North, whose contract was not renewed after June 30th as morning and midday host for more than 16 years at WSCR "The Score", and who has been off the air for almost 2 weeks, makes a media return this week.

After a TV appearance on Comcast SportsNet Chicago on Tuesday, North is/was scheduled to appear on "rival" WMVP, which is Chicago's ESPN Radio with host Dan McNeil. The 2 have not always gotten along in the past, but this, to use the sports term, looks like a win-win situation. North continues to stay in the media spotlight while looking for his next gig, and McNeil hopes to attract more listeners to his successful afternoon show. It remains to be seen if or how much North would bash his former employer. But as I commented last week, WMVP is not likely to shake up its morning or afternoon lineup, and it is doubtful that North would succeed on a non-sports radio outlet in Chicago

DETROIT: The move of sports WXYT to an AM-FM combination appears to payoff on the Detroit sports radio scene. The latest ratings show mornings with Towers & McAllister on the rise, and an overall audience share which is now quadruple that of WDFN. The recent surge by the Tigers to get back into the A.L. Central race could fuel more local sports interest during these few weeks before college and pro football become hot topics again. Ooops. We're talking Detroit. Make that college football as a hot topic.

ATLANTA: Count me among those wondering if more will come from Matt Chernoff filling in for 2 days last week on 680 The Fan. Chernoff subbed for Chistopher Rude last Thursday and Friday (June 26 & 27). Although Rude returned on Monday, Chernoff was reported to feel very positive about the radio gig after only doing TV work this year.

HOUSTON - Whether it will be the start of another long-term tradition or not, a new chapter in Houston Rockets radio is officially about to begin this October. Long-time voices Gene Peterson and Jim Foley are gone, and 33 year-old Craig Ackerman has been named to the play-by-play spot. The team has decided to let Ackerman, who has worked for the Rockets in some capacity since 1994, handle the radio duties solo. The Rockets are not the only team to reduce to one radio voice. I find it ironic that some local telecasts have added sideline reporters and a studio analyst (along with a studio host) often creating a total of 5 broadcasters for a local regular season telecast. This when people can see what is going on during each play just by watching. Yet on the radio side, the listeners will go without even one former player or coach to explain what is happening. Seems backwards to me. But we wish Ackerman the best in his new role.

The Houston sports radio race continues to keep KILT 610 as the leader, at least through the May monthlies, over KFNC 97.5.

BALTIMORE: A big change on the local TV landscape with last Thursday's surprising announcement that Scott Garceau gave up his Channel 2 sportscasting duties after more than 28 years. WMAR's web site insists that Garceau will continue with the station handling sports specials including Ravens related programming. He was the radio voice of the Ravens for their first 10 seasons in Baltimore, and also handled play-by-play of Orioles baseball when WMAR did the telecasts.

A newsworthy week for WMAR-TV continued when the station announced that due to the Olympics coverage from NBC they need to move a pair of their Ravens pre-season telecasts to WBAL-TV. This comes during the first year of a multi-year deal with the Ravens. WBAL-TV is a natural to handle these games, since WBAL Radio continues as the radio home of the Ravens, and will simulcast these broadcasts. Gerry Sandusky, Rob Burnett, and Stan White return to call the action again this coming season.

DALLAS: Great to see that Tom Grieve successfully returned to the Rangers TV booth this past week for their interleague series against the Phillies. His return came less than 3 weeks after undergoing prostate cancer surgery.

SAN DIEGO: The disappointing season the Padres are having is making for interesting radio for listeners to XX 1090. Expecting the Padres to again contend for the N.L. West this season, executive Sandy Alderson, GM Kevin Towers, Manager Bud Black, Pitching Coach Darren Balsley, and team execs Grady Fuson and Paul DePodestra, all have scheduled appearances on 1090 talk shows. Alderson got into a nearly heated discussion with a host and callers, with Alderson later saying the frustrations of the season will not impact the Padres' participation in station programming. As for the play-by-play, ageless Jerry Coleman is already under contract for 2009, and the team is expected to announce prior to the end of this season whether or not Ted Leitner and Andy Masur will be brought back for next year.

NEW ORLEANS - ESPN Radio wasn't off the air in New Orleans for very long after all. WWWL 1350 started airing the ESPN Radio lineup in tact earlier this week, but with one exception. "The Food Show" continues in the 4 - 7 PM afternoon drive spot in the midst of the all-sports broadcast day. The real reason for this is that powerhouse sister station WWL airs its sports talk, hosted by former Saints QB Bobby Hebert with Deke Bellavia, from 4 to 7 PM on weekdays.

DENVER: KWGN-TV reduces its sports department by one more, quietly announcing that Marc Soicher's contract will not be renewed after it expires on July 18th, and that the position will not be replaced. The 45 year-old Soicher was about to begin his 10th year in the Denver Market which included working with FSN Rocky Mountain in 2004. Speculation for his near future turns to KMGH Channel 7, where sportscaster Phil Aldridge recently left for a TV sports anchor position in Minneapolis.

ORLANDO: Sports fans continue to be plagued by WHOO-AM's weak signal, and the only all-sports station in town struggles along, now with only one locally produced show. Some are debating whether it is the lack of local sports programming or the signal problems that are the issue. Given that Orlando has only one of the "big 4" pro sports league franchises (the NBA Magic) in the market, and a large number of transplants now living in the region and following other teams from around the country, I'm still thinking that national sports talk and information is the way to go anyway. It's only because people can't hear it over the air while they can tune to satellite or watch the TV sports channels to get their sports "fix".

RALEIGH-DURHAM: See Orlando. Local sports talk without pro teams in the market doesn't cut it. WCMC 99.9 FM The Fan, which went all-sports from being a country music station, has an audience share of under 1% to show for looking to knock off market sports radio leader WRBZ 850 The Buzz. Then again, The Buzz only generated a 1% market share in the recent ratings book.

COLORADO SPRINGS - KKML 1300 has put "The Sports Animal" out of its misery after 4 years, changed calls to KCS and as of this week is now a classic country music station. The next day (July 1), Pueblo Colorado's KGHF 1350 dropped its sports format and went to an oldies music format. With the move of Denver's "The Fan" from AM to 104.3 FM earlier this year, it means that the Colorado Springs region is now without an all-sports radio station.

Play-by-play is not effected by these changes. KCS will continue to air the Rockies baseball games, KCCY 96.9 FM will again carry Broncos football this year, although plans are not yet definite on which local outlet will carry the Nuggets broadcasts starting in October.