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.

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