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.

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