Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sports Media Report - August 13th Update

How about promoting instead of battling? Radio owners including Clear Channel just spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to block the satellite radio merger. That money would have been better spent on an effective publicity campaign for theirs and other FM and AM radio stations in general.

As I've said thousands of times, if FM-AM radio had varied playlists with thousands of songs and wider format variety, unlimited local and national sports events, entertainers hosting their own programs, and stopped the five minute plus commercial clusters, millions of people wouldn't feel compelled to spend a monthly fee to listen to satellite radio in the first place. Instead, they would have bought HD radios to enjoy these niche channels along with the local stations they used to enjoy.

Another advantage radio has is specific to the sports fan. No blackouts of local teams and games. They are all on. As a fan paying a rising monthly fee for cable TV, I'm feeling ripped off, just as I would with satellite TV. Not the case with radio. I am paying for a service and I subscribe because I can get certain channels. But there are still instances where basic and subscription packages still black out telecasts in certain markets.

These days, the blackout crap even extends to online streaming by At first I welcomed the Yahoo Sports story the other day about how the folks at are looking at lifting local blackout restrictions for their online streaming of live games package as soon as next season. It seems that presently local teams have the right to stop additional games from being seen online by subscribers in defined geographic areas. While changing that would be a positive, it never should have been an issue in the first place.

This is in the same category as situations in baseball and with the NBA where a national cable telecast is blacked out in one or both of the teams' local markets. It is to "force" us to watch the local telecast. Sorry again, but I am paying for a choice I'm not getting. There are situations where fans such as myself don't enjoy the local announcers and/or are not fans of the anchor team of the telecast and prefer a national perspective. We should have that choice.

Without every possible game shown being available, I won't even think about paying for the games online. I don't like the TV announcers for my favorite team, so I would consider buying the MLB package if I could then watch the other team's local telecast. But I can't do that either with the pay package on cable or online.

If the local telecasts lose rating points and ad dollars because people are watching a national version, it should be a red flag for the local team to make changes. The bottom line should be that the teams and the games have the full amount of viewers they could get, no matter where they are being seen.

Fans in the New York - Boston corridor probably don't realize that TBS has a Sunday afternoon MLB package. So far it has been mostly NY and Boston games, and TBS is presently blacked out by cable systems carrying the local telecast. Yet, those same fans still pay the same price each month for TBS, even though they are not getting all of its programming.

What does this have to do with radio? This lack of choice is non-existent. The home team broadcasts are always heard, and when a national broadcast airs on another station in the market, they both air. Examples include Sunday Night Baseball when ESPN Radio's broadcast goes up against the local team's regular broadcast if they are on separate stations. Baseball post-season games also are often carried with both the local and national feed competing.

This is the sort of thing that radio in general could be promoting. Stations can make it look like they play more than 500 songs each, point out that they have no local sports blackouts like TV, and offer live local coverage not found anywhere else. The rest of that money should be spent on using their HD channels to carry additional sports broadcasts, replay games, plus additional music and local information channels.

Meanwhile, we have had another example in sports of how one player can impact thousands of media dollars within a matter of hours. This week it is Brett Favre. Or it could be. Hours after his being traded to the Jets, the NFL Network adjusted its TV schedule for the pre-season, getting the first Jets exhibition game on live and scheduling the others for tape delayed showing across the country of the Jets telecasts. (Ironicially, Favre was traded by Green Bay and the majority of Wisconsin still cannot receive NFL Network, but that's another story.)

There will be even more impact on the TV regular season. ESPN will not be sending its entire crew to Green Bay for its Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 8th and the surrounding program since there will not be a Favre retirement ceremony. That was the reason for scheduling this as the Monday opener in the first place. Yet, WFRV-TV Channel 5 Green Bay is reported to be looking at scheduling as many of the Jets' games as it can as part of its CBS-TV schedule of games. Since the majority of the Packers Sunday and non-national games are carried by Fox, WFRV gets to choose which game(s) to carry the majority of the Sundays. Yet, 3 of the first 4 Jets telecasts scheduled for CBS-TV are games against Miami, Cincinnati, and Kansas City. Not exactly the cream of the crop. The Sept. 14th game Jets vs. New England is already slated as the CBS-TV doubleheader game, and that figures to be the only big draw of the bunch, even in Green Bay.

The whole thing could backfire if Favre's "arm fatigue" leading into this coming weekend results in him not even playing regularly. I doubt that fans will tune in every week to watch him patrol the sidelines if that is where he winds up.

COLUMBUS - While the Big Ten Network finally debuts over the next couple of weeks in many of the Big Ten markets on basic cable, still no such luck for most Ohio State fans in the heart of the Buckeyes region. Even the BTN deal with Comcast didn't get it done with Time Warner Cable in Ohio. And the BTN will likely carry 3 of their first 5 games during the coming football season.

St. LOUIS - The legal action between former KFNS 590 AM sports talk host Kevin Slaten and the station over the Dave Duncan interview months ago when Duncan was not told he was on the air has taken the next step. A judge has ruled that Slaten indeed must stay off the St. Louis area air waves until at least October 5, 2008. The action means that Slaten was not able to remove the non-compete clause in his contract. This ruling is independent of the non-compete legal action underway in New York.

PHILADELPHIA - WIP and the Flyers welcome Chris Therien as the new radio analyst beginning this coming season, replacing Brian Propp. Tim Saunders continues on play-by-play. Therien has experience with Comcast SportsNet Post Game Live locally, and has also done some work on NHL Network. He played 11 seasons with the Flyers.

BUFFALO - Congrats to Ron Jaworski. The ESPN Monday Night Football analyst and former Eagles QB has been named to the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Ron is antive of suburban Lackawanna.

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