Monday, October 13, 2008

Sports Media Report - Oct. 13th update

How times have changed with TV sports coverage. I never thought the time would come when one TV network would acknowledge another sport being shown at the same time on another network.

It happened on Sunday night (Oct. 12) during the Phillies-Dodgers Game 3 telecast of the NLCS. Just as the Sunday Night Football game on rival NBC-TV reached halftime, Fox's Joe Buck did an immediate recap of the baseball game to that point, introducing it by saying "For those of you who have been watching the football game............".

Granted, Fox-TV also has the NFL and was a couple of hours removed from its Sunday doubleheader to most of the country, but a "two-sport" acknowledgement is a huge rarity.

I'm not sure how much audience research will be available or released about how Fox and NBC did during that quarter hour.

Once upon a time, it was a "no-no" to so much as acknowledge another network on the air, let alone a blatant reference to a telecast competing for much of the same audience.

I had no idea that was coming and was stunned. Doing that recap pretty much told viewers who were over at NBC-TV that they didn't need to tune over to check on the NLCS score any earlier.

After all, it has been years and years of networks not addressing an event on a competing network. I highly doubt this was anything that Joe Buck did on his own. Fox had a graphic ready to go to show the recap of key plays and events in the baseball game. Plus, Buck had to be made aware by someone that indeed the NFL game had reached the halftime mark exactly when it did.

Fox had spent its NFL doubleheader promoting the baseball telecast for the night. Obviously, they were out to lure the football fans. Hours later, while the baseball game they were carrying was already somewhat one-sided, they reminded millions of people that another network had an NFL game in progress.

Buck did not give the score of the NFL game. He only "welcomed" those viewers at half time. Say what? Since the baseball game was not close, I would bet that a percentage of viewers tuned over to NBC to see if the NFL game was closer. Maybe Fox overlooked that the San Diego Chargers were playing in the NFL game, while their NLCS game featured the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many fans in Orange County, for example, were then reminded of a choice between two "local" teams.

That could have been a costly announcement in terms of viewers by Fox. They should have known how to handle this. As I see it, here is what they should have done. The game recap still could have started exactly when it did, to coincide with the start of half-time of the competing football telecast.

All Joe Buck should have said was "If you are just now joining us........" and gone on with the recap. By doing so, the large number of football fans tuned to Fox would not have been reminded about another option to watch.

As it is, Fox is required to promote the American League Championship Series telecasts on TBS during its telecasts. In this case, it is required and reciprocal with TBS. But the result is that during this one baseball game, Fox was promoting specific telecasts on TWO other TV networks.

That is a long way from the "check your local listings" approach the networks and stations used to take regarding their competition.

Meanwhile, yet another sportscasting veteran has left us. Gil Stratton passed away last week at the age of 86 in his Los Angeles home located minutes from Universal Studios. A fixture on KNX Radio and KNXT-TV in Los Angeles since the mid-50's, Stratton won the "Golden Mike Award" from the Southern California Broadcasters Association seven different times.

NBA fans who enjoy all of the national TV the league has to offer but do not or no longer enjoy the omnipresent Bill Walton are closer to having it their way for the upcoming season. While Walton has not officially been "replaced", Magic Johnson has been signed to be an NBA studio analyst for ESPN and ABC starting with the upcoming season. Magic leaves TNT after seven seasons in a similar role on their Thursday night and numerous playoff telecasts. This is the exact role which Walton has held for the past few seasons.

Coach Jeff Van Gundy has also signed on with ESPN and ABC to continue as a game analyst for this season and beyond. His new five year deal keeps him on the #1 team with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson.

NEW YORK - Kenny Smith will not return to MSG and Knicks TV this season. Since Gus Johnson continues on the radio side, word is that Gus may have an expanded role to include some MSG coverage now that Smith is gone.

The new NBA season also marks the changing of the guard, as a pair of long long time legends will be reduced or eliminated from the TV booth. In Boston, Bob Cousy was not asked back by Comcast SportsNet at all for this season following his reduced workload last season. In Chicago, Johnny "Red" Kerr, a part of the Bulls franchise since he was their first head coach during their expansion year of 1966-67, will only appear on pre and post-game plus halftime of home games shown on Comcast SportsNet. Both of these legends are nearing 80 years old. Cousy had been a part of Celtics TV for the past 34 seasons.

St. LOUIS - Best wishes to Kelly Chase, radio analyst on the Blues' hockey broadcasts, who is undergoing examination for a lesion on his brain. The 40 year-old Chase was hopeful of continuing on the air until further determinations are made. The St. Louis Post Dispatch also quoted play-by-play voice Chris Kerber as saying he did not notice any difference with Chase during their recent broadcasts going back into the pre-season.

With college hoops about one month away, St. Louis University still has not announced a radio deal for its games. If nothing happens after their season starts, we have to wonder if "Movin' FM" would pick up the broadcasts for after its Jan. 1st debut as the market's latest all-sports station.

KANSAS CITY - While the Royals have become the latest team to announce a ticket price hike for next season, it looks as though the broadcast teams will remain in place for 2009. Bob Davis is expected to be signed to continue in the radio booth along with Denny Matthews and Steve Stewart. Davis made the successful move to radio for this past season when switched with Ryan Lefebvre was moved to TV when FSN began handling the Royals telecasts.

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