Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sports Media Report - November 19th update

The Houston Astros, like the N.Y. Mets, are standing pat as far as their flagship radio outlet is concerned. KTRH 740 will indeed remain as the Astros station for 2009. The night time signal strength of KTRH is believed to have been an important factor in negotiations. Exact length and terms have yet to be announced. Thus, the two largest National League teams with radio rights up for 2009 have now both stayed with the same station, as the Mets already announced continuing and adding coverage through WFAN.

On the TV side, the Colorado Rockies have just announced a (get this) 12 year contract extension with FSN Rocky Mountain which runs through the 2020 season. This contract reflects the national trend of fewer games on over-the-air TV and many more on cable. To the point that KTVD-TV will no longer carry any Rockies games, effective immediately. FSN Rocky Mountain will carry approximately 150 games each season, which covers everything except for Fox and any exclusive ESPN (or other cable network) telecasts.

To put this in perspective, when FSN Rocky Mountain first televised any Rockies games in 1997, they showed a grand total of seven games. Ironically, this announcement comes on the heels of a reported 5.5% decline in Rockies ratings from the recently completed season. The expert level of coverage will continue, as FSN plans to continue with extended pre and post-game programming and the post-game manager's press conference. Some cable systems in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas, are also expected to receive the telecasts.

Needless to say, comments abound from the big announcement that ESPN will handle the BCS telecasts from January 2011 through January of 2014 and the impact on the championship system and the game itself. Or is it a "game" anymore?

I feel like saying the 'business' of college football in every sentence. This new agreement continues the current system which supposedly determines a national champion each season but really continues the same arguments that have gone on for years. Only at a much higher cost.

Normally, I don't step away from the field and make this a business column either. But I have a different take on this ESPN BCS announcement and its true impact on the 'business' of college football.

Hundreds of millions of dollars supposedly go to the universities and colleges. Yet, tuition plus room and board continue to rise. Advertisers will be charged more money to help pay the freight, which usually means an increase in the cost of products and services which spend the big promotional dollars. The price of game tickets, even at the college level, continues to rise to the point of pricing out more people than ever before who are not current students. Yet, the players who lead their school to a conference, bowl game, or a national championship, are not paid any of this cash.

And all of this while universities and conferences are forming their own TV and marketing deals for direct profit. It may be more interesting than the games themselves to see how this shakes out within the next few months. Will the upcoming BCS Series sell all of its TV time? Word is that there are still national spots available during the upcoming Super Bowl.

Oh, and before we get to college championship time, the TV competition heats up in early December.

The Dec. 6th rivalry game between Arizona and Arizona State has been moved to a 6:00 PM start time. Of course, it has been moved for television. Believe it or not, not just for one telecast. ESPN will carry the game, but it will also be shown, via separate feed and announcers, in Arizona on Fox Sports Arizona. FSA can show the game based on its Pac 12 contract; however the non-exclusive portion of the contract allows ESPN to step in.

Thanksgiving weekend college football telecasts have also been announced. CBS will have LSU at Arkansas, with Don Criqui and Dan Fouts on the call, for Friday Nov. 28th at 2:30 ET. On Sat. Nov. 29th CBS shows Georgia vs. Georgia TEch followed by Alabama hosting Auburn.

On the NFL side, CBS has moved the N.Y. Jets game vs. Denver to a 4:00 ET start on Nov. 30th. Given that the Jets and Giants were both tentatively scheduled for 1:00 ET that day, it was inevitable that one of those games would go later. Fox keeps the Giants vs. Washington game for its early primary regional telecast.

Following up on a comment from last week, we did receive clarification about FOX-TV's decision to send Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to handle the Cowboys vs. 49ers telecast this coming Sunday (Nov. 23). Turns out it is a matter of logistics, as the Fox "#1 crew" needs to be in Dallas for the Thanksgiving game just 4 days later. Thus, Kenny Albert calling the Giants vs. Cardinals doubleheader game will be seen in more than 75% of the nation.

Getting back to baseball, Dennis Eckersley will continue as studio analyst for Red Sox telecasts on NESN under a new contract. Eck is also expected to continue in studio for TBS for next season.

No word yet from Chicago as to whether or not Darin Jackson will shift over to the White Sox radio booth or leave to pursue other opportunities. A decision had been expected within 2 weeks of the end of the World Series.

Meanwhile, word from Los Angeles is that veteran sportscaster Rory Markas continues a positive recovery from blood clot surgery on his brain. Steve Physioc continues to fill in for Rory on USC basketball broadcasts, except for a few schedule conflicts. USC football voice Pete Arbogast was originally selected to fill in for Physioc filling in for Markas.

Now the L.A. Daily News reports that sources claim Arbogast complained to USC's Athletic Director about that decision. Athletic Director Mike Garrett took action in response. Pac-10 Conference basketball play-by-play man Isaac Lowendron, who has also called games on KLAC 570, will handle the assignments originally targeted for Arbogast. Ooops.

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