Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sports Media Update - November 5th update

Maybe, just maybe, it is possible that pro sports teams realize the economics that face the true fans when it comes to supporting their favorite team. While some teams continue to increase ticket prices and push PSL's on fans that are struggling with real life, others have begun to see the need for a marketing push. But who would have thought the NHL Toronto Maple Leafs would be among them?

Yes, the Maple Leafs have used the TAXI 2 agency to produce 30 and 60 second spots to air all during November in the Toronto area using a "Spirit Is Everything" slogan. A franchise once so dominant in the marketplace that experts questioned the possibilities of baseball's Blue Jays and the NBA's Raptors even making it in Toronto due to having to compete for the entertainment dollar against the Leafs.

The spots use the concept of having fans tell the story of his or her most memorable goal by the Leafs. But it seems to me that having to promote the Maple Leafs to fans in Toronto is like, well, having to promote the Leafs to the fans in Toronto.

Baseball fans across the U.S will be flat out amazed at the upcoming MLB-TV Network which debuts on basic cable on January 1st. While it is already expected to be the largest debut for a cable network in terms of available homes upon inception, the Network appears well on its way to hitting a home run for the fans.

MLB-TV has announced its first studio host hire. Matt Vasgersian is leaving his position as TV voice of the San Diego Padres and FOX-TV Saturday baseball to become a primary studio host. The Network now is already planning to be on the air live every night during the season from 6:00 ET until at least after the final out of the night is made in MLB. This could be 7 to 8 hours per night during the week. The coverage will include live cut-ins and heavy studio analysis, along the lines of ESPN's Baseball Tonight, all evening every night.

The Padres have begun their search for a new TV voice, which will continue to be separate from the radio team which remains in tact.

On the college football side, the Big Ten Network is taking its football coverage up to the next level this week (Nov. 8) and a week from Saturday (Nov. 15th). BTN will be televising two games simultaneously, using an overflow channel on the majority of the cable systems which carry it.

This Saturday (Nov. 8), they will televise Wisconsin at Indiana and Purdue at Michigan State, both starting at Noon ET. On the 15th, the games will be Indiana at Penn State and Purdue at Iowa, also at Noon ET. Fans should be able to find the overflow channel at

Is he the coach or a member of the media? In a way, NFL Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak was both at the same time earlier this week. He used his own radio show to break a story, rather than do so under questioning from the regular covering media. Kubiak questioned the legality of three specific plays from the Sunday game vs. Minnesota during which is QB Matt Schaub was hit by Vikings defenders, asking the NFL to review the plays at the NFL office for possible infractions.

That is perfectly fine, and it is understandable that Kubiak wants to defend his QB. He is far from the first coach ever to question such actions. Yet, he first brought this up on his weekly segment on Sports Radio 610.

To me, this raises a media ethics question. Kubiak, as far as I know, is paid for his appearances on "his" radio segment, whether by advertisers or the station itself. Does this mean he deliberately withheld this information so unveil it on the radio show, or was it because no one else asked him until his co-host on the show did?

On the other hand, how do reporters for other radio and TV stations handle this story? Do they really have to "credit" his radio segment for the story? Doing so would lend publicity to another station. Do they simply quote him as if his comment is in the public domain? Or do they leave the story alone, and allow a competing station to break and maintain an exclusive on a story?

I could probably justify any one of those possibilities to some extent, and it would not be an easy decision. If it were up to me, I would have gone with the story and not credited "his" show or the radio station.

NEW YORK - YES TV Network has extended the contract of Yankees TV voice Michael Kay with a multi-year extension. Kay has been with YES all the way, going back to 2002.

CHICAGO - Expect at least a partial announcement about White Sox radio within the next 10 days. Darin Jackson, out as a TV voice with Steve Stone moving over from the radio booth starting next season, is expected to announce his decision by the end of next week as to whether or not he will make the move over to radio for an analyst role. I think that Jackson will consider this a step back and decline, provided he knows of other work. If he declines, White Sox exec Brooks Boyer was quoted on the White Sox web site as saying that the team will seek another play-by-play voice to handle at least two innings. Under the present structure, Ed Farmer has been handling play-by-play for every inning, and that takes its toll over the course of a season.

The NHL Blackhawks, now a month into having every home game on local TV for the first time ever, have produced a 150% in their TV ratings over the season's first month. Comcast SportsNet, handling the majority of the home and road telecasts (with WGN-TV handling about one-third of the games locally), also reports solid ratings increases in their pre and post-game programming.

BALTIMORE - As of this week, Sports Radio WHFS 105.7 is now streamed at and brings a local lineup including Ed Norris, Mark Viviano, Bruce Cunningham, Scott Garceau and Anita Marks, among others. The station also carries play-by-play of the U. of Maryland Terrapins and the Baltimore Orioles. ESPN 1300 AM now carries more of the national programming and play-by-play than ever before.

St. LOUIS - The University of St. Louis Billikens are "movin" their basketball broadcasts to WMVN 101.1 FM starting next week to kick off a new three year deal. The first six weeks of games will air before the station changes to all sports on Jan. 1. Bob Ramsey returns for his 22nd season of play-by-play even though Ramsey continues to work on soon-to-be rival KFNS 590.

The station has also hired Post Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell, perhaps to co-host the midday spot. Market vet Randy Karraker will co-host afternoons. The station is also expected to bid prominently for Rams football in the future.

MIAMI - The improvement in the Dolphins this season continues to mean improvements in the ratings. Last week we pointed out the impact on the latest radio ratings. Now comes word that Dolphins telecast ratings are already up 10% over last year overall, and up more than 17% in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale TV market. Only the Jets with Brett Favre and the improved Atlanta Falcons have shown bigger increases.

MINNEAPOLIS - University of Minnesota basketball broadcasts will have a new analyst for the upcoming season on WCCO 830. Call it an "off-season" job if you will, as Don Zierden, coach of the WNBA Lynx (who recently finished their season) will help call the Gophers broadcasts along with play-by-play voice Mike Grimm.

CINCINNATI - WLW 700 began its weekly "Hot Stove League" off-season baseball show this past Tuesday (Nov. 4th). The show will now air on the 50,000 watt powerhouse from 6 to 7 PM ET, and with early darkness will reach as many as 38 states. This is a new time, designed to eliminate all but a couple of conflicts with U. of Cincinnati and Xavier basketball broadcasts. "The Homer" 1530 AM will carry the baseball show when there are hoops conflicts.

Meanwhile, fans watching the FSN Friday telecasts of high school football will now have Dave Lapham sending it over to Dave Lapham. Dave Jr. continues as sideline reporter and pre-game show host for the telecasts, while Dave Sr. added a role in the booth to go along with his Bengals analyst duties, his WLW Bengals radio show work, and assignments for both Channel 5 and Channel 12 sports. It is a chance to work with his son. This gives Cinci a leg up on father and son broadcast teams, as the same market has Marty and son Thom Brennaman calling the Reds games.

MILWAUKEE - Congrats to the Bucks TV team of Jim Paschke, Jon McGlocklin, and Craig Coshun on winning a regional Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement for Sports Program - Live Sports Event/Game - Unedited".

Meanwhile, even though Brett Favre still matters in Milwaukee since every possible Jets telecast is carried in Milwaukee, the Packers definitely rule the ratings. This past Sunday (Nov. 2), the Packers vs. Tennessee telecast on WITI-TV had a 35.7 rating, more than 10 times the 3.0 rating which the Jets at Buffalo telecast got on WDJT-TV. Upon further review, ANY game getting a 3.0 rating in Milwaukee dead against a meaningful Packers game is actually quite an accomplishment.

OKLAHOMA CITY - While the city celebrated the debut of the NBA Thunder last week, the sports radio scene doesn't reflect well. After the Sports Animal WWLS, sports talkers WKY "Jox" 930 and KOKC 1520 had dismal showings in the latest radio ratings. Jox 930, after 16 months in the sports format, failed to show up in the overall ratings.

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