Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sports Media Report - Jan. 6th update

Matt Millen may have made his biggest news earlier in this NFL season by getting fired as General Manager of the winless Detroit Lions, but I'll tip my hat to him for coming up a winner as we start it up for 2009.

If you go back in time a few years, you will recall Millen's excellent work as a game analyst along with Dick Stockton on Fox-TV's NFL coverage. That helped lead Millen to the role he took on with the Lions. And then, the Lions went on to have the poorest record in the NFL during his tenure.

So why do I consider him a winner? It is because he is right now managing to do what effective and successful executives do. Turning a negative into a positive.

In case you missed it, Millen went on NBC-TV this past Saturday during their playoff coverage and calmly answered every question that was thrown his way about the Lions. He spoke up and took the blame for the team's failure. On national TV. No pointing of fingers, no excuses, no bitterness toward the organization or anyone else. It is rare enough to get an honest answer from an adverse situation, but Millen went where few others dare.

Matt Millen is not about to be hired by another NFL team, no matter how much blame he accepts and how much he tells people he has learned. I have never met or talked with Millen personally, but I see where this is leading without having to hear it from him.

He isn't looking to be hired by another team. He is looking to be hired by another network, and knows to return to the analyst role which brought him the positive recognition in the first place.
Fans and reporters alike are giving him credit for speaking the truth on national TV no matter how much it hurt. Deservedly so.

The first result of this is that Millen has been hired by NBC-TV to be a part of their Super Bowl telecast. Let's face it. NBC would not have a struggle on its hands to find air talent for the Super Bowl telecast.

If Millen had been unwilling to be interviewed, or had gone on NBC and pointed fingers and appeared bitter, there is no way he would have been near a microphone or camera on Super Sunday.

Instead, he figures to shine with honest analysis on Super Sunday, after which he can sit back and field offers from TV and cable networks for next season.

He can go back to the role that made him successful and which he is obviously more comfortable, and successful, with. In this day of people in the real world worried about their jobs, and free agent players out there without new contracts, Millen found a way to create instant demand and likely a solid position for her services for years to come. That is great management.

Speaking of the NFL, now that the regular season is over, I wonder if the leagues media powers that be will examine the Baltimore-Washington market and its fan base between now and July training camp.

Fans of the Ravens and the Redskins should no longer have to miss out because of exactly where they live. The NFL, as of now, still considers Baltimore and D.C. as two different markets despite being within 50 miles of each other and sharing TV and radio station signals. Again this past season, most Ravens games appeared on WJZ channel 13 in Baltimore and on WUSA channel 9 from D.C. The Redskins appeared as a "secondary market" team (according to NFL TV policy) on Fox 45 from Baltimore, in addition to primary coverage of most games on Fox channel 5 from D.C.

However, there were instances where Ravens games were bumped from the D.C. station and Redskins games from the Baltimore channel. Also, some of the "secondary market" stations were denied seeing some of the regional or national doubleheader games which would have been permitted under "home TV" rules.

What adds to the irony is that it was during the term of Richard Nixon as President that he was a factor in getting the NFL to allow home games in the event of an advance sellout because Nixon wanted to see all of the Redskins games on TV.

When you consider that MLB allows equal access to the entire area for radio and TV coverage of both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Natonals, it provides another reason for the NFL to revise its policy. This is not an issue where the NFL has two teams in one general market, which includes the Giants and Jets in NYC and 49ers and Raiders in the San Francisco area.

While fans around the country gripe about not getting a few of the games exclusive to the NFL Network, just one market has a bigger gripe about missing out on games on Sundays. Yes, it is time for change.....

OAKLAND - The A's will be movin' on up the radio dial and closer to civilization for the upcoming season. For some fans, it will seem like they are returning to the radio. No more 1550 AM and its limited coverage, especially for night games.

KRTB 860 AM has a new one-year deal to put the games on the news/talk station. The station also airs both Stanford basketball and football, and has already announced an increase in the number of spring training broadcasts to 17.

Ken Korach, Ray Fosse, and Vince Cotroneo will continue as the A's radio team, and Robert Auan is expected to handle the post-game show.

Having their games on 1550 AM reminded some of the older fans of the season almost 40 years ago when Charlie Finley couldn't get a radio station and had the A's games broadcast on a college radio station. Again, the A's "graduate" to a better signal.

NEW YORK - A good start to the year for Yankees TV voice Michael Kay, as his afternoon show on WEPN 1050 is expanding by one full hour. Starting on Monday (Jan. 12), Kay will be heard, along with co-host Don LaGreca, from 2:00 until 7:00 PM. No word yet on who, if anyone, will work with LaGreca on afternoons when Kay's Yankees assignments conflict.

The joke going around the office is that Kay needs the extra time in order to calculate the Yankees payroll each week.

BOSTON - The Big Show on WEEI will continue to be "Big" for years to come. The station has signed Glenn Ordway to a multi-year contract to continue on his 2:00 to 6:00 drive-time show.

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Journal reports that Brewers radio voice Jim Powell is a leading candidate for the Atlanta Braves radio booth. Powell's Georgia roots include his having graduated from the University of Georgia. The Braves need to add another voice following the retirement of Pete Van Wieren (who retired after more than 30 years) and the death of Skip Caray.
Powell has been in the Brewers' booth for the past 13 seasons, the longest of any of the partners with Bob Uecker. Among those who have come through the Brewers' radio booth over the history of the franchise are Merle Harmon and Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes.

On the football side, the Packers' disappointing season is reflected in the TV statistics showing that the Packers telecasts for their just concluded season were the lowest in more than 15 years. Adding to this is the fact that the Green Bay season opener, a Monday night game vs. division rival Minnesota, was the highest rated game of the entire season.

The joke going around the office is that the Jets' telecasts won't feel the ratings pinch nearly as much next season if Brett Favre retires from New York.

St. LOUIS - The new sports station at 101.1 FM, now underway after months of hype, has scored a touchdown with the addition of the Rams broadcasts starting this year. This 2-year deal moves the team over from KLOU-FM, and is believed to be a revenue share. 101.1 FM also carries St. Louis University hoops in addition to their local drive time sports talk.

ATLANTA - WFOM 1230 from Marietta has become "The Fan 2", picking up ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike for mornings and Mike Tirico and Brad Van Pelt during the afternoon. This gives some of the market a choice among 3 "sister" sports stations. "The Fan" at 680 AM continues to air mostly local sports talk, although it continues to carry Colin Cowherd. 1340 AM is now known as "The Fan 3" and airs Fox Sports and other syndicated shows.

But that's not all. While the "3 Fans" are a combination, 790 "The Zone" competes with a stronger signal. However, their programming consists of a heavy does of Sporting News Radio.

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