Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sports Media Report - February 24th update.........

Could we have both sports figures and broadcasters looking at their watches while live on the air? Last Wednesday's (Feb. 18) college hoops game between North Carolina and NC State just might lead to a clock company becoming a corporate sponsor for a sports team. It could be quite the marketing tie-in.

What brought this on? During his post-game press conference, an emotional North Carolina coach Roy Williams used the f-word in answer to a question about his team's full court press (or lack thereof) in the just concluded game against N.C. State. Understandable, except that both the Tar Heels and Wolfpack Radio Networks, broadcasting live on numerous stations (including several duplicate markets) each carried this response live on the air.

Yet, we are not hearing or reading about possible fines of groups of radio stations which aired this. At least not yet. The reason? It is not because this could be considered a live news story. And it is not because the Coach immediately apologized, likely knowing his comments might have been (and indeed were) live on the air. It seems that Coach Williams made his comment after 10:00 PM, which is considered part of the "Safe Harbor" period by the FCC.

Personally, my hope is that the decision makers about carrying these press conferences live will keep in mind that this was a post-game press conference and not something that slipped through during an actual game. There have been a share of live 'language mishaps' during game action.

Considering the delay of a post-game press conference, which some radio and TV stations already do just for this reason, needs to be treated differently from delaying any game action.

It will be interesting to see if anyone else keeps the "Safe Harbor" situation in mind in the near future, especially if this incident continues to sneak through without a major reaction.

This brought back a memory of the late 80's when the "Safe Harbor" first went into effect between Midnight and 6:00 AM. I was living in Los Angeles and listening to KLSX in its days as a classic rock station. Phil Hendrie was then a late night music host. One night, he slipped up reading an announcement and said "Ooops. I'll get my (s-word) together". I was shocked, but then looked at my watch and it was four minutes past Midnight. And I never heard or read another word about that incident - and that was from the announcer on the air.

But in this instance, I have to believe the coach's incident aired live because both networks were airing this, and I'm sure neither wanted to wait until possibly after the other started to air it because of the duplication of markets. Yet, a few minutes earlier, and the FCC could have issued up millions in fines.

It's "Play Ball" big time starting this week for the exciting new MLB Network. In addition to one hour shows devoted to each team airing over the next 4 weeks, the Network has announced a full slate of spring training telecasts, most of them live, starting with two games on the first day of exhibition games. (The tentative schedule is shown below.)

SAN FRANCISCO - Oakland A's fans might have a tougher challenge than the A's themselves when the regular season starts. The A's games have moved to stations which are not strong signals. Now Comcast SportsNet and DirecTV still have not worked out their greed. Or should I say, financial differences. Of course, thousands of fans could lose out.

This season, as many as 145 of the A's games are to be shown on CSN. However, negotiations are continuing for the regional DirecTV feed, which as of this writing, is not settled. While Comcast
SportsNet and DirecTV officials have begun the usual public mudslinging that has become a part of the sports on TV landscape over the past couple of years, an estimated 300,000+ households might not have access to the A's games.

This, while the A's get millions from Comcast SportsNet for the rights to practically all of their games. And while many fans will have difficulty hearing or seeing the games. And this after the San Francisco Giants, with an expanded cable package of 134 games and only 20 games on KPIX Channel 11 (plus national telecasts) will have at least 159 out of 162 games televised.

For the sake of Bay Area baseball fans who are finally getting a major assortment of TV games, let's hope this does get resolved. It is not a given. Comcast's CSN Northwest in the Portland area has the Blazers' NBA telecasts, and those are still not available on that area's DirectTV, now almost 2/3 into this NBA season.

For those with digital cable in the Bay Area, Giants and A's games will be available for replay the next day at no additional charge.

NATIONAL - Maybe this information will alert sports radio stations which continue to carry delayed sports talk shows. This is a separate battle from the local vs. syndicated discussion. Sports stations in markets as large as Los Angeles and Chicago continue to air sports shows delayed by hours which sometimes results in outdated stories on the air.

Now comes word from ESPN that since going to live SportsCenter and related programming into the late morning and early afternoon its viewership is up anywhere from 10% to 20% so far. Sports fans want it "now".

PITTSBURGH - New Pirates play-by-play voice Tim Neverett makes his debut on Wednesday (Feb. 25) calling the Pirates exhibition opener against the Phillies on flagship WPGB 104.7 FM and the Pirates Radio Network. Greg Brown will also continue with play-by-play, with analysis from Steve Blass, Bob Walk, and John Wehner. Pirates radio will carry 16 spring training games, a higher total than most teams this season. FSN Pittsburgh will carry 125 regular season and 2 spring training games.

BOSTON - WEEI Sports Radio programming continues to go regional. Cape Cod's 96.3 FM will carry WEEI sports beginning April 1st, and will change its call letters to WEII. The Hyannis station will continue its music format through March.

BALTIMORE / D.C.: The rumor mill is churning about WJFK 106.7 in Washington possibly changing from "guy talk" to sports talk to compete with ESPN 980. I have to wonder about that, considering that nearby Baltimore has four - count 'em, four - sports stations, after CBS changed the former WHFS to sports WJZ-FM.

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery to WBAL afternoon host Ron Smith after emergency heart surgery on Feb. 14th. Same for WRC Channel 4 sports reporter Dan Hellie, recovering from a shoulder separation suffered in a ski accident last week.

No replacement named yet at D.C.'s WTTG Channel 5 for a weekend sports anchor postion. Dave Benz is leaving to join Comcast SportsNet Bay Area in San Francisco. Benz had previously anchored for FSN Rocky Mountain in the Denver area.

DENVER - Speaking of Denver, Mile High Sports 1510 AM is adding a weekly NASCAR radio show, "Hansen's Race Central" with Kurt Hansen. However, with some NASCAR events on Saturdays, a Sunday morning slot wouldn't be a fit every weekend. The show will air at the unusual but "fresh" time of 10 AM to Noon on Fridays. If race fans remember or are able to tune in, they will get timely information.

WHEELING: Sorry to learn of the passing of George Kellas, who passed away last week (Feb. 19) from cancer at the age of 53. Kellas was a sports anchor for eight years at WTOV-TV and for 12 years at WTRF-TV. Most recently, George hosted a show on KKKX 1600 AM since 2004.

*Indicates live broadcast
All times ET and subject to change
February 25 3:00 p.m.* San Francisco Giants @ Cleveland Indians
7:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ Minnesota Twins

February 26 4:00 p.m. Arizona Diamondbacks @ Cleveland Indians

February 27 1:00 p.m.* St. Louis Cardinals @ New York Mets
5:00 p.m. San Diego Padres @ Cleveland Indians

February 28 1:00 p.m.* Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies
5:00 p.m. Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees

March 1 1:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ Minnesota Twins
5:00 p.m. Chicago White Sox @ Los Angeles Dodgers
9:00 p.m. Houston Astros @ New York Mets

March 3 1:00 p.m.* USA @ New York Yankees (WBC Exhibition)
5:00 p.m. Canada @ Toronto Blue Jays (WBC Exhibition)

March 4 9:00 p.m.* Australia @ Seattle Mariners (WBC Exhibition)
March 5 4:00 p.m.* Chicago White Sox @ Chicago Cubs
March 6 1:00 p.m.* Washington Nationals @ Baltimore Orioles
March 7 3:00 p.m.* Oakland Athletics @ San Diego Padres
March 9 1:00 p.m.* Baltimore Orioles @ New York Mets
March 14 4:00 p.m.* Texas Rangers @ Chicago White Sox

March 15 1:00 p.m.* St. Louis Cardinals @ Philadelphia Phillies
8:30 p.m. Kansas City Royals @ San Francisco Giants

March 16 1:00 p.m.* St. Louis Cardinals @ Detroit Tigers
7:00 p.m.* Tampa Bay Rays @ Pittsburgh Pirates

March 17 1:00 p.m.* Minnesota Twins @ Boston Red Sox
March 18 1:00 p.m.* Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
March 19 1:00 p.m.* St. Louis Cardinals @ Tampa Bay Rays
7:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ Cincinnati Reds

March 20 1:00 p.m.* Cincinnati Reds @ Houston Astros
5:00 p.m. San Diego Padres @ Chicago Cubs
9:00 p.m.* Los Angeles Dodgers @ Kansas City Royals

March 21 1:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ Florida Marlins
5:00 p.m. Chicago Cubs @ Chicago White Sox

March 22 1:00 p.m.* New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays
5:00 p.m. Cleveland Indians @ Colorado Rockies

March 23 1:00 p.m.* Florida Marlins @ Houston Astros
5:00 p.m. Milwaukee Brewers @ Colorado Rockies

March 24 1:00 p.m.* New York Mets @ Houston Astros
7:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees

March 25 1:00 p.m.* Detroit Tigers @ New York Mets
7:00 p.m.* Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals

March 26 4:00 p.m.* Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Cleveland Indians
10:30 p.m.* Chicago Cubs @ San Francisco Giants

March 27 1:00 p.m.* Detroit Tigers @ Atlanta Braves
9:00 p.m.* Milwaukee Brewers @ Texas Rangers

March 28 1:00 p.m.* Philadelphia Phillies @ Pittsburgh Pirates
5:00 p.m. Chicago Cubs @ Colorado Rockies
9:00 p.m. New York Yankees @ Atlanta Braves

March 29 1:00 p.m.* Atlanta Braves @ Detroit Tigers
5:00 p.m. Kansas City Royals @ Seattle Mariners

March 30 1:00 p.m.* Tampa Bay Rays @ Minnesota Twins
7:00 p.m.* San Diego Padres @ Cleveland Indians

March 31 4:00 p.m.* Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Chicago Cubs
10:00 p.m.* Milwaukee Brewers @ San Diego Padres

April 1 1:00 p.m.* Florida Marlins @ Baltimore Orioles
5:00 p.m. Texas Rangers @ Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
9:00 p.m. Arizona Diamondbacks @ Milwaukee Brewers

April 2 3:00 p.m.* Chicago White Sox @ Milwaukee Brewers
10:00 p.m.* Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim @ Los Angeles Dodgers

April 3 7:00 p.m.* Chicago Cubs @ New York Yankees
April 4 1:00 p.m.* Boston Red Sox @ New York Mets
6:00 p.m.* Baltimore Orioles @ Washington Nationals
10:00 p.m.* Milwaukee Brewers @ Los Angeles Dodgers

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sports Media Update - February 18th..............

While too many sportscasts focus on sports news other than the games themselves being played, now we have an overlooked story about basketball games which may not be able to be broadcast in the interest of selling tickets.

The nomination for the "Say what?" Award of the month goes to the promoters of a pair of Kentucky regional high school basketball tournaments coming up in March. That state's 9th and 10th Region Tournaments will be played at the Bank of Kentucky Center. Yet, arena officials have announced that unless specific games are sold out at least one week prior to being played, there can be no live broadcasts of the games. Not even radio or internet.

The only "exception" would be if a school located more than 30 miles away from the arena is playing. But there is a catch. No teams from the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference are located more than 30 miles from the 9,400-seat arena.

Let's get this straight. An arena sponsored by a local bank for the benefit of added publicity doesn't want one of its biggest events on radio, TV, or even on the internet. I have made a few inquiries and thus far haven't found out about any local radio stations which are even talking about this, let alone trying to broadcast the games.

As I have commented several times in the past, a high school tournament is the type of event that "should" be on HD Radio and might help to make HD Radio viable after all. News and sports stations could use the secondary and perhaps thirdary channels to broadcast and then replay important high school games.

It gives the people who can't get to the games, such as grandparents and shift workers, the chance to hear a loved one and/or the local school in action. The family of the kid who has the big game or makes the winning shot would want to listen to and record the replay as a keepsake.

Local advertisers would know the small but targeted audience they are reaching.

But the radio stations would rather put on "album b-sides of the 80's" or some format that doesn't cost anything and the people forget about. And now, to top it off, we have a local bank behind preventing local high school tournament games from being broadcast. But where is the Cincinnati media on this one?

To this point, as far as I know, only the Kentucky Enquirer (part of the Cincinnati Enquirer) newspaper and web site have picked up on this story.

KR Sports has handled broadcasting the 9th Region tourney over the years. This new restriction probably means that Kevin Rengering and Randy Wilson will miss doing these broadcasts for first time since 1984.

The arena and promoters "defend" this by saying that a specific tournament game which sells out at least one week in advance could then be broadcast. But this isn't like the NFL where a local TV station buys remaining tickets to be able to have the local telecast and generate the ad revenue. This could be thousands of tickets for each of several games. Since the teams in the games generally aren't known more than a week ahead of time (and don't think that is a coincidence either), a TV or radio station buying tickets early could then be shutting out fans of one or both participating schools.

Meanwhile, elsewhere around Kentucky, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association enables a participating high school to select or allow a broadcast outlet for its games, at a cost of $350 for the radio rights.

If the Bank and the arena are that worried about not selling enough tickets, then don't host the games. But if they insist on bringing greed into high school sports, this is a different story. One that merits additional and immediate attention.

But I'm afraid that with the state of radio management being where it is today, this will go untouched. If I were in a position to do something about this, I would ask a competing bank or S & L to purchase all remaining tickets, give them the value of that purchase in air time, and have that competing bank sponsor the broadcasts after giving away the tickets at their branches nearest the participating schools.

The sponsoring bank generates walk-in traffic from the schools and positive publicity. The radio station has provided a unique opportunity for the bank to deliver its message. The community would be properly served with coverage of its local high school tournament.

And that radio station would perform a positive local innovation. If not, what kind of precedent could this set?

LOS ANGELES - As we suspected last week, the Angels have followed the Texas Rangers into the idea of splitting their radio coverage, as if fans will remember that different stations carry the weekend games than during the week. KFWB 980 will be airing 110 of the Angels regular season games starting in April. KLAA 830 (owned by Angels owner Arte Moreno) will only carry the weekend games.

However inconsistent, this marks a return of baseball to KFWB which was the Dodgers flagship station from 2003 through 2007. The broadcast team stays the same, with Rory Markas and Steve Physioc on play-by-play and Rex Hudler on color, as well as Terry Smith.

As a result, Angels and Rangers fans now have to find out where to listen to the games instead of having one station all the time. This, after trying to find out if that night's game is on over-the-air TV, regional cable (or an overflow channel when conflicts with other teams), ESPN, or Fox-TV. These teams could have a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday series with 3 TV channels and 2 radio stations involved. This helps the fans how?

MILWAUKEE - Cory Provus has left the Chicago Cubs radio booth to become the #2 broadcaster of the division rival Milwaukee Brewers starting immediately. Provus will handle radio play-by-play of the middle 3 innings and pre and post-game shows, with ageless Bob Uecker handling most of the play-by-play.

No replacement named yet for WGN Radio and the Cubs broadcast booth yet, which is only for handling one inning each game to relieve Pat Hughes. Provus is another Syracuse University graduate, coming from the school which has produced Bob Costas, Marv Albert, and Dick Stockton, among others.

CHICAGO - Congrats to Kip Lewis, the son of former New York Jets defensive back and NFL assistant coach Sherman Lewis, has been hired by Comcast SportsNet Chicago. His reporter and anchor duties will begin on March 2nd. Lewis was a sports anchor for WRTV-TV Indianapolis, and is best known for a weekend sports stint at WPIX-TV New York in 2004 and '05.

DENVER - The Rockies TV coverage stands to have improved pre and post-game programming. Fox Sports Rocky Mountain no longer has local studios, and as a result the surrounding game coverage will originate at the site of the game. In a perfect world, this should mean better access to interviews and game specific information. Drew Goodman and George Frazier remain as the play-by-play team.

Nearby Ft. Collins Colorado has 870 KJMP Radio joining the regional network by picking up the Nuggets and Avalanche broadcasts starting in the fall. Flagship KCKK 1510 from Denver takes over, with KTNI 101.5 handling one of the conflicting games. KJMP carries ESPN programming the majority of the time, but word is they are targeting local sports talk prior to the start of the upcoming football season.

Denver's "The Fan" 104.3 FM, which loses the Nuggets and Avalanche, will continue along carrying ESPN Radio's national games. They are adding Colorado College hockey. Realistically, that is not a threat to compete against the Avalanche games. Sister station KEPN 1600 cointinues with Irv Brown and Joe Williams talking sports during the afternoon.

Mile High Sports Radio 1510 is losing morning co-host Tyler Maun to his dream of baseball play-by-play. Maun is leaving the Denver market and relocating to Myrtle Beach to handle the Class A South Carolina Pelicans broadcasts. That will make a nice resume for Maun to have play-by-play experience along with the Denver market, considering that he is at the tender age of 23.

COLUMBUS GA - Out with the local, in with more syndicated programming. Even smaller markets making the cutbacks. Mike Vee and Rachel Baribeau are out from WEAM 1580 as their 4 - 7 PM sports show has been canceled after 2 1/2 years due to budget cutbacks.

The replacement is a syndicated show from Alabama. So much for U. of Georgia fans wanting to hear about their team on a regular basis. The station has added Atlanta Hawks basketball along with the ESPN NBA package. Vee will continue as the voice of the Columbus Cottonmouths road games. This while the Columbus market now has - get this - a mighty one hour of local sports talk each day. And that is on a different station. WSHE 1270 airs B. R. Johnson from Noon to 1 PM on weekdays.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sports Media Update - Feb. 9th..............

MLB-TV made news in its own way on Saturday as the A-Rod story was breaking in terms of working toward establishing itself as a news organization for all things baseball.

First, I am pleasantly surprised that they would tackle the A-Rod story in full. I'm not sure anyone would have questioned it if they didn't, as they could have brushed the story aside or played it down, being a Major League Baseball source. This was not exactly the most positive of stories about the game.

On one hand, breaking in to their scheduled "classic" programming lineup for more than 3 hours seems a bit over-dramatic. But on the other hand, doing so is setting the table for viewers to tune them in when baseball news, positive or negative, is breaking.

On the other, the story coming out was over something which occurred more than 5 years ago and could have broken at any time. It's not as if something specific happened on Saturday morning to make this story any more immediate. But that is not important to this commentary.

The timing for MLB-TV was actually quite good for a major baseball story to break when it did. ESPN and ESPN2 were into their all day slates of college hoops. Same with other regional sports channels. But that made me an example of why MLB-TV did what they did.

I happened to see the scroll about A-Rod on a news channel shortly after the "story" broke. I flipped over to ESPN and saw the bottom line scroll during their college hoops game, and the same for ESPN2. Thinking I might get more details on the bottom scroll on MLB-TV, I switched over. To my amazement, there was a live studio crew with Matt Vasgersian, Harold Reynolds, and Dan Plesac among those reporters in the studio and on the air live with reactions.

They kept at it for a couple hours, and paved the way for Bob Costas to interview the Sports Illustrated reporter live.

Again, this actually was not an "immediate" story since it took 5 years to break, but it showed a lot of baseball fans that MLB-TV is the place to go for breaking baseball news. Another homerun from our newest major sports network.

Meanwhile, MLB has announced and is now promoting their live streaming package for the upcoming season, and how for $129.95 fans can see "unlimited access to live and on-demand streams of every regular season game". However, later in the description we are reminded that "blackout restrictions apply". This drives me nuts.

It has been and remains my belief that there should be much more of a public outcry about sports blackouts. There should be NO blackouts of sports telecasts in the local markets. If I want to watch the opposing team or network feed of my game of most interest, I should be able to do that. If the home team telecast suffers that badly because of a "no blackout" policy, then they need to change announcers or improve their local coverage to draw the fans back.

The teams and their covering stations seem to overlook the fact that I, as a cable (or satellite) subscriber am PAYING to watch the channels that are being blacked out. Worse yet, fans who don't care about sports are having to pay for these sports channels they don't even want. A team on a competing station or network (even for those 3 hours) should not have the right to dictate what channels I can or can't see. Thus, I'm among those "blacking out" any thought of buying the MLB package.

On top of that, there is more aggravation for some baseball fans trying to follow their favorite team through the media each day. It is bad enough that in some cities fans need to check the daily TV schedules to find what channel will have their favorite team that day. There is the "over-the-air" package, the cable package, and national games from ESPN and FOX.

In Chicago, the White Sox appeared on no less than seven - count 'em - seven TV channels again last season. (That's WGN and WCIU-TV in a shared over-the-air package, Comcast SportsNet, Comcast SportsNet Plus, ESPN, ESPN2, and the local Fox-TV station.)

But now, local radio is getting into the act, and it is a complete strikeout for Texas Rangers fans. Their radio package is being split between weekday and weekend games. The Fan 105.3 FM will carry the Monday through Friday games, while Saturday and Sunday "continue" on KRLD 1080 AM. Adding to this, the spring training broadcasts will also be split up, as The Fan carries 15 of the spring games with KRLD handling 3 of them.

Eric Nadel will be back for his 31st season in the radio booth, now joined by Dave Barnett.

So let's get this straight for the Rangers fans out there. Say there is a 4 game Thursday through Sunday series. On TV, the Thursday game could be on cable, the Friday game over-the-air, the Saturday game on FOX-TV, and a Sunday game could be a night game on ESPN. That would be 4 TV channels for each of the 4 games. (And if you have paid your $129 for MLB streaming and live too close to Dallas, you would not get the telecasts at all.) On the radio side, the first two games will be on FM, the last 2 games on AM. Got it. This could be the newest rage since fantasy leagues. Find the broadcasts. Worse yet, another way that radio adds a challenge to its listeners.

In Los Angeles, rumors persist that KFWB 980 will carry some of the Angels weeknight games, perhaps right along with KLAA 830 AM to increase the signal coverage. At least that could be on two stations with the same broadcast, but nothing is definite yet.

Wonder how many fans will have time to buy tickets to see their favorite team when they have to make an everyday effort to find where the game is being broadcast and telecast.

TAMPA - The Rays come off their first ever appearance in the World Series and what do they do? They take all of their telecasts for the coming season and put them all on cable via FSN. The only "over-the-air" games will be those shown regionally on Fox-TV. So far, Fox has scheduled 5 Rays games, with only one against a division opponent (May 9 vs. Boston), meaning no over-the-air telecasts vs. the Yankees.

Tampa was also the site of NFL broadcast meetings surrounding the Super Bowl week. But Sports Business Journal reports no progress regarding the national radio rights for the coming season. Westwood One, ESPN, and Sporting News Radio are reportedly still in the running, but each has its reasons and restrictions for not having a deal in place yet.

KANSAS CITY - Same story in Kansas City, and the Royals need all the favorable coverage they can get. Yet, it has been announed that Fox Sports Kansas City will show 140 games this season.
Ryan Lefebvre continues with play-by-play with Paul Splittorff as analyst and Frank White handling a selection of telecasts.

DETROIT - The NBA Pistons will be changing radio outlets starting in the fall. WXYT The Ticket 97.1 FM will begin a multi-year deal as flagship station on the Pistons Network, replacing WDFN.

This change is made despite the number of conflicts that will bump the Pistons broadcasts to another station. The Ticket already has Tigers baseball and Lions football. WWJ 950 AM is expected to air the conflicting Pistons broadcasts, which will continue to be handled by George Blaha and Mark Champion. It surprises me that the Pistons would agree to this, knowing their games will now be bumped. If the Tigers have a good season (normally I would include the Lions in this comment, but I'm not that hypothetical), a percentage of fans would stick with the Tigers game and not tune over to hear the Pistons.

HOUSTON - It is getting to the point where a broadcaster can't say much of anything without a total review. During last week's Rockets game vs. Chicago, Rockets TV analyst (and former NBA great) Clyde Drexler witnessed another slam dunk by Yao Ming of the Rockets over Andres Nocioni of the Bulls, and commented "That's like clubbing baby seals. There is nothing Nocioni can do."

The next day, a Rockets team official was quoted as "having spoken with Clyde regarding his statement during Tuesday night's game". Maybe Clyde's choice of words weren't the greatest, but that was his reaction. What, are the PETA people protesting to the station? Did "Save The Seals" demand air time? Who the heck was being offended? This was not anything racist or vindictive. It was a description that doesn't fit with the usual sports cliche. If this keeps up, those fans who can find the channel a game is being televised or broadcast on will hear "Yes, Ming got another dunk" for the exciting analysis.

The "Longhorn Nation" show now airs each Monday at 6:00 PM on KGOW 1560, while the station now airs its Texas A&M Aggies show on Thursdays at 6, and the University of Houston "Cougars Tonight" at that time each Friday.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL - For those NCAA Football fans who like to plan ahead, some prime games are already being lined up for the fall.

ESPN will handle the Ohio State vs. Southern Cal game at 8 PM ET on September 12th. The Colorado at West Virginia game has been moved to Thursday night Oct. 1st for ESPN. You may recall that WVU lost in overtime at Colorado on a Thursday night game this past September.

And, the Colorado vs. Oklahoma State game has been moved from its originally scheduled Nov. 21 Saturday game up two days. ESPN will have this matchup on Thursday Nov. 19th at 7:45 ET.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sports Media Update - February 3rd

Although Delaware does not have a pro sports team and is not exactly a major sports media hub, its impact could be felt throughout the sports media within the next two years.

The sports media has surprisingly not (yet) been filled with discussion after the USA Today story suggesting that "legal, lottery-style betting on pro and college sports events might be coming to Delaware." Its House of Representatives passed a sports betting bill last year, but did not pass the Senate in part over the "then" Governor's opposition. "Then" being the key word here.

The bill is expected to be re-introduced to the Senate on March 17, now faced with a huge deficit and the possibility of slot machines in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

To borrow the real estate term "location location location", one cannot overlook Delaware's proximity to the Philadelphia area, and its being less than a 3 hour drive from NYC, Baltimore/DC, and the majority of New Jersey.

My feelings about this issue are not important. What is important is to consider how this bill, if it were to be passed, would impact sportscasts and sports talk radio throughout the region. The ghost of Jimmy The Greek would certainly be stirred.

Can you hear a WIP update saying "and the Phillies are favored by 1 1/2 runs over the Cardinals tonight" during their updates? Or WFAN reporting "the Mets are a 2 run underdog to the Braves tomorrow afternoon, and you can hear that game at 2:05"?

If indeed you can, it would mean that the legalized betting on these games in nearby Delaware will have made an impact on sports radio. (Radio is one example, as newspapers, online, and TV are certainly in the mix.) But if these stations do NOT include this information, chances are somebody will.

Let's face it. A potentially large number of sports fans, plus those would become sports fans for the gambling aspect, will want the information that bettors need before these games are played. If they can't find it on one station, chances are they will seek another. Until they find a source to get the information they are seeking to bet on games each day or each week.

Sports betting in Delaware would be different for the fans and the media compared with Las Vegas. Pro games in Vegas are rare, most likely because they cannot be bet in Vegas if they are local. The nearest pro teams are more than a 4 hour drive (to the Los Angeles area), and in totally different radio and TV markets. Way different than Delaware, where Delaware temperatures have been a regular part of the mix on Philadelphia stations such as KYW for years.

These stations also give the lottery numbers because they know their audience wants them and counts on them at specific times.

Sportscasts and game previews in the "Delaware Valley" region and probably beyond could be changed forever. The early line and injury reports pertinent to the next game(s) of the local pro teams could take on even more importance to more people.

I haven't seen the Bill about to be presented to the Delaware Senate next month. So I don't know if this limits which games can be included, or if this is for one game per night, or only include out of area teams. Or if it means the most local of teams. If this indeed includes the Philadelphia and Baltimore/D.C. area teams, there will be a definite media impact.

The Phillies already have their own deal with Arbitron for radio audience measurement specific to their games and separate from their radio stations. That deal could become more valuable than ever if people "need" to tune in to get the results or verify that the game is being played, etc. Depending upon the specific categories for the betting, this could result in a larger audience remaining during blowout games, especially the 76ers if the point spread is large enough going in.

Yet, if radio and TV do not get involved in reporting of the betting information, no matter how disguised it is, somebody else will. The radio and TV broadcasts of these teams could lose some audience to the web sites, cell phone broadcasts, and/or whatever other sources will pick up on and benefit from the information gap this would create.

If I were a betting man, I'd say this will happen. Will the media be ready?


What a great fit for Bob Costas to join MLB-TV. It is a homerun all the way around. Costas will get right to work, interviewing Joe Torre this Thursday (Feb. 5th) and hosting and participating in other specials. His leaving HBO for this assignment is a no-brainer.

While NBC-TV comes off its incredibly successful Super Bowl telecast, we will soon see if or how it translates for its NHL telecasts. NBC-TV enjoyed ratings success on New Year's Day with the outdoor Chicago-Detroit matchup, but will monitor the ratings over the next 3 or 4 weeks very closely. This is the final season of the 2-year deal with NBC and the NHL. Reportedly, the NHL is generating about $10 million for each season. However, that figure is only around 10% of the revenue the NHL generates from its Canadian television packages.

NEW YORK: WFAN is quickly moving past the Super Bowl (what a difference a year makes!) and into baseball. Ed Randall was scheduled to take phone calls live with Yankees G.M. Brian Cashman on Tuesday (Feb. 3) to help kick off "Talking Baseball" that returns Sunday (Feb. 8) at 9 AM. Earlier in the day, Joe Torre was scheduled to be live with Mike Francesa.

BOSTON: Now that Gil Santos has retired from WBZ Radio morning sports, the station is not rushing to fill the slot. Bob Lobel, the former WBZ-TV anchor, is filling in for this week. As of this writing, nothing announced for next week yet.

PHILADELPHIA: Glad to see that Gary Papa returned to Channel 6 earlier this week after missing several days due to a medical procedure.

MILWAUKEE: As of this writing, Cory Provus is a semi-finalist for the opening on the Brewers broadcast since Jim Powell left to go to Atlanta a couple weeks ago. Provus has been doing one inning of play-by-play along with surrounding duties for the Chicago Cubs on WGN Radio, working along side of former Brewers voice Pat Hughes.

BUFFALO: WECK will move The Brad Riter Show up from nights to the 4 - 7 PM slot. Riter is expected to shift from general talk to sports talk after 6 PM most nights. With good reason. WECK now carries the Yankees broadcasts in Buffalo, previously carried on WGR. This will also serve as lead in for WECK's University of Buffalo basketball broadcasts and to talk UB football in season, as the station begins its first season of having those rights. I'm sure hockey talk will also be prominent, as the station can't overlook that Buffalo was the top rated local market for the NHL All-Star Game on Versus last week.

IOWA CITY: One announcement that slipped through the cracks last week actually had a Super Bowl tie-in. Ed Podolak, who was a running back on the Kansas City Chiefs teams under Hank Stram that played in the very early Super Bowl days, announced his retirement from the University of Iowa football broadcasts after 27 years.

FLINT: Sports talk WTRX in Flint Michigan has eliminated its last totally local sports show and joined those stations going the syndication route. The one possible exception is "The Huge Show" that WTRX carries out of Grand Rapids.

Meanwhile, Fox TV Sports has announced its NASCAR schedule, which begins this coming weekend:

NASCAR on FOX 2009 Schedule

Sat. Feb. 7 - Daytona Int’l Speedway, Budweiser Shootout, 8:00 PM
Sun. Feb. 8 - Daytona Int’l Speedway, Daytona 500 Qualifying, 1:00 PM Sun. Feb. 15 - Daytona Int’l Speedway, Daytona 500, 2:00 PM
Sat. Feb. 21 - California Speedway, NASCAR Truck Series, 3:00 PM
Sun. Feb. 22 - California Speedway, NASCAR Racing, 5:00 PM
Sun. March 1 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway, NASCAR Racing, 3:30 PM
Sun. March 8 - Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR, 1:30 PM
Sun. March 22 - Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR, 1:30 PM
Sat. March 28 - Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR, 2:00 PM
Sun. March 29 - Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR, 1:30 PM
Sun. April 5 - Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR,1:30 PM
Sat. April 18 - Phoenix Int’l Speedway, NASCAR, 8:00 PM
Sun. April 26 - Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR, 1:00 PM
Sat. May 2 - Richmond Int’l Raceway, NASCAR, 7:00 PM
Sat. May 9 - Darlington Raceway, NASCAR, 7:00 PM
Sun. May 24 - Lowe’s Motor Speedway, NASCAR, 5:00 PM
Sun. May 31 - Dover Int’l Speedway, NASCAR, 1:30 PM

All times Eastern; Schedule subject to change