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.

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