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

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