Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sports Media Report - March 24th update

The NCAA Basketball Tournament continues this week and weekend, as popular as ever, and from a media standpoint, shows us why radio doesn't have anywhere the role it once did for sports fans. I have tried to come up with an idea for radio to make a difference during the tournament games, but so far have drawn a blank.

Quick - which radio station in your market is broadcasting the NCAA Tournament games (other than a local team's broadcast) this weekend? Chances are you had to stop and think, if you even knew for sure.

The reason is the other forms of electronic media have provided us with enough reasons to forget about radio while the games are going on, unless there is no other choice.

People with high end cell phone service or a Blackberry can get instant details (if not live coverage) in the palm of their hand. Those who had online access during last Thursday and Friday's daytime slate of games could have a refreshing scoreboard of all of the games - as a second option.

The online "March Madness On Demand" streaming of all of the games live was reportedly up more than 60% from last year. More and more can watch whatever game they most want to or switch back and forth and go with the best action of the moment. That is even better than the CBS-TV national telecast which would feature one game but switch around as action warranted.

And, yes, the CBS telecasts of all games and rotating of updated scores on the screen throughout.
Then there is radio. Doing....ummmm, ummmmmm, some game coverage and some scoreboard updates. A far cry from the days when hardly any games were televised while everything was live on the radio.

Interesting decision for WFOR Channel 4 Miami last Friday. The station did not air the NCAA Regional games being played locally in Miami, instead going with games they felt would be of greater interest to the local audience. This is fine, as long as it wasn't because of a blackout policy. And in this case, it wasn't. What makes this decision even better is that it was an honest choice, and not one because they couldn't show the local games if they wanted to.

LOS ANGELES: Congrats to Eric Collins, who will handle play-by-play of more than 30 Dodgers road telecasts for the coming season. These will be the telecasts that Vin Scully does not call, which are when the Dodgers play east of Colorado.

Collins has worked for ESPN, including some College World Series telecasts, along with NBC Olympic Baseball, among other assignments. He also filled in a couple of games on Chicago White Sox radio last year, and should have merited more consideration for a full-time role there ahead of Darrin Jackson. Collins will be joined by Steve Lyons as analyst. The position opened because of the decision for Charlie Steiner to remain on the radio starting this season rather than moving to TV when Scully is not with the team.

MIAMI - Another area station is going all sports within the next 30 days. And this is not a repeat of an earlier column. Now WINZ 940 will add to its Heat broadcasts at night with an assortment of network fare. Unless WINZ is serious about competing in the market place and goes after Sid Rosenberg or another high profile and local host.

The Ticket 790 is now expected to announce a replacement for Rosenberg by the end of March.
WFTL 640 continues with Sporting News Radio, its local morning show, and Larry Millan (formerly of 790 The Ticket) doing local weekend shows.

St. LOUIS - More of the radio version of musical chairs, but with positive results including Kevin Slaten moving back to afternoons. Slaten will move from middays into the 2 - 6 PM spot on KSLG 1380 within the next 30 days. The opening came when Bernie Miklasz decided to move to WXOS 101.1 FM, which began as a sports station at the start of this year.

SALT LAKE CITY - KALL 700 continues as the king of sports syndication as the Jim Rome show moves into the middday slot, aired live from 10 to 2. The station conintues to carry Dan Patrick and Chris Myers, among others. Local play-by-play includes pro soccer and U. of Utah football and basketball.

DES MOINES - It has been all over the news in the past few days about the profanity filled argument that went out over the air at KXNO 1460 this past Friday morning. Understandably broadcasters Marty Tirrell and Larry Cotlar have been suspended indefinitely. This means the removal of Cotlar's morning show and the afternoon drive show which Tirrell co-hosts (or co-hosted).

That is the "understandable" part. But what is not understandable is that in place of both shows is more network and syndicated programming. The result for Des Moines market listeners is that they lose local sports talk in drive time.That isn't fair to the sports fans in the area. As it goes in radio these days, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this isn't ultimately the end of local drive time talk, at least on KXNO.

The station is a Clearance Channel station, which leads me to belive that if the ratings finish anywhere within striking distance of the now suspended local shows, management will "decide" to continue with them. And if they don't, management will either examine what they can charge for ad time with the lower ratings vs. the operating costs of syndicated fare, or pull the plug on the format, as if low ratings are the reason.

If this were truly a "suspension" for the purpose of recovery, there would be local hosts filling in right away. Could be columnists, TV sportscasters, and/or special guests. For that matter, Clearance Channel would have the resources to assign a knowledgeable sports host from somewhere in the region to fill in for a few weeks. But that would cost money.

This is what local radio brings us, while TV, online, and mobile reporting reaches new heights while the sports games are being played.

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