Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sports Media Report - March 3rd update..........

The impact of the new MLB Network is just starting, but already NBA-TV is reacting. The new baseball network is making great strides toward keeping baseball fans away from ESPN during the season. Their "MLB Tonight" has debuted to enhance its spring training coverage, but the 6 to 7 hours per night of live studio coverage while the games are being played could make many fans forget the excellent "Baseball Tonight".

MLB Network began in January in more than 50,000,000 homes as part of expanded basic on many cable systems. After a couple of years of being buried on a more expensive sports tier by many cable networks, now all of a sudden NBA-TV wants to do something about that.

Sports Business Journal reports that NBA-TV is close to a deal with Comcast to move the channel to digital basic and thus gain simliar billing to MLB-TV. With only Comcast in the fold (if this happens), the estimate is that as many as 7,000,000 more subscribers would be added. In many cases, once one cable system negotiates such a deal, others will follow. The hope is that this is being done now to be ready for the 2009-10 NBA season.

NBA-TV does a great job of carrying games on many nights when neither TNT, ESPN, ABC-TV, or WGN America do not carry national games. This includes a Tuesday night game voted upon by fans.

As one who constantly complains, and wishes more sports fans would, that since we pay a lot of money for cable we as viewers should not be subject to blackout restrictions for games, it is great to see the possibility of more games made available to us.

This after last Friday's MLB-TV Network telecast of the Cardinals vs. Mets exhibition game was blacked out by DirecTV in the St. Louis market, when it wasn't supposed to be. The fact that it could have been is infuriating. It would have been had there been a Cardinals telecast. My point continues that for the hefty amount we pay for cable TV, we should have as many choices as possible. If I want to watch a national or other team's feed of a game, I should have the right to do so. Yet, it's not like DirecTV or the cable system refunds subscribers' money for the day even though they messed up.

Speaking of the NBA and its TV packages, Cleveland has emerged as the NBA's best local TV market. Their ratings have more than doubled since last season as LeBron James leads the Cavs to new heights, so to speak. San Antonio is 2nd (and was 1st for last season).

The Dallas Mavericks have suffered on the tube, as well as on the court, this season. Their local ratings are down a reported 25% (through the All-Star Game) for the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, into their first season in a new city and among the NBA attendance leaders, have ratings more than 40% under the league average for local TV. Most of their games are shown on Fox Sports Oklahoma, with ratings of telecasts on KSBI-TV averaging a mere 1.0 according to The Oklahoman.

NEW YORK: The simulcast of Mike Francesa and his afternoon WFAN Radio show on YES-TV will continue as a new multi-year contract extension has been announced. In addition, YES will continue to air Francesa's NFL Now during the fall on Sundays from 9 AM until Noon. NFL Now has been a part of the WFAN schedule since 1987. Francesa has been on YES since it began 7 years ago this month.

Francesa hasn't gone without controversy in the past couple of weeks. The Washington Post carried the story about the supposed 45 minute conversation with Mike and Mets third baseman David Wright to clear the air. Wright reportedly refused to appear on the show last week due to past criticsm. Even though WFAN is the Mets' flagship station, Francesa is a Yankees fan. Then again, the Yankees games are on sister station WCBS.

LOS ANGELES: Speaking of getting to see additional games, a thumbs up to the Dodgers for providing live video streams on Dodgers.com of several spring training games - starting this week. From a fan standpoint, this is more like it. Spring training games are there to help get fans interested in the upcoming season, yet the number of radio broadcasts has dipped over the years for many teams. Seeing them is even better. A nice innovation from one of the teams which even into the 90's offered among the fewest TV games of any team, despite their success at the gate.

The live streams begin (this) Weds. March 4 vs. rival San Francisco, and include the White Sox on Thursday (5th), vs. Seattle on the 7th, Arizona on the 10th, Texas on Mar. 13, Chicago Cubs on March 17, Colorado on March 19, and then pick up again on March 27 (K.C.), 29 (San Diego) and 30th (Oakland).

DALLAS - The January ratings have 1310 The Ticket remaining on top of the Metroplex sports talk heap, but ESPN 103.3 has narrowed the gap to start the year. The Fan 105.3 FM is a distant third of the three in the 25-54 age group. But you have to take notice that the combined rating for the three stations in the 25-54 demographic amounts to just under 10% of the entire listening audience. Not many markets are getting that kind of penetration from sports radio stations.

BOSTON: ESPN 890 has decided to increase the ESPN presence on weekdays as the station is leaving more and more local sports to WEEI. 890 has already taken Mike Salk and Bob Halloran off of middays. Colin Cowherd will expand from 10 AM to 2 PM starting on March 16th following Mike & Mike. Local programming will continue with "The Lew and Mike Show" from 4 to 7 PM.

MINNEAPOLIS: Talk about cutbacks. FSN Minnesota televised the University of Minnesota's hockey game from Colardo College in Colorado Springs last weekend. But that isn't the cutback. What the channel forgot to inform viewers is that announcers Frank Mazzocco and Doug Woog were not at the game either. As a live audio feed of the crowd served as background, the announcers were actually at the Minneapolis studios watching on monitors. I have heard certain teams accused of "phoning in" a game, but this??

St. LOUIS: Bernie Miklasz has a new co-host on his KSLG sport talk show. Brian McKenna, fired in the fall by KFNS, started as co-host this week.

BUFFALO: WGR has changed tradition and will carry some NBA Playoff games from ESPN Radio starting next month.

College hoop fans in the Buffalo area got some good news as Time Warner Cable added The Big
Ten Network to its digital package.

HOUSTON - Congrats to KRIV-TV Sports Director Mark Berman on being named 2008 Texas Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Berman is the first Houston sportscaster in 20 years to receive this honor.

Meanwhile, January ratings show KGOW 1560 as the sports radio leader in the morning in the 25-54 demographic, with KILT 610 the sports leader during the midday and afternoon drive times.

SIOUX CITY: KWSN 1230 is dropping its ESPN Radio affiliation, including Mike & Mike and Colin Cowherd. The station is going with Fox Sports and is expected to add Dan Patrick's show as well as Jim Rome and Tony Bruno.

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