Monday, March 30, 2009

Sports Media Update - March 31.....................

The story of Ohio State University selling "media rights" for its sports programs in a $110,000,000 deal came and went on Monday as if it was just another sports and media story. IMG marketing, along with RadiOhio will have a 10 year deal to market Ohio State play-by-play, coaches shows, available TV games (as in those not on a national network or the Big Ten Network), and programs and related school print and online publications.

110 million dollars?? That is staggering. First, I thought about how risky I think this is for IMG, at least for the near future based on today's economic conditions. School spirit or not, I don't see major advertisers forking over the big bucks easily enough for extra radio and TV spots. I say "extra" because this is not a year-round and consistently scheduled opportunity. It is not as though a sponsor would have, for example, 2 hours of time every Saturday between 2 and 4 PM no matter what.

Next, I naturally wonder how much ticket prices for the games will drop, and how much tuition will drop, since the University will be receiving an "extra" $11,000,000 per year, not counting revenue such as more than 88,000 people buying tickets for each home football game. Of course, tuition won't drop and ticket prices will hold steady or rise during the next 11 years. That is my point here.

And then, in reading the Associated Press story about this, it reports Athletic Director Gene Smith saying "the arrangement will help maintain the financial stability of Ohio State's 36 sports".

Maintain? Did I miss something here? Is this kind of money necessary to "maintain" financial stability? Does this mean that if this contract hadn't come along, Ohio State might not have been able to continue its sports programs?

I don't think so, either. And that is my point. Sorry, but way too few people will benefit from this arrangement. Yet, other large schools will now start to command a similar arrangement, and this, too, will get out of control.

Yes, this is a media column. But I fail to see the benefit for electronic media from this agreement. Right now we have radio stations cutting corners at every opportunity when not creating opportunities to cut corners. We are seeing pro teams accepting revenue shares and doing their own audience research as they recognize that radio stations can no longer justify hefty rights fees.

Between ESPN/ABC and the Big Ten Network, any meaningful football or basketball game will be picked up. I don't see TV stations bidding against each other to be able to televise OSU whipping North Podunk State 72-3 in a non-conference game every September. And frankly, TV stations shouldn't have to. This is college sports. Or, at least it should be. This just doesn't seem right.

While this is going on with college sports, pro sports continue to become way too much marketing and less about competition and results. The teams continue to forget that all regular season games count equally in the standings. Yet, from one day to the next teams force us to endure different uniforms for the same teams, "premium" ticket prices against certain teams, and forcing even the most avid fan to have to search to find what station his or her favorite team is seen on that night.

The uniform thing is getting out of hand. Last week, the Chicago Bulls supposedly honored a Latino target promotion by wearing uniforms for a nationally televised game saying "Los Bulls" on them. Say what? Like they couldn't have shown a pre-game ceremony and a speech or two. Does it have to disrupt the game itself with a different uniform. This while practically every spring training telecast I have seen has both teams wearing dark jerseys and making it near impossible to tell which team is which. But the media goes along with this as if it is no big deal.

As a real kicker, the NFL wants to honor the 50th Anniversary of the American Football League this coming season. So here we go again. Believe it or not, the Houston Oilers will be honored by a team wearing the old Oilers jerseys for 3 regular season games. That team? The Tennessee Titans, which used to be the Houston Oilers. Tennessee has no connection to that, while the fans in Houston will see that and get further distanced from the Texans.

BALTIMORE: 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore got national publicity for its Orioles broadcasts over this past weekend. By not finishing what they started. The spring training game being broadcast by Joe Angel and Fred Manfra went into a rain delay after just 1 inning. After about 90 minutes, the game resumed and was finished. But fans never heard the remainder of the game. Management sent the announcing and production team back to the hotel, not wanting to wait out the delay. On Monday, the station finally apologized and admitted it was a management error, after Angel and Manfra were taken to task in the media as if they had themselves decided to give it up.

Congrats to Dick Enberg from the announcement that Enberg will receive the 2nd annual Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting on May 6 in New York City.

Always great to see the baseball season get underway, and baseball fans welcome in the MLB Network and its extensive nightly coverage. MLB Network will be showing a live game each Thursday night (instead of the originally touted Saturday night telecast). The Network will originate 2 of its telecasts during April. On April 16, Bob Costas, Harold Reynolds, and Jim Kaat will call the Yankees vs. Cleveland in the opener at the new Yankee Stadium. On April 23, Matt Vasgersian and Joe Magrane will call the Dodgers vs. Astros game from Houston.

ESPN kicks the season off big time. In addition to the Sunday opener from Philadelphia, ESPN and ESPN2 combine to show 5 games on Monday, with these all Eastern time:

1:00: N.Y. Mets at Cincinnati, ESPN
2:00: Tampa Bay at Boston, ESPN2
4:00: N.Y. Yankees at Baltimore, ESPN
7:00: Chicago Cubs at Houston, ESPN2
9:00: Oakland at L.A. Angels, ESPN

However, games will be blacked out in the local markets. Sorry, but I still contend that us fans pay a lot of money for cable, which in turn pays these networks for programming, and we should not have any telecasts blacked out. If viewers prefer a national to a local telecast, then make the local telecasts more appealing.

On the football side, ESPN has moved another college telecast time for this fall. The Ole Miss vs. Memphis opener has been moved from the night of Saturday Sept. 5 to Sunday Sept. 6 at 2:30 PM local time. Yes - a Sunday afternoon NCAA football telecast in September. (Keep in mind that is the day before Labor Day and the week before the NFL openers.)

NEW YORK - WPEN 1050 has officially moved Brandon Tierney into the 10 AM to Noon hosting spot.

Ageless Warner Wolf is now doing double duty on Saturday mornings. Wolf is on from 6 to 8 AM on WEPN 1050, and then appears with Mark Simone on WABC 770 during the 8 to 9 AM hour. Fine, as long as Warner doesn't do a "like I said before" on Simone's show.

CHICAGO - WGN Radio has officially named Judd Sirott as its third member of the Cubs radio team. Sirott will handle pre and post-game duties as well as up to one inning of play-by-play each game to relieve Pat Hughes. Sirott is better known for his work on hockey, having previously done PBP for the NHL and for the minor league Chicago Wolves. He also handles studio segments during WGN's NHL Blackhawks broadcasts, which began on WGN this season. It is not yet known how Sirott will handle conflicts during Blackhawks playoff time, when WGN will have to move one of the broadcasts.

DALLAS - KTCK 1310 The Ticket dominated the local sports radio scene again during the February ratings. The Ticket literally had double the audience over ESPN 103.3 in the 25-54 age group from 6 AM to 7 PM.

HOUSTON - KBME 790 AM has extended its coverage of University of Houston football and basketball for another 3 years. Unlike the Ohio State deal, this is a more typical revenue share even though the school actually retains a portion of the broadcast inventory. KBME is expanding the football coverage to include broadcasting the spring game on April 18th. Tom Franklin continues as play-by-play voice for both sports,

DES MOINES - As we figured last week, the two broadcasters involved in the profanity filled argument which wound up on the air were both dismissed by KXNO. Being a Clearance Channel station, this rift provided an excuse to get rid of two more contracts, so they did. For Marty Tirrell, the matter was made worse when he also lost his weekly TV spot on KCCI-TV. Larry Cotlar, the other who was let go, still may or may not lose his gig as play-by-play voice for Drake University basketball. Cotlar does have time on his side, since the next hoops broadcast isn't until November.

PROVIDENCE - Congrats to George Duffy, the voice of the Rhode Island Reds hockey team for almost 40 years from the 40's into the 80's. At the age of 88, George is being inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame. Maybe we can all make Rhode Island one of the biggest states in the country for just one night in his honor.

Play ball!

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