Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Earlier World Series games not totally a baseball decision............

Let's not go overboard with the announcement that the World Series and ALCS games will start about 40 minutes earlier beginning this fall. Granted, it helps the fans, especially in the Eastern time zone, to have a better chance of being able to see the conclusion of more of the games. It also gives the kids across the country a chance to see a couple more innings of each game while developing more interest and become the future spenders who watch baseball in prime time.

But this is not purely a baseball decision. There are also financial benefits for the TV and radio networks (and local radio) covering the games. By taking the 8:00 ET 7:00 CT half hour and making that time be an actual game broadcast, they no longer charge slightly less during prime time for what was pre-game show time. They will get a few thousand dollars more per spot from game time, especially since the first commercial will hit during prime time. The 7:57 PM ET start for these games means that even with a "three up three down" half inning the first commercial will air after 8:00, which is prime time. The TV pre-game show will begin at 7:30 PM ET, and be a few minutes shorter.

Elsewhere, I can understand Mike Tirico's decision to give up the ESPN Radio gig he has been doing 5 days a week and stick with his hectic but seasonal play-by-play schedule of football and basketball. Tirico will have a few weeks to prepare for the coming football season, as Ryen Russillo will join Scott Van Pelt on the ESPN Radio show (live at 2 - 4 PM ET) on July 6th. Mike Tirico will continue with ESPN Radio in a more limited role, such as hosting the weekly 2 hour college and pro football preview show on Friday nights starting in August.

Meanwhile, the death of former ABC Radio President Robert Pauley at the age of 85 earlier this month wouldn't normally make the sports pages, but it deserved to. Pauley became ABC Radio President back in 1961, and knew to use sports broadcasting as a means to grow the network. Pauley brought events such as heavyweight boxing matches and others to a national radio audience.

For example, estimates of a radio audience of more than 70,000,000 followed the ABC Radio broadcast of the 1964 Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Listion fight. In addition, it was Pauley who took a chance with an unknown but outspoken sports reporter he hired in his early days with the network. That reporter was Howard Cosell, whose "Speaking of Sports" paved the way for national sports news and comment with a then revolutionary style of controversy and opinion.
While Pauley will be missed, his influence on sports broadcasting is still as strong as ever.

SAN FRANCISCO / OAKLAND: This week brings the Bay Area's newest sports radio entry as KTRB 860 has made the switch and now competes against KNBR. The station is the flagship station for the Oakland A's games, giving them their best signal coverage in a while, even though A's television ratings have been dismal this season. KTRB also carries Stanford football and basketball.

The station looks to emphasize the A's and Raiders, while KNBR continues as the station broadcasting the Giants and 49ers games. While the newcomer KTRB plans to eventually add local programming focused on the A's and Raiders, it debuts with syndicated programming surrounding their 5 to 6 hour blocks for the A's games. The Todd & Tyler Radio Empire airs in morning drive, becoming that show's largest market by far (Omaha NE is believed to be their 2nd biggest market). Fox Sports Radio's Chris Myers and Petros & Money shows will run during the afternoon period depending upon the start time for A's programming.

DALLAS - While the crowded sports radio market continues to unfold, KZMP 1540 has picked up ESPN Deportes, the Spanish language sports format and will begin with that on June 1st.

PORTLAND - The recent sale of KXL 750 comes to Alpha Broadcasting with an 8 year deal as flagship station of the Portland Trailblazers. KXTG 95.5 will carry the Seattle Seahawks NFL broadcasts.

HOUSTON - KILT 610 continues as the market leader in the battle of sports stations, but Bill Van Rysdam is being replaced as Program Director after nearly 9 years on the job at Houston's longest sports station. The station continues its 10 year $70 million dollar contract to broadcast Houston Texans football, but the economic impact of this contract on the station could have made an impact with this decision. Recent major league radio rights deals have been done for less money and more revenue and advertising sharing with the team. Yet, with 3 other sports stations in the market, play-by-play rights become a bidding war.

PHILADELPHIA - The 76ers will have a new TV analyst to work with Marc Zumoff on Comcast SportsNet beginning next season. The team has already announced that Bob Salmi will not return after 2 seasons in that role, having taken over for former Sixers star Steve Mix.

MINNEAPOLIS - Cheers to the University of Minnesota Radio Network for a wonderful gesture this fall. U of M plays its first game at its new football stadium on September 12th against Air Force. To help celebrate, Ray Christensen will return to the broadcast booth to call a series with the Golden Gophers on offense. He called more than 500 U of M football games before retiring in 2001, including having called the first game they played at the Metrodome.

Darrell Thompson and Dave Mona will be able to work with Ray, like they did for his last 3 seasons as the play-by-play voice at the turn of the century.

This is somewhat in the same vein as the Phillies radio allowing Haray Kalas to call the ninth inning of the Phillies' World Series win over Tampa last October. Even if this is merely a Minnesota vs. Air Force game, it should prove a wonderful gesture and a special moment for the Gophers' long time fans.

COLUMBUS: As of this past Monday (5/11), Columbus now has a 2nd sports radio station, as WHAL 1460 has changed format and picked up Fox Radio and other syndicated sports programs. These include Dan Patrick, Jim Rome, and JT The Brick. The station, which was Spanish until this week, competes against WEAM 1580's ESPN Radio. In a way, this is odd timing, given that the Blue Jackets' season ended 2 weeks earlier and Ohio State football is still 3 months away.

Ft. MYERS - Similar story in Ft. Myers where new signal WNPL 1460 will simulcast and expand the reach of 1200 AM by adding Fox Sports. Actually 1200 AM has been on the air with sports only since last summer. The stronger combined signal competes against 770 AM and its ESPN Radio programming.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Even though the NBA Thunder was a disaster in the standings during its initial season in Oklahoma City, the former Seattle SuperSonics had a positive impact on WWLS 640 and 98.1 Sports Animal. The station showed up in the top 10 overall for the market in the recently released winter ratings book, while the other sports station failed to crack the top 20.

Ratings were up as much as 70% during the evening period with the Thunder broadcasts compared with one year earlier (when there was no NBA team in town).

HATTERAS NC: WYND 97.1 has become an ESPN Radio affiliate.

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