Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sports Media Report - June 2nd update.......

Some very nice innovation from a radio station? Believe it or not, it is taking place this baseball season courtesy of Richmond VA Sports Radio 910.

The sports station wants to compete for the baseball audience at night and on weekends, and the possibilities are endless since other stations in the market carry the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals broadcasts. Neither team is having anything close to a compelling season once again, even if this offers listeners a game from each league most nights.

Fortunately, radio rights are not as ridiculous as TV (where teams literally more than 100 miles away are blacked out under certain circumstances) and a market without an MLB team such aa Richmond has choices.

Before the season, the station encouraged fans to vote on which (remaining) team to carry. Even after an extended voting period, the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox were too close to call. So the station decided to please the vast majority and acquired the rights to BOTH teams games.

On days when the Braves and Red Sox play at different times (such as one during the afternoon and the other at night), the market can choose among 4 live MLB broadcasts locally.

Better yet, 910 AM has taken the vote one step further. When the Red Sox and Braves play at the same time, listeners can vote before hand via the station's web site. As of late May, the Red Sox games had "won" the majority of conflicts and their games have aired.

What a great idea!

In other "non-MLB" city radio news, the Dodgers games are now back on a local Las Vegas station for the rest of this season and all of 2010, complete with a 10 minute pre and post-game show. KBET 790 will air the games in celebration of changing to a sports radio format. Until last Friday when the broadcasts started, KWWN 1100 was airing one Dodgers game per week, but that ends now that another station has taken over all of the games.

Speaking of great ideas, MLB Network continues to impress and improve since its January debut. The Network plans to televise the baseball amateur draft next week (Tuesday June 9 starting at 6:00 PM ET) and even had it moved to start later in the day than ever before to reach a potentially larger audience. That's a first round decision in more ways than one.

The Network also picked up points again last Thursday night. Since they couldn't show the Dodgers vs. Cubs game in Los Angeles or Chicago (which was thankfully televised locally in both markets), MLB Network showed the Detroit at Baltimore game from the Orioles feed in both of those markets. This made a lot of sense since National League fans in both markets would be watching the Dodgers vs. Cubs anyway. This gave White Sox and Angels fans (and the White Sox were idle that night) the opportunity to watch an American League game. This is the second time I know for sure that MLB Network picked up a "back-up" game feed so that all markets could have live baseball.

Sports Business Journal compiled data about the increase and decrease in the local baseball on TV audience into the later part of May. It showed the top 10 teams in terms of increased local TV ratings thus far this season are (in alphabetical order) the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, L A Dodgers, N Y Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals.

Of the "2 team" markets, only Chicago showed viewer increases for both teams, although the White Sox have the bigger increase thus far. In New York City, the Mets are up and Yankees viewership is down, in Los Angeles the Dodgers are up but the Angels have dropped, and in San Francisco the Giants are up with the A's significantly down from last year.

It will be interesting to see how ABC-TV does with the NBA Finals. TNT and ESPN are each coming off ratings success with their respective Conference Finals series telecasts. Yet many fear that ABC-TV will lose out because they didn't get the Cleveland and LeBron James vs. Kobe and Lakers marquee matchup.

On the NHL side, the ratings were good for NBC-TV's first 2 telecasts of the Stanley Cup Finals this past weekend. Never mind that after off days between games even since the start of the opening round, the network forced back-to-back nights to start the championship series.

Sorry, but I can't picture a Pete Rozelle (I know he is long gone - just making the point) or David Stern allowing their leagues to compromise like that. NBC-TV supposedly did this to not lose interest by waiting until this coming weekend to start - and protecting the scheduled starting time for the "new" Tonight show this week.

On the NFL side, Fox-TV Sports has dropped Brian Baldinger as one of its game analysts after 10+ seasons. Former safety John Lynch has been added, but nothing yet about which play-by-play voice he will be paired with to start the season.

SEATTLE: All the hype for months about KIRO 710 going all sports in April and having the Mariners and Seahawks broadcasts. Plus the former news-talk format moving over to KIRO-FM only. Even with a relatively good start by the Mariners, the sports station has come in 17th in the most recent ratings, starting below long time sports radio KJR. The news-talk format switched to the FM side dropped significantly overall and didn't fare much better than the AM station did.

PHILADELPHIA: After mainstay Howard Eskin's ratings continue to drop on WIP 610, Eskin now has a co-host. Rob Ellis started working with Eskin last week, the first time since 2002 that Eskin has not hosted solo. The reason? Mike Missanelli on ESPN Radio 950 has passed him up. By the way, Missanelli was Eskin's previous "partner" on WIP from 1999 into 2002. The Ellis stint has not been made permanent, but I think it's safe to say the ratings will decide that battle.

DALLAS: What pitcher gave up Barry Bonds' historic 756th homerun? I'll save you the time. It was Mike Bacsik. You are now wondering what this has to do with the Dallas sports media. It seems that Bacsik is looking to make sports headlines in a more positive way for himself. Not signed by a Major League team for this season, Bacsik started last week as a producer of Norm Hitzges' midday show on KTCK The Ticket in Dallas. Looks as though Bacsik will benefit more in the long run from that historic homerun than Bonds ever will.

DES MOINES: Following up from last week and the story that Marty Tirrell was scheduled to begin a sports talk show broadcasting from an auto dealer on 1700 AM. It didn't happen - at least not yet. It's not because of so many auto dealers closing up shop around the country. It is because of the non-compete clause in his contract that KXNO-AM, which fired him a few weeks ago, is trying to enforce.

This could keep Tirrell off the air until September. I could understand this being a concern if Marty had left KXNO to go elsewhere. But KXNO fired him due to the profanity laced argument that leaked onto the air. KXNO is a Clearance Channel station. While the parent company is fighting against paying musicians for performing rights on the music they have played for years and made millions from, they fight to keep someone off the air they fired.

SAN DIEGO: Even though there is some question about Compass Media Networks' plan to broadcast some NFL games for the coming season, Compass has hired Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton as one of its play-by-play voices. ESPN 800 San Diego is among the stations lined up to carry the broadcasts. This would put Hamilton back on in San Diego where he handled local sports talk for more than 20 years.

JACKSONVILLE: Those of us who have worked for radio stations within the past 40 years will believe this story, but it keeps happening. Even if you can afford a vacation these days, be careful.

After 13 years at WOKV 690, Cole Pepper returned from a 10 day trip to Hawaii to learn that his position as Sports Director was eliminated.

The kicker is that trip to Hawaii was sponsored by the station and included some advertisers and listeners.

Wish I could say I am surprised at this story. But then I thought back to the time in the late 70's when I learned that a news reporter with another station was let go the day before and was about to be hired by the same station I was working for. Fine and dandy, except that the guy had been on a week long camping trip without phone contact (years before cell phones). Several of us knew what was up before he was reached at home after his trip and told to come into a different company's radio station to work the next day.

Ft. MYERS/NAPLES: 770 ESPN Radio continues to crush 1200 AM Fox Sports, which showed up with overall ratings less than 0.5, yet has yet to indicate it will change format.

GRAND RAPIDS: "The ball" is rolling from the AM to the FM dial as of this week. WBBL moved from 1340 AM to 107.3 FM, and will continue to carry the Pistons, Red Wings, and most Michigan State football and basketball games. The station is also picking up non-conflicting Westwood One broadcasts. "The ball" has been on the air since 1994. At least it didn't get bounced.

LIMA, OH: Another AM to FM move for sports, although this one is for much improved signal coverage. ESPN Radio 940 AM has just moved (as of Monday June 1) to 93.1. The station will continue to carry the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers play-by-play, as well as Notre Dame football. 940 AM has become an oldies station. While the change makes sense due to what were signal problems, the irony is that an FM station goes talk while an AM station adds music.

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