Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday Night Football on the radio

Wanted to update the information regarding the national radio broadcasts of Monday Night Football for the coming season. As seen in the comment below the July 28th Sports Media Report, it seems that both Marv Albert AND Kevin Harlan will be dividing the play-by-play duties for this season. Talk about a ton of experience from the broadcast teams!

These 2 must like sharing the workload. As the Monday Night Football schedule winds down, both Marv Albert and Kevin Harlan also handle play-by-play for TNT's NBA package.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sports Media Report - July 28th update

Maybe I put too much of a sports element on all phases of radio, TV, and overall electronic media coverage of sports. Or, maybe some members of the electronic media put too little of a sports and competition element into their jobs. Whichever it is, I find myself shocked and dismayed after reading an article in Broadcasting & Cable about how TV stations are reacting to ESPN adding more local web sites in the near future.

The local site for Chicago and the local ESPN Radio station there has attracted a large following within a short period of time, leading to the network planning similar local sites for New York, L.A. and Dallas. That is called competition for the sports audience, and in a sense, competition is what ESPN is all about. If there wasn’t enough interest in the competition that pro and college sports bring us, we wouldn’t have ESPN or anything like it today.

My reaction is because the story actually goes on to quote a Dallas TV executive about how much of a challenge this will be for local TV sports because ESPN is doing this. Say what? This is not a rant against the person quoted, but if this is how management and sales are representing themselves these days, is it any wonder that “local” TV and radio are in so much trouble?

Quotes like the ones in that article are an insult to those who came before on local TV and radio stations. Why not carry it a step further and tell advertisers to place their buys online with ESPN? This is like the coach telling his team that the other team is going to win today’s game, so why bother to get out there and play the game. The article also includes information about the local ESPN sites knowing to hit local high school coverage.

Personally, I don’t care about high school sports and that was the case even when I was a high school student. But I know that many others do, and it deserves some level of coverage by the sports media. Yet now many local TV stations are cutting back on sports coverage during their local news, and this trend keeps getting worse. Same on the radio side, where the gradual elimination of local programming is also carrying over to sports, especially on the high school side.

This all serves to remind me of a personal experience which remains one of the ideas I am most proud of more than 30 years later. In the late 70’s I was handling play-by-play of high school (and some college) football and basketball games in Lexington KY. Late in a high school basketball season, a situation was coming up where 2 of the city’s “big” high schools were battling for first place, and each had a game in town against local schools, scheduled for the same night at the same time but across town. At a station meeting the week before, the other play-by-play voice said we should do one particular game. I responded that “We have 2 sets of remote broadcast gear and phone lines in both schools, and we should do BOTH games, with one of us at each game.” At the time, others in the room looked at me like I was nuts. (Not the first time, and probably not the last time that will happen.)

Finally, after days of practically arguing with colleagues, they agreed to send us each to one of the games. I immediately called the coach at the school I was going to and explained that we were going to cover both games, asking if he could delay the start of his game about 10 minutes. He agreed.

Along came game night, and the station publicized that both games would be covered. We shared the pre-game show, and the other game started as scheduled. We all monitored off the air. I sat at my game keeping score and statistics, and every few minutes the other guy threw it over to me for an update and a minute or so of play-by-play. His game got to half time, and he threw it to me for the remaining few minutes of “my” first half. It ended and it was back to him with the 2nd half underway. Then we went back and forth. His game ended, and he threw it to me for the conclusion of my game. From my listening to the other game off the air, I was feeding the school’s P A announcer score updates from the other game, and he was plugging the station every time.

The combined broadcast was a total success. People called the station the next day to thank us. Two of the local TV stations, which only had 1 camera crew to cover both games, thanked us for providing them with accounts of both games before their newscasts so that they could match up the results with their highlights. There was the example of a local radio station serving its community to the max.

Now, 30+ years later, I read in a major publication quotes from executives expressing concern about a media company out-doing them. What did they think was going to happen?
I have been saying it for months. The local TV stations cutting back or eliminating local sports coverage are going to suffer for it. There are plenty of “casual” sports fans, especially at the high school and college level, who prefer a 3 minute recap over the half hour or hour SportsCenter type of shows that air most every night. But if those fans now are “forced” to tune to ESPN, Fox Sports, Comcast, or whatever regional sports network for expanded coverage, they may not come back to the local TV stations for the rest of the news.

In addition, I have pointed out how the HD channels could be used for broadcasts and re-broadcasts of high school and local college games. Family members of the players will keep tuning in to hear their son, nephew, cousin, etc., score the key basket or the big touchdown run for replay after replay. And local sponsors will pay a few bucks to be heard during those games.

While the actual station carries on with regular programming. This could be an outlet for additional community service, sports coverage, and local ad dollars.

Instead, the executives who make the decisions for radio and TV stations regarding this sort of local sports coverage continue to cut back, eliminate, and/or not move forward in this direction.
Even worse, they are rolling over when a form of competition threatens to do what they won’t.

Just one TV station being afraid of a web site should be cause for alarm. The problem is, the station is punting.

It is just like with radio stations and music programming. If the radio stations had kept doing what they did 10, 20, 30 years ago and maintained their playlists while adding in new releases, avoided non-local programming, and not clustered an overload of commercials, millions of consumers might not have moved on to MP3 players, satellite radio, online music channels, and all of the other "distractions" - many of which cost more than turning on the FM Radio every month.

Now, when it comes to sports coverage, it doesn't stop at reduced coverage of the local on the field competition. The stations are afraid to compete with the media themselves.

Meanwhile, Westwood One Radio has revealed its announcing teams for its NFL Radio packages for the coming season. Monday Night Football will again be called by Marv Albert with WFAN New York morning man Boomer Esiason. Dave Sims and James Lofton will call Sunday Night broadcasts, while Ian Eagle and Randy Cross will handle the Thursday night games. Sunday afternoon games will be called by the first team of Howard David and Dan Reeves, while Kevin Kugler and Mark Malone will handle whichever afternoon game David does not call. Overflow (such as the opening Monday night doubleheader) and "extra" playoff games will be handled by Kevin Harlan and Warren Moon.

The NFL on radio continues to grow in Mexico for the upcoming season. Mexico City's XHM 88.9 will air Spanish language broadcasts of all Pittsburgh Steelers games. Not exactly within the Steelers' marketing territory, but it will be done. Actually, this is not a first. Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals broadcasts are also heard in Mexico.

Major League Baseball Network, which is coming off an excellent job of covering its first Hall of Fame Induction this past Sunday, continues to beef up the quality of its live telecasts over the next two weeks. This Thursday (7/30) it will be the Yankees at White Sox, in a MLB Network originated telecast with Bob Costas, while on Saturday (8/1) they will carry Houston at St. Louis. Next Thursday (8/6)it will be the Yankees vs. the Red Sox (also with Bob Costas) and on Saturday (8/8) it will be the Chicago Cubs at Colorado. As of this writing, each of these games is important for both teams involved. The only disappointment is that the Thursday originated telecasts are blacked out in the local team markets. I continue to feel that there should be an outcry over this, since we (the fans) pay a lot of money for cable or satellite TV and should have every available choice. If the local telecasts are good enough, most would watch them anyway. Let us decide.

ATLANTA: My contention that TV and radio rights will soon reduce to more realistic price points continues with the Braves losing their multi-million dollar deal with WGST, where estimates are the station lost millions from their 5-year deal which finishes up at the end of the current Braves season.

A new 5-year deal has been announced, for considerably less money, bringing the Braves games to WCNN 680 The Fan along with WNNX-FM 100.5. The Fan is gearing up for extended Braves related programming throughout its broadcast day in season, along with pre and post-game programming.

The Braves Radio Network of nearly 150 stations throughout the region will remain in tact.

HOUSTON: Sean Pendergast has signed a new 2-year agreement to remain on KGOW 1560. The station is also planning to add Tim Brando's syndicated show to begin the week of August 17th.

On the TV side, KTBU-TV has picked up the SEC Network football package through ESPN for the upcoming season. Dave Neal and Andre Ware are expected to be the announcing team for the 11 AM local time telecasts.

BOSTON: Lou Merloni is staying with with WEEI as a part of The Big Show with Glen Ordway. What makes this news is that new rival WBZ-FM reportedly made a significant offer in an attempt to pry Merloni away. Look for him to see an increase in his role with the station and He is also expected to continue his TV work for Comcast SportsNet.

SAN DIEGO: The baseball season is as much a disaster for sports radio as it has been for the Padres. XX Sports had its lowest ratings ever during the baseball season for the month of June. Yet, it did not lose out to the sports radio competition, beating XTRA 1360 and ESPN 800 by at least a full ratings point for the month. Ouch.

WASHINGTON D.C.: WTEM 980 began its newest show this past Monday (7/27) when Kevin Sheehan and Washington Times columnist Thom Loverro began "Sports Fix" during the Noon to 2 PM weekday slot.

LUBBOCK: Double T 104.3 is changing call letters to KTTU and has indeed gone to all sports with an emphasis on Texas Tech University sports. The sports station became official this past Monday (7/27). In an interesting twist to debut, the station borrowed a chapter from stations which have converted to a different music format and played hundreds or even thousands of songs in a row to introduce the format.

KTTU came on the air with a "guarantee" of a 15 game undefeated "season" for Texas Tech by replaying broadcasts of the "top 15 Texas Tech games of the decade, each of which ended in victory. To its credit, the station plans to add local programming in morning and afternoon drive plus 11 AM to 1 PM, with ESPN Radio shows occupying the remaining available time. In addition to TT sports, the station carries Rangers baseball and will also air Cowboys football broadcasts in addition to non-conflicting ESPN Radio game broadcasts.

This is good to see on all counts. An emphasis on local programming throughout the day, a ton of local, regional, and national play-by-play, and a unique feature of local interest to debut the station.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sports Media Report - July 21st update

The sports world may yet feel some impact from the challenging economy as soon as later this year. Here we are just a couple of weeks from the opening of NFL training camps, and word is that the TV networks carrying NFL games are only about one-third sold out regarding commercial time for the upcoming season.

These are the same networks that usually base their costs according to prime time prices. However, the economy has already had an impact on prime time TV inventory sales, thus reducing the opportunity for higher or even consistent ad rates compared with last year.
In addition, primary sponsors such as auto makers and financial institutions are struggling or have gone away since last season, leaving fewer ad dollars to be divided among the networks. reports that about 1/3 of network ad time has been sold for the upcoming season, a definite reflection of the concern. TV ad sales were already significantly reduced for NASCAR, even if that is due more to the problems in the auto industry.

The next NFL TV rights negotiations could be a better battle than anything on the field. The networks are not going to continue to pay hundreds of millions if they can't sell enough inventory. As it stands now, fans complain when a few of the Thursday night games can't be seen without paying extra for the NFL Network. If the networks do not wish to pony up for the league packages and the NFL games go local (such as with baseball, basketball, and hockey), it would mean way fewer out of market games shown each weekend.

It is not like the NFL can get away with raising their ticket prices even more. Many are already priced out from going and TV is their only source. If and when the NFL rights are reduced, this figures to carry over to baseball and basketball negotiations.

On the other hand, reports that ad revenue is doing well for soccer and the 2010 World Cup. It says that Univision has already sold nearly 2/3 of its inventory, even though the Cup doesn't get underway until long after the coming NFL season has been concluded.

NEW YORK: WFAN 66 continues as the nation's most popular sports station, actually increasing its audience to the point of finishing first in men 25-54 during both morning and afternoon drive in the most recent ratings.

This indicates the continued success of Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton in the morning. The Fan showed more than 4 times the audience of WEPN 1050 in this demographic. WEPN has finally been able to incrase power to 50,000 watts and improve its signal coverage around the NYC region.

HOUSTON: KILT continues as the leader among Houston's sports station, including finishing first among the sports talkers during every daypart except mornings. Although KGOW won the sports battle in the morning, the latest audience measurement showed an overall drop of more than 1 1/2 points among all of the sports stations during morning drive. The summer ratings could get interesting, since the Astros have gotten within striking distance in the N. L. Central and the Texans season will be starting shortly.

KILT will continue to broadcast the Texans games, with Marc Vandermeer and Andre Ware returning as the broadcast team. KFNC 97.5 will be airing the Compass Media NFL broadcasts including 3 Dallas Cowboys games in the Houston market. Those are Dallas vs. K. C. on Oct. 11, vs. Atlanta on Oct. 25, and vs. Washington on Nov. 22. On the TV side, KIAH-TV 39 has secured the over-the-air rights to the Texans game scheduled for Monday Night Footballon Nov. 23rd against Tennessee. They will also air the Aug. 31 pre-season game against Minnesota (also shown on ESPN).

LOS ANGELES: San Diego Chargers games will air again this season in Los Angeles, as KLAC 570 picks up the Chargers Network with Josh Lewin and Hank Bauer.

SALT LAKE CITY: The Utah Jazz will begin their run on KFNZ 1320 this season and have named David Locke as the new play-by-play voice. Usually, changing radio stations is the significant part of such an announcement. Not this time. Locke becomes only the 2nd voice of the Jazz in (Utah) franchise history due to the recent and very quiet retirement of Hot Rod Hundley after 35 seasons.

Hundley developed a national following when he was on CBS-TV when that network had the NBA coverage in the 70's and into the early 80's. Locke handled the Seattle Supersonics play-by-play for the 2006-07 season and has also done TV play-by-play of University of Washington football and basketball.

BALTIMORE: Hard as it may be to believe, the (now) 4 sports talkers in Baltimore will have to work hard to have the best Ravens coverage. WBAL Radio continues with play-by-play and extended pre and post-game programming again this season. But they don't stop there. The station has cleared the 6 to 10 PM spot throughout the week for a block of Ravens related programming. This will include coaches shows, call-ins, and all things Ravens all week.

The Ravens game broadcasts will be simulcast on Rock 98 FM. The FM side plans a separate and "lighter" pre and post-game show even though the game broadcast is simulcast. The FM side will be more of a "tailgate party" style show.

Jerry Sandusky and Stan White continue to call the games. In addition, the Ravens' broadcast team will also be utilized on 3 of their 4 pre-season games shown locally on WBAL-TV Channel 11.

The Westwood One NFL prime time package will air in Baltimore on WJZ-FM.

St. LOUIS: The crowded sports radio dial gets a slight reduction this week (starting Weds. 7/22) when WFXX-AM drops Dan Patrick and Jim Rome's respective syndicated sports fare during the day in favor of more urban talk. Sports is expected to be among the topics on Craig Black's and Maurice Scott's talk shows during weekday afternoons.

DENVER: It looks like the winter sports teams believe that the increase in signal on 1510 AM KCKK will make a difference. Both the NBA Nuggets and NHL Avalanche have agreed to 2-year contract extensions to remain on the station.

I am suprised that both teams would agree to this, since NBA and NHL teams have many conflicts throughout the season, resulting in one of the teams being placed on another station.

MIAMI: Ever since I lived in Southern California in the mid-80's, I have said that "national sports" has a place on So. California and Florida radio because of all of the "transplant" sports fans. In those places it is common for fans to be attending pro games and rooting for the opposing team because that is what they have always done.

While it is true I often complain about syndicated shows being on instead of local shows, Miami remains one of those markets where there is a definite place for both.

The latest radio ratings show significant progress for WINZ 940, which began its sports format at the start of April. Sure enough, Dan Patrick's and Jim Rome's respective shows already fare better than WQAM 560 and 790 The Ticket.

WQAM has actually already countered this when they bought out Neil Rogers' contract recently (which was not a sports show) in order to finally become "all sports" radio. But no matter what, it shows WINZ had good instinct when it brought over 2 shows it knew would reach the "transplants".

Miami area listeners trend toward the show itself rather than a particular station, and that is rarely the case when compared with most markets.

Overall, WINZ finished well below The Ticket and WQAM, but it has a good start with middays. The Ticket scores well in afternoon drive as Dan LeBetard and Jon Weiner more than doubled the audience of WQAM and Jim Mandich. Yet, in morning drive WQAM with Joe Rose is the clear winner over The Ticket.

GRAND RAPIDS: It might just be radio stations refusing to pay the performance royalties for music or wanting to make less use of a quality stereo signal. For whatever reason, WMAX-FM 96.1 will drop its alternative music format next month and become ESPN 96.1. Its soon-to-be competitor WBBL 107.3 "The Ball" remains all sports, but dropped ESPN last May.

The new station plans to air Mike & Mike in the morning and add a local sports show for the afternoon.

COLUMBIA SC: WCOS The Team 1400 is moving former Gamecock and N Y Giant Corey Miller and J. C. Shurbutt into a new afternoon drive show starting in August. The 2 will join former U. of South Carolina basketball and baseball play-by-play voice Mike Morgan from 3 to 6 PM. Morgan will have the flexibility he needs to continue as the pre-season voice of Carolina Panthers pre-season telecasts.

HUNTSVILLE: Tennnessee Titans NFL broadcasts will air in the Huntsville market, even if it might take some digging to find them. WUMP at 730 AM and 103.9 FM are scheduled to carry the game day coverage, the Tuesday night (coach) Jeff Fisher Show and the daily Titans Report. In the event of conflict with U. of Alabama coverage or Friday night high school football (the latter of which is highly unlikely to cause a conflict), then WVNN at 770 AM and 92.5 FM will carry the Titans coverage.

Mike Keith begins his 11th season as voice of the Titans and continues to work with Frank Wycheck and Larry Stone.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brewers brew up a necessary promotion.........

Maybe the pro sports franchises will get the message from the fans instead of boasting about the marketing promotion part of it. The Milwaukee Brewers intended to bring attention to their star player, Prince Fielder, and his participation in the All-Star Game, specifically the Home Run Derby contest. The team had announced that for each homerun Fielder hits in the contest, they would take $1 off the price of their Loge Outfield tickets, even if only for a 3 game series against the lowly (this season) San Diego Padres next month.

What happened was that Fielder won the Home Run Derby, but hit 23 home runs in the process. The Brewers are sticking to their promise. Yet, what I did not realize at the time is that even though these are outfield seats, they are regularly priced at, get this, $28 per game. Thus, Fielder’s feat made these tickets for the 3 games available for $5 each.

Sure, that is a bargain, relatively speaking. To me, that is a problem. I think the marketing focus should turn to how baseball (and all sports) tickets have become so outrageously priced. It is not like the Brewers are the only team charging more than $20 to sit all the way out in the outfield. The Brewers are also far from the only team concerned about ticket sales in today’s economy either.

There is already more to this story. The Home Run Derby resulted in $5 tickets for 3 games which otherwise would not be a huge draw, barring a serious winning streak by the Padres, and that isn’t likely this season. By the middle of the day, the Milwaukee Journal reported that fans began lining up hours before the 9 AM on sale time to go for these $5 tickets. The team also set up to sell these $5 tickets online to meet the “demand”.

Let me run this by you again. These same $28 outfield tickets have been on sale since late February at all of the regular ticket outlets. But within hours of them being reduced to $5, now there is a demand and people lined up for hours.

To me, outfield seats for a big league baseball game should all be $5 or less, with a top price around $20 for the best box seats. This would let “fans” compare with the price of admission to a movie, a museum, or another live event on a given night or weekend day. My contention is that teams should reduce the prices significantly and fill the stadium every game. The people that could then AFFORD to come will then buy their fair share of souvenirs, food, and extras. In addition, they will go to eat and shop nearby and generate more revenue into the local economies.

Under the current price structure, the Brewers (like most teams) expect a group of 4 to pay $112 before they even set foot at the stadium. That doesn’t even count how the fans are gouged for parking and overprice ballpark food which brings the “group of 4” total closer to $200 – for one regular season baseball game.

With the $5 per ticket formula, that group or family of 4 stands a chance to have a night out for under $50. They could go 4 times per year for what it normally costs to go to 1 game – and we’re talking outfield seats and not the good ones closer to home plate!

The media would see some impact from this as well. Fans going to multiple games are more likely to follow the team when on the road via the TV and radio broadcasts, thus positively impacting the ratings and advertiser responses. Also, you can't tell me that those watching and listening wouldn't get more charged up hearing the roar of a big crowd all the time and maybe want to start going. Hardcore baseball fans know how certain broadcasters have directly helped to increase attendance, going back to when Harry Caray had an attendance clause in his Chicago White Sox radio contract in the early 70's, and received a bonus each year he had it.

Personally, I grew up being able to get into big league games for less than the nation’s minimum hourly wage. And I went every chance I could (and even a few that I couldn’t). Now, fans are expected to pony up at least 3 times the minimum wage and that is for the less appealing seats.

I pray that the Brewers take note, and that other teams follow suit. Not about having a home run promotion – but by making at least the lesser seats truly affordable. $5 or less. The fans they have priced out today are having the kids who will grow up not having the chances I did to get used to going to ballgames in person, and there won’t be anybody left willing to pay these prices in 20 years.

After all, Fielder’s regular season homeruns going forward shouldn’t land in empty outfield seats………..

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sports Media Update - July 13th..............

Here we are at the Baseball All-Star break, which means it is time for media coverage reflections on the first half of the season. As always, that includes both positives and not-so-positives.
On the plus side, as I have been saying since day 1, the MLB Network on cable has already exceeded high expectations for coverage of the game. The live "look ins" the contstant updating, and the panel of experts continue to offer superior coverage. I never thought anyone could compete with, let alone exceed at times, ESPN Baseball Tonight, but MLB Network maintains that on a nightly basis.

On the other side of the page, too much of the baseball coverage got way too caught up in needless hype to the point that it was somewhat of a slap in the face to hardcore baseball fans.
A single example was the recent return of Manny Ramirez from his 50 game suspension. All of the "coverage" leading up to the first few at-bats. It was going to be big news either way. Fox-TV cutting in on the July 4th regional telecasts to show the entire country his first at-bat of his SECOND game back. A lot of media decision makers seem to have overlooked the fact that he returned from a serious suspension. Not from a serious injury or a premature retirement where his level of performance would be in question. It was as if he was glorified for having been suspended. Considering that the cause of his being suspended was really another black eye for baseball, one would think that the stations and networks which broadcast and televise the games (as a big chunk of their overall revenue) would not want to call significant attention to the performance enhancing drugs problem.

If it were up to me, there would have been no extra hype or coverage until Manny hit a homerun in his 2nd game back. And I would have gone with the "and think of how many more homeruns he might have hit by now....." approach.

My other big concern is actually caused by Baseball, which seems to be way way too concerned about observing holidays and anniversaries. This recent element is making many baseball games too much of a challenge to watch.

While I understand honoring Jackie Robinson each year, showing every player and coach on the field wearing the same uniform number made the games that day a nightmare for the TV viewing fans. Honoring Mothers Day is fine, but frankly pink bats and uniform patches are not part of Baseball. Same with Fathers Day in that we didn't need blue armbands to remind us. Then all of the teams wearing red caps throughout the July 4th weekend? Where, for example, was the outrage of the Chicago Cubs having to wear caps which are St. Louis Cardinals color?

Sorry, but I already knew it was July 4th weekend and its importance. I shouldn't have had to endure teams that do not wear any red have to change their uniform for a weekend to remind me.

The old saying "You can't tell the players without a scorecard" is ringing true again, and unfortunately will continue as long as the fans and the TV stations and network put up with it. But at this rate, and with different uniforms for every weekend or holiday, we can't tell the players WITH a scorecard from watching on TV.

Then again, the upcoming NFL season will find the Tennessee Titans wearing Houston Oilers uniforms while the Houston Texans won't on certain game days.

The college football season is shaping up for couch potatoes across the country. (The ESPN Thursday Night schedule has just been released, and appears on the version of this blog.)

ABC/ESPN has also announced some broadcast booth changes, including a "higher" than originally thought role for Matt Millen. Millen and play-by-play voice Sean McDonough become the lead broadcast team ahead of Brad Nessler and Bob Griese (as well as a reduced role for Paul Maguire). Nessler will now call the ESPN Saturday night game with Todd Blackledge on color, while Griese will work an early ESPN Saturday game with Dave Pasch on the call. The ABC prime-time Saturday night telecast team remains in tact with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit. Doug Flutie was not brought back at all by ABC or ESPN.

Chris Fowler, Palmer, James and Andrews will call the ESPN Thursday telecasts. Other pairings for regional telecasts include Mark Jones and Bob Davie, Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham, Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore, Clay Matvick and David Diaz-Infante, and Charlie Neal and Jay Walker.

On the college hoops side, Compass Media Networks continues its aggressive pursuit of national broadcasts of regular and post-season games. Their regular season slate reportedly already includes such as UCLA at Stanford, Maryland at Indiana, Kansas at Missouri, Texas at Oklahoma, and Duke at Wisconsin. Compass will provide the first 2 rounds of the Big Ten tournament games, expanding to include all rounds for the 2010-11 season. Those rights were pried away from Westwood One. Compass also plans on competing with Westwood One for out of market NFL radio broadcasts, as we detailed a few weeks ago.

Dan Patrick conintues to expand his media duties, adding a 9 AM to Noon ET show on DirecTV starting for the upcoming football season.

TBS has announced its next two Sunday afternoon MLB telecasts, both with Chip Caray joined by Ron Darling. On July 19th it will be Detroit at the Yankees, while July 26th features St. Louis at Philadelphia. However, TBS continues to not have the authority to change game times, which definitely hurts viewer continuity. The July 19 telecast starts at 2:00 ET, while the game on the 26th starts at 1:30 PM ET. Compare this to Fox-TV and its Saturday telecasts (with the exception of a couple of NASCAR telecast days) starting at 4:00 ET practically every week.

LOS ANGELES: KSPN 710 has brought back the team of Steve Mason and John Ireland for 3 to 7 PM as of this week. The duo actually returns to the spot they occupied into late 2007 when Mason was moved to middays. This move is in part due to the moving of Lakers radio to KSPN, for which Mason will also host the Lakers pre-game show. So is the new midday pairing from 11 AM to 3 PM, which puts former Laker Mychal Thompson along side of Andrew Siciliano, which starts next week (7/20). Siciliano is expected to continue with Fox Sports Net's "Final Score" and the DirecTV "Red Zone" show during the NFL season.

It will be interesting over the coming months to see how the Mason and Ireland show performs against Petros Papadakis and Matt "Money" Smith which remains on KLAC 570.

MIAMI: The TV sportscaster fraternity continues to lose members. WPLG-TV Channel 10 is now going with one sportscaster, asking the question, Will Manso? Looks as though he "will", as Manso will be the only on-air sportscaster for the station. The station that brought viewers Jimmy Cefalo, Jim Mandich, and Frank Forte over the years will now go with a news anchor for sportscasts on the nights that Manso is off or on vacation.

I continue to point out how local TV stations cutting back on sports will drive sports fans to regional networks and ESPN for sports highlights shows which go head-to-head with local news, and that some TV stations will lose male viewers in the long run over this.

This Channel 10 development comes on the heels of Channel 6 ending their Sunday night "Sports Final" show.

St. LOUIS: A wonderful addition to Blues NHL telecasts for the coming season with the announcement that Darren Pang joins the telecast team working with John Kelly starting this coming season. In keeping this a positive development, Bernie Federko remains with the broadcast team, being moved to ice level (the NHL equivalent of sideline reporter) and will have a heavier involvement in the Fox Sports Midwest pre and post-game coverage. Federko has been broadcasting for the Blues for 12 seasons (both radio and TV). Pang is expected to continue with NBC-TV in a limited role, such as the New Year's Day game. If and when Pang has a Blues conflict, Federko will work in the booth with Kelly. The radio team remains in place for next season with Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase.

HOUSTON / DALLAS: You might say there have been some executive decisions regarding sports talk stations in Texas' two largest markets. KILT 610 Houston has a new Program Director, as Gavin Spittle after helping Dallas' KRLD-FM convert to sports and become the flagship station for the Cowboys broadcasts. Tom Bigby takes over in Dallas. His resume includes having programmed sports radio power WIP Philadelphia and V.P. for Strategic Programming for CBS Radio.

PITTSBURGH: It is getting to the point where TV sportscasters will never want to vacation. Stan Savran returned from a vacation to learn that Monday night (July 13) was his final show as host of "SportsBeat" on Fox Sports Pittsburgh after 18 years with the regional network. Savran continues as a host on WEAE Radio, while Fox Sports has canceled "SportsBeat". The possibility remains that Stan could do other work for Fox Sports.

LOUISVILLE: So much for the intense rivalry between the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky - at least in the TV booth. WHAS-TV has named its new play-by-play voice for Louisville football and basketball telecasts starting this season. While Drew Deener is known locally for his sports show on WRKD 790 and an earlier stint on WHAS Radio, he has served as a sideline reporter for 5 seasons on U. of Kentucky telecasts and handled basketball play-by-play for 3 seasons early in the zeroes. His University of Louisville football debut will be on Sept. 5th against Indiana State in prime time.

DES MOINES: While it remains to be seen how much the delay could hurt the audience response, sports talker Marty Tirrell has received legal clearance to begin his new show on KBGG 1700 AM within the next few weeks. This comes after KXNO Radio threatened to enforce a non-compete clause after Tirrell was dismissed over that profanity filled argument which mistakenly went over the air early this year.

COLUMBUS: The NHL Blue Jackets have a new member of their broadcast team on WBNS 1460 The Fan and WWCD 101 FM starting with the coming season. Bob McElligott will also handle pre and post-game programming. He comes to Columbus from Syracuse after calling more than 800 Syracuse Crunch AHL games along with having called Chiefs AAA Baseball games.

SCHENECTADY: Back to radio for another "take a day off" story. The past 2 Fridays (July 3 and 10) WOFX 980 host Rodger Wyland was off from the "Big Board Sports" show. As it goes these days, so was the entire show. The station instead ran a live feed of The Dan Patrick Show. Is reminding the local audience that Patrick's show does not normally air live a way to keep the audience in touch? And before you comment that this is only Schenectady, it seems that this is a Clearance Channel station.

NEW YORK: For those into Army football, WABC continues as the flagship station again this season. A change has been made for local affiliates in the Middletown and Poughkeepsie areas. WALL 1340 Middletown and WEOK 1390 in Poughkeepsie will now air the football games, along with Army basketball and hockey games starting this season. WKDT 89.3, the West Point cadet station, will also carry these broadcasts. John Minko continues with play-by-play and Dean Darling as analyst.

ESPN College Football Primetime Schedule

Sep 3 - 7 p.m. South Carolina at N.C. State ESPN

Sep 3 10:15 p.m. Oregon at Boise State ESPN

Sep 10 7:30 p.m. Clemson at Georgia Tech ESPN

Sep 17 7:30 p.m. Georgia Tech at Miami ESPN

Sep 24 7:30 p.m. Mississippi at South Carolina ESPN

Oct 1 7:30 p.m. Colorado at West Virginia ESPN

Oct 8 9 p.m. Nebraska at Missouri ESPN

Oct 15 7:30 p.m. Cincinnati at South Florida ESPN

Oct 22 8 p.m. Florida State at North Carolina ESPN

Oct 29 7:30 p.m. North Carolina at Virginia Tech ESPN

Nov 5 7:30 p.m. Virginia Tech at East Carolina ESPN

Nov 12 7:30 p.m. South Florida at Rutgers ESPN

Nov 19 7:30 p.m. Colorado at Oklahoma State ESPN

Nov 26 8 p.m. Texas at Texas A&M ESPN

Dec 3 9 p.m. Oregon State at Oregon ESPN

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sports Media Report - July 8th update

It is a week where sports related publicity about the media is most definitely a mixed bag rather than a positive among the sports fans.CBS-TV Sports is making a big deal about its decision to replay a 1963 "Wonderful World of Golf" match between Jack Nicklaus and Sam Sneed this comong Sunday (7/12) as a lead-in to its scheduled coverage of the final round of the John Deere Classic.

Right idea, but wrong network. CBS-TV still has plenty of ground to make up if it wants to be recognized once again as a TV sports leader. Their offerings are still a far cry from their days in the '90's when they topped the TV sports world with MLB, NFL, and NBA coverage on a regular basis before bailing out on all for a while. Instead, this airing comes off as an obvious plea for the older audience to come back to watching televised golf. My hunch is that those who would tune in to remember Sam Sneed (who was around 50 years old at the time of the original airing) probably are not as in tune with today's golfers and might not stick around for the Deere Classic.

What would be the "right" network? That would be ESPN Classic, but that network continues its decline from years ago, unfortunately. Given the millions of dollars and relationships that ESPN enjoys with MLB, NFL, NBA, and the NCAA (plus a couple of stints with NHL rights in the past), one would think that ESPN Classic would provide a steady diet of major league pro and college games from over the years.

Instead, "Classic" gets trounced by the "Best Of" telecasts on MLB Network, NFL Network, and NBA Network. While there are some NCAA football and basketball classic games shown, these tend to be more in season and themed toward specific matchups. (That would be fine if the rest of the programming were up to standard.)

Instead, "classic" features have been reduced to programming such as poker, kick boxing, and the like. Or should I say, don't like. ESPN Classic seems to be more of an overflow channel when NCAA football and basketball schedules require use of another ESPN Family channel to show a live game. "Instant Classic" has some merit, but considering all of the years of great games, many long forgotten, sit on shelves instead of gather a bigger audience than boxing matches with fighters I have never heard of.

Meanwhile, Comcast Cable continues to make life dangerous (in the wallet) for its subscribers. Now things are getting vague as to where us sports fans stand. Within the past week, I have seen 3 separate newspaper accounts from different parts of the country with different stories about how subscribers will fare regarding certain channels. One story (from Illinois) says that NFL Network will be moved from the (extra fee) sports package to digital classic. Another story from Arizona claims that a similar sounding digital package is being eliminated resulting in a different additional charge to receive the sports channels. Instead a "digital preferred" package will magically appear, and you can bet it won't be for the same cost. Just a hunch that it will be about $5 per month more to receive these sports channels "free" which used to cost an additional $5 per month.

My local Comcast Cable system has posted that ESPN Classic is being moved to the "extra fee" sports package at the end of the month. It is likely the Big Ten Network also will be, since that was the plan last year when BTN was added to Comcast and other systems, but that matter has been quiet to this point.One of the reports I read does confirm that NFL Network and NBA Network are expected to be moved to "digital classic" in time for their respective seasons.

Frankly, they should have been there all along. No thank you cards from me if it really does happen, but a feeling that justice has been served.Hopefully the BTN realizes that, especially in this economy, they might not retain enough subscribers within a pay tier to make it worthwhile and will make the effort to remain on digital basic.

While I realize it would cost even more dollars to fight the battle, I'm still of the belief that we are already paying for these sports channels and there should not be an additional fee for them as long as consumers are still forced to pay for channels we don't want.

Meanwhile, after a bit of (undeserved, in my opinion) flac from some fans and media, ABC/ESPN seems to be increasing the role that Matt Millen will have on college football telecasts for this season. While nothing is official yet, the moving of Paul Maguire away from the primary team of Brad Nessler and Bob Griese and into more studio work and radio assignments could very well be to clear more room for Millen. Granted, Millen was not successful with the Detroit Lions, but he was recognized for his excellent broadcast work in the past, and there is no reason for that to have changed.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The speculation is even more rampant this week about WJFK 106.7 changing over to all sports within this month. Reports have surfaced that Wizards basketball will be moving over to WJFK for this season. Should this happen, it clears the landscape for the Nationals, Wizards, and Capitals to each have one radio station to itself for play-by-play. WFED 1500 had been carrying both the Wizards and Capitals (when not conflicting) with both teams reportedly buying their air time. One of those teams could move to WTEM 980, giving all 3 separate packages, always a better deal for the fans.

PHILADELPHIA: D.C.'s loss could be Philly's gain. Former Redskin Brian Mitchell, recently let go from WTEM in D.C. (either due to cost cutting or comments about the team, whose owner also owns the station), has returned to WIP, this time joining Howard Eskin for the afternoon drive spot.

MIAMI: While the speculation continues that Sid Rosenberg will join WQAM to host its midday sports talk show shortly after Labor Day and in time for the start of the NFL season, the 10 AM to 1 PM time slot has officially gone to sports. Panthers TV voice Steve Goldstein has been named interim host of that time slot.Miami's Channel 6, the NBC-TV affiliate, has cut back on its sports department with the layoffs of sportscaster Andrea Brody along with Jeff Tavss, who had served as Executive Sports Producer. The station is now down to a 2 person department, Joe Rose and Adam Kuperstein.

HOUSTON: Like Miami, reductions on the TV sports side. Keith Norton has left KPRC-TV Channel 2 after nearly 3 years, with management admitting that the position will not be filled. At Channel 39, Ray Fisher is out and that station now only brings the "Sports Minute" as part of its one hour nightly newscast. Why even bother with sports at all?

LOS ANGELES: It is tough enough to go up against Vin Scully, such as Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday do during Dodgers home games and road games in the west when Scully does most of the games on TV.But Steiner made it worse this past Sunday (7/6) from San Diego when the Padres shocked the Dodgers with a 5 run 9th inning to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The problem was that the Padres got the 2 run hit which tied the game with 2 out in the 9th, and the 3rd out was made on the bases an instant after the tying run had scored.

Steiner first reported that the "out" on the basepaths meant that the Dodgers had won the game, which they had not. Seconds later, he corrected himself, but the damage had already been done. Basic radio play-by-play instinct is that you wait until you are certain of what happened before relaying it to the audience. There were likely some fans who instantly turned the game off before Steiner made his immediate correction and apologized.

By all accounts, Vin Scully handled that play as smooth as always on the TV side. But, unfortunately for Charlie, one doesn't need nearly 60 years of play-by-play experience to call an important play correctly all the way through.

DENVER: KEPN 1600, the local ESPN Radio outlet will debut its new 7 - 9 AM morning show next week. Gary Miller (from Channel 4) and Vic Lombardi will host "Sports Insiders".

TAMPA: AM 1010 seems to have phased out the Sports Chix from its Noon to 3 PM weekday slot. Lynne Austin supposedly resigned within two weeks of Leslee Lacey also leaving the show. Tom Krasniqi has been named to take over the slot, but no co-host has been named as of this writing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sports Media Report - July 1st update

Interesting idea, but it's ahead of its time, even if only by a week. Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio have planned an "80's Day" for their morning show, including "best moments" from sports during that time and interviews with some of the biggest stars of that era.

What strikes me as odd about this is that 80's Day will take place this coming Tuesday July 7th.

This comes on the heels of the busy July 4th weekend packed full of baseball, golf, racing, and Wimbledon. This makes it one of the few days that fans might actually want to talk some tennis and when sports media attention for tennis is at a rare peak (in terms of coverage and discussion).

Yet, just one week later it will be the baseball All-Star break and NFL camps will not yet have started. To put it another way, there is only the All-Star Game of any major sports consequence between Monday and Thursday mornings. Other than possible NBA free agent signings and pre-camp NFL news, those can be some quiet days in the sports talk world.

Wouldn't the July 13 - 16 time frame be a better fit for 80's Day? Of course. That might give the more casual sports fan a reason to listen on a morning without a full slate of games from the previous night.

Then again, it is the radio management of today in action.

Meanwhile, as of late next week, the Yankees will already not be the only team to stream some of its telecasts. The July 16th telecast of the Padres vs. Colorado game begins a series of streams. But hold the phone. Don't get excited. Like with the Yankees' plan, it really isn't the big deal the teams are making it out to be.

Not only is this package of games only available to Cox Cable's high speed internet in areas which already receive the Padres telecasts on cable, but there is an additional fee. As if fans aren't gouged enough at the box office and on their cable or satellite bills (for channels they don't want), but now Cox is asking an ADDITIONAL $49.95 to watch the telecasts streamed online for the rest of this season. The same fans that are already paying Cox Cable to receive the telecasts whether they want them or not.

I'll say it still again. If this package were available to fans anywhere in the country (regardless of current blackout restrictions) who cannot receive the telecasts, then there would be value in this sort of package. Instead, this concept of charging still more money to fans who already pay for these telecasts without making them available to others makes no sense. And if I have a say, it won't make any dollars either.

Cable's MLB Network continues to improve and excel in serving the baseball fan with more each week. In a fitting move, the Network will take over handling the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday July 26th with hours of coverage from Cooperstown, replacing ESPN in this role after 20+ years.

In addition, the Network's Saturday night telecast was originated by MLB Network this past Saturday night (6/28) when they aired the Yankees-Mets game from New York. Each previous Saturday telecast was picking up the feed of one of the local teams. It is not yet known how many, if any, of the remaining Saturday night telecasts will be MLB Network originated.

Their Thursday night telecasts, which are all originated by MLB Network, have been announced for July:

Thu., July 2 8 ET Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs, Matt Vasgersian and Dan Plesac

Thu., July 9 7:00 ET L.A. Dodgers vs. New York Mets, Bob Costas and Jim Kaat

Thu., July 16 7:00 ET Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds, Matt Vasgersian and Joe Magrane

Thu., July 23 7:00 ET Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees, Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds

On the TV sports scene, while there is a cost, New York City area Big Ten Conference fans subscribing to Cablevision will have the option of having the Big Ten Network available in time for football season. The "Sports Pak" at an additional $5.95 per month, adds the Big Ten Network to the rest of the package, meaning that those who already subscribe to the package will have the games. As of now (before regional and national schedules are complete) the BTN is expected to include the Penn State vs. Syracuse game among its telecasts.

This is an example of what should be happening with the MLB streaming that the Yankees and Padres are doing. People in an "outside" market can get these games which are not available elsewhere, as an optional additional fee. Way to go, Cablevision!

NEW YORK: Newsday reports, or should I say speculates, that long time sportscaster Sid Rosenberg is very likely to remain on the air in South Florida and not return to NYC and WFAN as rumored. This all comes on the heels of the retirement of Neil Rogers from Miami's WQAM and the station's expected move to a truly all sports weekday lineup because of it.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The DCRTV has also picked up on the rumors that WJFK 106.7 will change to all sports in the near future (perhaps by the end of this month) to compliment sister station The Fan 105.7 in Baltimore. WJFK already carries play-by-play of University of Maryland and Virginia along with some Fox Sports programming.

St. LOUIS: After a year and a half of discussion about the reduced signal coverage of Cardinals baseball since the broadcasts moved to KTRS, the latest ratings show that KTRS has increased its audience by more than 50% overall in the past 3 months. This coincides with the start of the Cardinals broadcasts, and with the team in or fighting for first place all season, it goes to show that fans can find the games when the "need" arises.

Yet, powerhouse KMOX has also shown an overall ratings increase during the same period. I guess fans also know where not to find the Cardinals games!

KANSAS CITY: Across the state of MO, Frank Boal is no longer doing sportscasts for WDAF-TV 4 after 28 years of service there. Boal reportedly accepted a buyout of his contract. As it goes these days, the station is not replacing the position, instead going with Al Wallace and Jason Lamb to handle all sportscasts. Boal continues on the air at WHB Radio 810 but no word yet on whether his air time will expand now that his schedule allows.

This after 28 years? It's the Bob Dylan line "20 years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift" in action here.

DENVER: Colorado State University has its new play-by-play voice for football and baseball starting this season. Jerry Schemmel, who has called the NBA Nuggets games since 1992, has been named to handle the call for CSU starting this season. No word yet on how schedule conflicts with the Nuggets will be handled, but the NBA schedule for the coming season has yet to be finalized.

NEBRASKA: After my earlier rant about being charged for already available games, the University of Nebraska changes the pace by announcing football games available only via pay-per-view for its local fans for the coming season.

Fox Sports Network's telecasts of the Nebraska games against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 5, Arkansas State on Sept. 12, and mighty Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 26 will be available as pay-per-view. Never mind that the latter 2 games are a joke anyway (Nebraska wins by a ton of points) and that the fans are already paying for Fox Sports on their cable system.

SPOKANE: KXLY-TV has named Derek Deis as Sports Director while Dennis Patchin takes over as Program Director following nearly 25 years at "The Ticket" AM 700. Patchin will continue to co-host the 3 to 6 PM weekday slot, while also doing some sports related segments for Channel 4.

BOISE: Unlike Nebraska, it's nice to report that every Boise State football game this coming season will be televised locally - at no additional charge. KTVB-TV and the school have announced a one-year contract to show every game (up to 7) not picked up by a regional network.

The school will actually pay for the air time for the football games, as well as select road basketball games, in return for commercial time. Mark Johnson and Tom Scott will call the football telecasts, which as of now will include some or all of these games - Miami, Ohio (Sept. 12), Bowling Green (Sept. 26), UC Davis (Oct. 3), Hawaii (Oct. 24), San Jose State (Oct. 31), Idaho (Nov. 14) and New Mexico State (Dec. 5). These telecasts are also expected to air in Twin Falls and Spokane in addition to Boise.

Let's recap. The University of Nebraska, which reaps in literally millions of dollars again this season from various media and marketing deals for its football games is charging local viewers for pay-per-view of non-conference telecasts, while comparatively smaller Boise State has worked a deal to have all of its games shown on TV to its fan base.

LUBBOCK TX: The text is the word. Sort of. As of today, KSTQ 104.3 is promoting that it will turn from music to sports in the very near future. When they do, they plan to send out a text to "registered" listeners with the exact time it will happen. While this sounds overboard at first, this is actually an idea with a lot of marketing potential. The station could start a new format and already have the ability to alert its potential audience with information.

If the station knows to use this method properly and provides solid sports programming, they would have a winner on their hands. But if doing this doesn't hold an audience, it points the finger on the programming people.