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.
MediaWeek.com 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, MultiChannel.com 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.