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.

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