Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sports Media Report - Aug. 18th update

Some fans and media members found it very odd that WBZ-FM began as the "Sports Hub" for Boston with replays of the Patriots' 3 Super Bowl victories before launching into their programming schedule. On a much smaller scale, we had mentioned a couple weeks back that the new sports station for Lubbock Texas began with a "perfect season" of Texas Tech football broadcasts from the past 10 years. In each of those cases, the featured team will be a primary topic of conversation for the listeners. Why not kick off the new format with game action that the fans are sure to enjoy?

True, it is repeat programming for a new station. Yet, it is a radio station trying to make news with a new format. Music stations have kicked off new formats with plans such as 1,000 songs in a row, a commercial free month, top 1,000 hits of the new format, and so on. Why not have a sports station do something similar?

We now have competing sports stations in the majority of markets after years of markets having one station with all sports. Yet, the competition for its audience is not always limited to other sports stations in the same market. It is often the local teams and how their current season compares with expectations. Or, it can be big local sports news that has more of an impact in the ratings than stations with other formats. I can see why there is more movement among ratings for sports radio now that the big markets are seeing monthly ratings.

As much as the "Sports Hub" is looking to make a dent in ratings for the Boston area, how the Patriots start the upcoming regular season could be more of a make or break factor than the station personalities.In May, WEEI was the sports radio leader in the market with a slight edge over WRKO. Think about this. In early May, the Celtics were into one of the greatest NBA Playoff series ever which went 7 exciting games against the Chicago Bulls, before advancing to the 2nd round and 2 more weeks of action. The Bruins were very much alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for most of the month. It had been a while since both of those teams had a good playoff run at the same time.Move ahead 2 months. For the new July ratings, WEEI has seen an overall drop of 1.4 in the ratings since May, while WRKO is up slightly from May. WRKO is the flagship station of the Red Sox, who had held on to first place throughout the previous 3 months.Now, in mid-August, we have the Red Sox slumping further down into 2nd place, more than 6 weeks until the Bruins and Celtics get started, while the Patriots start their season just after Labor Day on the new "Sports Hub".

Timing is everything. The Boston ratings for the sports stations will not be impacted by the music stations or even by personalities nearly as much as how the Patriots' season starts and whether or not the Red Sox make a serious run against the Yankees. The music and news talk stations do not have those variables.

In Seattle, KIRO-AM began its all sports format in April to coincide with the start of its contact to broadcast the Mariners. For the month of July, the station is .8 higher in the overall ratings than it was in April. With the same shows and pesonalities, while the Mariners are having a winning season.

In Phoenix, KTAR-AM sports has risen more than one and one-half ratings points during the past 4 months. The Diamondbacks have come up short of expectations, while The Suns traded away Shaq and look to make even more changes before the upcoming season. Even though neither team looks to be a serious threat to win in the near future, this becomes fodder for the fans.

In Dallas, the order of the 3 sports stations has remained the same over the past 4 months, yet The Ticket 1310 just finished first overall in the market for July in men 25-54. It again finished well ahead of ESPN 103.3 and further in front of 105.3 The Fan. The Ticket took very little if any from the other 2 sports stations. But during recent weeks the Rangers have continued to outpace expectations and are in the playoff hunt. And the Cowboys are the Cowboys. Their first pre-season telecast last week got significant ratings and interest is already high.

In Chicago, both WSCR and WMVP showed slight increases for July, indicating that neither station took away from the other.

In other words, sports radio competition for ratings is a different ballgame.

Fox-TV has paired its NFL announcers for the coming season, including the addition of former Chiefs QB Trent Green to partner with Chris Myers. This pair has the chance to deliver big news on opening day, as they will do the Detroit at New Orleans game. Detroit's first win since 2007, if and when it comes, will be big news.

The Fox announcing teams:

Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Dick Stockton, Charles Davis
Thom Brennaman, Brian Billick
Sam Rosen, Tim Ryan
Ron Pitts, John Lynch
Chris Myers, Trent Green

Buck will not work NFL games in late October due to the World Series. Sam Rosen has an early start, calling Chicago Bears pre-season games televised locally on the Fox-TV affiliate in Chicago.

Fox-TV has a doubleheader on September 13th, opening day. Most of the country will get Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston calling the Dallas vs. Tampa game, followed by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the N.Y. Giants vs. Washington game. As a warmup of sorts, Daryl Johnston will join the Cowboys' local telecasts of their final two pre-season games.

The MLB Network continues to make improvements and additions to its already superb job of covering the entire season. Now they are continuing to show 2 games each Thursday. This Thursday (8/20) they will pick up the local feed of the Seattle at Detroit game in the afternoon before originating the Arizona at Philadelphia game at night. They have already announced 2 more games for the following Thursday (8/27).

During the afternoon they will pick up the L.A. Dodgers at Colorado local feed before originating from Fenway Park with a Red Sox hosting the White Sox telecast.The MLB Network does get Colorado Rockies fever over the next 2 weeks, but as they battle for a playoff spot it is understandable. The next 2 Saturday night telecasts (22nd and 29th) will each have the Rockies vs. the Giants, with that afternoon game vs. the Dodgers sandwiched in.

NEW YORK: It will be interesting to see what WCBS-TV does regarding a sportscaster when Sam Ryan gives up her role as the station's local sportscaster after next week. Ryan will continue to anchor on CBS College Sports, and will also do some hosting on SNY including its "Jets Nation" show on Sunday nights.

Earlier this year Steve Bartelstein left Channel 2, which had let go of Ducis Rodgers and John Discepolo before that. Got to wonder if the station will go without a sportscaster, or if the Len Berman rumors will be heating up before the week is out. It is hard to believe there is even the possibility of no sportscaster on WCBS-TV. If there isn't, it could mean doomsday for sportscasts in a lot of other markets as well.

SAN DIEGO: The Chargers upgraded radio arrangement with KIOZ 105.3, XTRA Sports 1360, and Los Angeles' KLAC 570 all carrying the broadcasts got underway this past Saturday without competition from TV. The home game vs. Seattle did not sell out so there was no live telecast.

Since it was only the pre-season, Channel 8 aired the game on tape delay at 10:30 PM. In an interesting move, Channel 2 in Los Angeles also carried the delayed telecast. Interesting because Los Angeles is more than 75 miles from San Diego. I'm thinking it's because Channel 2 did not want to give up prime time for a pre-season telecast.

GAINESVILLE: A gain for Gainesville viewers with Cox Cable. After weeks of negotiation, Tampa Bay Rays telecasts are finally available. The first game they showed was this past Sunday vs. Toronto, with 20 more telecasts to follow. By the time the telecasts start, the Rays have a long way to go to return to the post-season and defend their American League championship.

SALT LAKE: KALL 700 becomes ESPN Radio as of August 31st. The station will be local with Bill & Spence from 3 to 7 PM. KALL will continue to air University of Utah football and basketball, planning a 7 hour block for football games and 4 hours for basketball broadcasts, both including extended pre and post-game shows.

OREGON: The University of Oregon is again producing a 2 hour, 5 day a week "Go Ducks Live" show hosted by play-by-play voice Jerry Allen, with the first hour to air on KSCR 1320. Portland's KUGN 590 will carry the 8 to 9 AM hour each Wednesday. GoDucks.com streams the entire 2 hours. Odd that online gets more of these shows than the key local radio stations.

TULSA: Oral Roberts University basketball will continue on The Sports Animal for at least one more season. KYAL 97.1 will air all basketball games along with the Monday night coaches show.

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