Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sports Media Report - Aug. 25th Update

Even though the baseball season is in its prime, the sports media is busy gearing up for the upcoming pro and college football seasons, as well as NHL training camps opening in less than a month.

One thing about college football coverage that distinguishes it now moreso than other sports (including pro football) is the spirit of the radio broadcast. The days of going to a baseball game and having at least one person in the section you were sitting in having the local broadcast on seem to be long gone. That even includes Dodger Stadium since Vin Scully no longer does the majority of the radio broadcasts for home games.

Yet, with college football, many schools are making it possible for alumni (or fans who didn't attend) to be able to hear their team's broadcast at road games. This is one situation where the concept can work well. Fans of a particular school don't always want to listen to announcers favoring the opposing school. I have long wondered why this wasn't made possible until recently.

Not many people knew about this, but going back nearly 40 years, some pro and college teams used a low power FM frequency to feed their broadcast within a stadium or arena so that broadcasters at field level or in the dugout or clubhouse for interviews could hear the broadcast and monitor off the air to know when they were supposed to be on the air.

In fact, the Dodgers were one of those teams. I still remember getting to hear Vin Scully doing the Dodgers broadcasts when I saw them play in Chicago and Cincinnati back in the 70's.
I would have thought that college team broadcasters especially would have promoted this to their fans attending road games.

A company called Live Sports Radio is now selling receivers that make hearing several college teams' broadcasts while attending road games. The SEC schools have been using this, as LSU now joins Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina in making the feature available. I'm not sure how I feel that there is a cost involved, since the broadcasts do carry the commercials and are "free" within the signal range of the stations carrying the games. On the other hand, it is a service to fans at road games beyond the signal coverage, and it would cost them for wi-fi to listen to a stream. At $20 per season, it could make sense for fans attending multiple road games. But considering that more than 11,000 University of Alabama fans purchased it last season, there is a market for it.

Meanwhile, LSU is making its weekly one hour radio show featuring football coaches and coverage of other sports on Sunday nights available online. The show begins this Sunday (Aug. 30) at 6 PM Central, will not air on the eve of Labor Day, and then start it up for the year on Sept. 13th. In addition to 107.3 FM Baton Rouge and the LSU Sports Radio Network, the show will stream on LSUSports.net. Jordy Hultberg will host the live show.

The show focused on U. of Alabama sports will be heard starting this week on WTUS in Tuscaloosa and on WENN 1320 in Birmingham along with 19 other stations this season. It will also be streamed on CRMSports.com.

On the NFL side, now that Comcast and some other cable systems have finally put the NFL Network on most digital packages so that many more subscribers will be able to see it, the Network is gearing up for the coming season even though their live game telecasts don't kick in until mid-November. Bob Papa and Matt Millen will handle the NFL Network game telecasts.
Of more immediate blessings, the NFL Network is expanding its GameDay Morning show to a full 4 hours leading into the kickoff of the Sunday first games, starting at 9 AM ET. This gives them a 2 or 2 1/2 hour jump on local TV pre-game shows and on ESPN's pre-game show, and starts 3 hours ahead of the Fox and CBS-TV pregame shows. So for the football crazed on the west coast, you'll be able to watch live pre-game programming on NFL Network starting at 6 AM.

For local coverage, the San Francisco 49ers have joined a few other NFL teams regarding TV pre-season coverage and are simulcasting their TV and radio broadcasts. This past weekend's game against the Raiders was done by Greg Papa, Tom Flores, and Jim Plunkett. A simulcast is unusual in the NFL since radio usually has more commercial time.

In Philadelphia, the Andy Reid (Eagles Head Coach) Show is moving to WIP 610 where Howard Eskin takes over as a co-host instead of Beasley Reece. The show will air on Monday evenings during Eskin's time slot. It had aired on WYSP in recent seasons.

In Dallas, the new stadium and a promising team mean media ratings, and we are now just 2 weeks into the pre-season. Word is that last weekend's pre-season game between the Cowboys and Tennessee generated a local rating of more than 20. That is rating - which is different than audience share.

In Green Bay, the local TV folks continue to believe that there will be a significant amount of interest in Brett Favre again this season. Last season several of the Jets' games were carried in Green Bay and Milwaukee. Now it looks like at least half of the Vikings games will be seen in the Green Bay TV market. Granted, the Vikings play in the same division and would normally be seen several times along with Chicago Bears games.

It has already gotten to the point where Don Carmichael, the General Manager of WBAY Channel 2 was quoted about having tried to pick up the Vikings vs. Kansas City pre-season game last week.

WLUK-TV will carry the Vikings' season opener on Sept. 13th and at least 5 others. They could also carry the Jan. 3rd game between the Vikings and Giants but will wait on that to determine playoff matchups.

WFRV Channel 5 will carry at least one Vikings game when they host Cincinnati in December. WBAY-TV already has the local rights to show the Monday Night Football game between the Packers and Vikings on October 5th.

It is hard to believe that NHL training camps open in less than a month. Versus has announced its tentative telecast schedule (times are Eastern):

Thurs. Oct. 1 Washington at Boston 7:00 PM
Thurs. Oct. 1 San Jose at Colorado 10:00 PM
Friday Oct. 2 Florida at Chicago
Friday Oct. 2 Detroit at St. Louis
Mon. Oct. 5 NY Rangers at New Jersey 7:00 PM
Tues. Oct. 6 Washington at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Mon. Oct. 12 Calgary at Chicago 8:00 PM
Tues. Oct. 13 Detroit at Buffalo 7:00 PM
Mon. Oct. 19 San Jose at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Tues. Oct. 20 St. Louis at Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Mon. Oct. 26 Minnesota at Chicago 8:00 PM
Tues. Oct. 27 Philadelphia at Washington 7:00 PM
Tues. Nov. 3 Boston at Detroit 7:00 PM
Mon. Nov. 9 Los Angeles at Chicago 8:00 PM
Tues. Nov. 10 Pittsburgh at Boston 7:00 PM
Mon. Nov. 16 New Jersey at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Tues. Nov. 17 Washington at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Mon. Nov. 23 Detroit at Nashville 7:00 PM
Wed. Nov. 25 St. Louis at Dallas 8:00 PM
Mon. Nov. 30 Buffalo at Toronto 7:00 PM
Tues. Dec. 1 Columbus at Chicago 8:00 PM
Mon. Dec. 7 New Jersey at Buffalo 7:00 PM
Tues. Dec. 8 NY Islanders at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Wed. Dec. 9 Minnesota at Colorado 9:00 PM
Mon. Dec. 14 Buffalo at Montreal 7:30 PM
Tues. Dec. 15 Philadelphia at Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Mon. Dec. 21 Buffalo at Toronto 7:00 PM
Tues. Dec. 22 San Jose at Chicago 8:00 PM
Mon. Dec. 28 Detroit at Columbus 7:00 PM
Tues. Dec. 29 Chicago at Dallas 8:00 PM
Mon. Jan. 4 Boston at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Tues. Jan. 5 Minnesota at Chicago 8:00 PM
Mon. Jan. 11 Pittsburgh at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Tues. Jan. 12 New Jersey at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Mon. Jan. 18 Minnesota at Dallas 8:00 PM
Tues. Jan. 19 Tampa Bay at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Mon. Jan. 25 Pittsburgh at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Tues. Jan. 26 Phoenix at Detroit 7:00 PM
Mon. Feb. 1 Buffalo at Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Tues. Feb. 2 Minnesota at Dallas 8:00 PM
Mon. Feb. 8 New Jersey at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Tues. Feb. 9 Detroit at St. Louis 8:00 PM
Mon. March 1 Detroit at Colorado 9:00 PM
Tues. March 2 Philadelphia at Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Mon. March 8 Dallas at Washington 7:00 PM
Tues. March 9 NY Islanders at Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Mon. March 15 Boston at New Jersey 7:00 PM
Tues. March 16 Montreal at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Mon. March 22 Pittsburgh at Detroit 7:00 PM
Tues. March 23 San Jose at Minnesota 8:00 PM
Mon. March 29 Buffalo at Boston 7:00 PM
Tues. March 30 Chicago at St. Louis 8:00 PM
Mon. April 5 Boston at Washington 7:00 PM
Tues. April 6 Washington at Pittsburgh 7:00 PM

In Denver, the Avalanche will have a different play-by-play voice starting this coming season, as Marc Moser will handle the call on Mile High Sports 1510 AM. But that isn't the big part of the story. Moser replaces (if you can use that term in this case) Norm Jones after his more than 35 years on the local hockey scene. In fact, Jones' legacy goes back to his calling the Colorado Rockies of the NHL - years before the baseball team adopted the name.For that matter, Jones also called the baseball AAA Denver Zephyrs years before the baseball Rockies were granted a franchise. Yet, Jones showed no signs of retiring or cutting back. This appears to be a station move, probably for cost cutting purposes.

This comes weeks after the Avalanche stayed on 1510 AM even though there will also be conflicts with Nuggets broadcasts. Now the team learns that the local hockey voice residents in their 30's have heard all of their lives won't be calling the games this season.

ESPN is hard at work on its college hoops schedule for the coming season. This season Tuesday nights will feature a Big Ten and SEC doubleheader in random order. At least one Big Ten game will air each Thursday during the conference schedule. Penn State at Minnesota on Dec. 29th is the opening Conference telecast.

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