Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sports Media Report - August 5th update

The past week brought us still another indication that the multi-millions of dollars spent for pro sports broadcast rights fees will be dropping at every opportunity.CBS-TV is already recognizing that its telecast of the Super Bowl in February is not as likely to command the usual amount of spots at more than $2,000,000 per. The network is reportedly offering packages to potential advertisers with additional factors determining the price of a Super Bowl participation which did not exist before. The more challenging it becomes to sell the spots, and the lower the revenue generated, the less likely the networks will fall all over each other with millions of dollars when the next package is negotiated.

What also makes this interesting is that one of the criteria for Super Bowl advertisers reportedly being considered is the placement within the telecast. This could lead to a form of an advertisers' fantasy league. Most of us could understand that an advertiser might have to pay more to be seen during the 4th quarter of a close game. But we never know.

The participating teams may or may not be from big markets. The game could become one sided by halftime. Or, it could be a huge draw and be close until the end. CBS and advertisers could wind up in a costly game of speculation as to the degree of success based on an advertiser's placement. I'll take the under.

The NBA schedule was released on Tuesday, and this year all at once. Within hours, we had telecasts announced by ESPN, TNT, and NBA-TV. This is actually something new from the NBA.

In the past, the league was good at milking the schedule announcements over the course of a week or two. I find this "everything at once" to be too much too soon.During this tough economy, the NBA needs to keep itself in the news to keep fan interest going. The schedule is, obviously, a story which creates anticipation for the key matchups and gets fans excited for the coming season. Way different from the big money contracts, player squabbles, rumors, and sometimes incidents which become news stories.

In the past, the league would announce some key matchups to start. Over the course of a few days, the teams would start announcing their schedules. Then, over the next couple of weeks, the networks such as TNT, ESPN, and ABC would announce some of their national telecasts.

These would serve as ways to build anticipation. But now, we got all of that within a few hours on the same day. Good to know, but in a way this takes some of the fun out of hearing about the best matchups over the next couple of weeks. Many draft choices and free agents have been signed. There are not expected to be very many major NBA stories over the next few weeks. Training camps don't open for 2 more months. Yet, the league seems to have overlooked the additional marketing exposure with the "all at once" announcements.

TNT announced 53 regular season NBA telecasts. The joke had been that TNT would save time and announce the Cavaliers' schedule. It is obvious that with Lebron James and Shaq on the same team, it won't be hard to see the Cavs on the tube. Sure enough, they are already scheduled for 10 appearances on TNT alone. The network promises 22 Thursday night doubleheaders for the coming season, including Thanksgiving. For the first time ever, TNT even plans a doubleheader on New Year's Eve. They also plan 3 telecasts on MLK Day.

ESPN coverage begins on opening night, Weds. Oct. 28th in the West, with New Orleans at San Antonio and then Utah at Denver. ESPN and ABC will combine for 16 telecasts with the Lakers and Celtics, with 15 Cavaliers telecasts already scheduled. (Yes - when combined with TNT, it means that 25 Cavs games (nearly one-third) are already scheduled for national TV, and that does not include NBA-TV.)

ABC and ESPN give us the Christmas present of 5 live games, including a Lakers vs. Cavs matchup. ABC plans 5 Sunday doubleheaders, and has 2 matchups of Cleveland vs. Orlando on its schedule.

PHOENIX: The competition for U. of Arizona football this season may be bigger among the TV people than the Pac-10 race. Wildcats games not chosen by a network will be shown in Phoenix on KGUN Channel 9 and KWBA 58 will carry the Spanish version on digital 58.2. This deal also includes a Prescott based station. This includes the season opener on Sept. 5 vs. Central Michigan, and at least one other game. ABC/ESPN already has 2 games selected for regional coverage, with the remainder to be seen via Fox Sports Arizona's Pac-10 package, as well as on Versus.

CINCINNATI: The surprising first half better than expected start of the Reds will pay big dividends for WLW 700. The long time Reds flagship station shot up from 5th to 1st at night during the recent spring ratings period, while the station finished a solid number one overall. Even as the Reds slump out of contention, the station just might keep up their strong numbers.

St. LOUIS: The sports talk race in St. Louis radio is already as interesting as the National League Central this season. Newcomer WXOS 101.1, which debuted as a sports talker on New Year's, is already ahead of KFNS 590 and KSLG 1380 in mornings, middays, and afternoons. KFNS, which broadcasts the Cardinals and features extensive related programming, has gained on KSLG compared to previous ratings books, which is not surprising given the Cardinals' great season thus far. Significantly, the combined audience ratings for the 3 sports stations show that the sports radio audience in the St. Louis market has more than doubled over the past year.

DALLAS: ESPN 103.3 has added Ian Fitzsimmons to its afternoon drive "Galloway & Company" show as of this week. Fitz will also host pre and post-game programming on Cowboys game days. As it goes in radio, this move happened rather quickly. Fact is that Fitzsimmons was still on the air at WJOX in Birmingham as recently as last Wednesday (7/29) and had to leave without saying farewell to his audience there.

BALTIMORE: WJZ-FM The Fan rose to third place in men 25-54 in the recent ratings period. The station, which started last fall, saw its afternoon show with Scott Garceau and Anita Marks finish first among 25-54 men. This while the other Baltimore sports talkers, WNST, WJZ-AM, and WVIE, all failed to crack the top 25 stations overall.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The NHL Capitals and WFED-AM have agreed to a multi-year deal, and Steve Kolbe continues as play-by-play voice. Over at WTEM 980, Tony Kornheiser returns to WTEM after several years. Starting the day after Labor Day (Sept. 8) Tony will handle a late morning shift, most likely leading into "The Sports Fix" with Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan.

JACKSONVILLE: Looks like tough sledding for XL Sports, which left the 105.3 FM frequency due to an expired contract on July 31st. The station continues on 1010 AM, on, and for those in the northern part of the market and in the southeastern tip of Georgia on 92.5 FM. The "old" frequency replaced the sports talk with other talk programming.

NASHVILLE: Middle Tennessee State University has a new radio home just in time for the coming football season. WNSR 560 will be the flagship station for both football and basketball, including its simulcast to Bowling Green KY on WNTC 103.9. This after WNFN 106.7 dropped its ESPN programming in favor of music last week. In Murfreesboro, where the school is located, the games will be heard on WGNS 1450 AM along with 100.5 and 101.9 FM. Or, to keep it simple, if you are in Murphfreesboro during a MTSU football or basketball game, just turn on the radio.

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